Hi everyone! As you may know, I've been involved with iMentor, a program partnering educated professionals with at-risk, low-income inner city students, for three years now (after Grant introduced me to the organization). I love iMentor and the organization's work in New York, and I feel so lucky to have been paired with my current mentee, Ania! iMentor is present in some of New York City's best public schools, but is not a state-run program and relies on support from mentors, board members and generous donors just like YOU to raise the necessary funding ($1,000 per mentee, per year) to stay afloat. Let me tell you a little about Ania and our work together, in the hopes that, like me, you'll find a reason to support our partnership this year.
Ania is a junior at the Union Square Academy for Health Sciences (USA), a fantastic specialized public high school in Manhattan. Students at USA have a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics)-focused curriculum, which prepares them for the competitive college application process and of course for today's international workforce. 78% of USA's students are Free Lunch Eligible, and many live at or below the poverty line.
Ania is the kind of person we all aspire to become: dedicated, passionate, kind and well-loved. She's soft-spoken and prefers jeans and cozy Disney sweatshirts to the low-cut blouses and skin-tight outfits of her peers and appears younger than many of her classmates. I've had the absolute pleasure of meeting her mom, who takes an active role in Ania's schooling and any related programs. She's taken Ania on college visits (not an easy feat when you're a single mom without a car) and works full-time by day and is pursuing a Bachelor's by night - again, a struggle when you have a daughter to raise and are commuting to Manhattan from the heart of Brooklyn.
The “heart of Brooklyn” we're talking about isn’t Park Slope or Dumbo. Ania lives in Brownsville, an area tragically labeled the "Murder Capital of New York", vastly under-served by public transportation and overrun with poverty (median HHI under $16,000), crime and a shameful lack of infrastructure. Only 29% of Brownsville residents are high school graduates, and the vast majority live in the neighborhood's notoriously dangerous public housing projects.
Ania plans to break this cycle – and get the heck out of Brownsville – by not only graduating high school, but going on to college and graduate school, an unheard-of path in her community. She dreams of becoming a pediatric dentist and has already put her plans in motion, attending weekly SAT prep classes (funded by the school), working an after-school job to make ends meet and thinking about which colleges she’ll apply to this fall.
With the help of iMentor, Ania and I have been able to meet at pizza parties and get-togethers at her school and are approved to meet outside the program in safe environments. We’ve talked about her future, and where she sees herself professionally and emotionally down the road. We strategize about the SATs and encourage each other to be more punctual (we’re both chronically late!) and organized. She is awesome, and I’m lucky to be a part of her life.
If you can support iMentor, you’ll be supporting students just like Ania, and helping keep mentors like me in her world. Any amount helps, and thank you for your love and generosity!