A College Journey Built on Mentorship

Author: Helios Education Foundation

January 25, 2019

January is National Mentoring Month, a nationwide campaign to honor the life-long impact committed mentors have on students and promote mentoring nationwide.  

Helios Education Foundation is proud to support partners who share this commitment and incorporate mentoring into their student support programs. In Arizona, our partner, Be A Leader Foundation, works to increase the number of college-going students in Arizona by providing them with the tools and resources needed to become college bound, focused and prepared through leadership training and mentoring.  Peer mentors are matched with college-bound students to help take the necessary steps to enter and complete postsecondary education.  For example, mentors help students prepare and take the ACT or SAT, complete college applications, identify and apply for scholarships, and complete the FAFSA. 

Take Stock in Children, a Florida-based partner, identifies high potential, low-income middle-school students and engages them in a success program that ultimately leads to a college scholarship. Upon selection, students and their parents or guardians sign contracts agreeing to fulfill specific performance standards. Students are held to high expectations and with the guidance of advocates and their mentors are accountable for their own success in the program. To be awarded their scholarships, students must stay in school, maintain good grades, exhibit good behavior, remain crime- and drug-free, and meet with their mentors once a week.

To shed light into the importance of mentoring and its impact on students’ lives, we recently spoke to Michele Velez, a student from the Orlando area who is in her first year at Florida International University in Miami. She is a graduate of Winter Springs High School in the Seminole County Public Schools district and was mentored by a Take Stock in Children mentor.  

1) Helios: "What is your current age? At what age were you paired with a Take Stock in Children mentor?"

Velez: "I am 18 years and when I met my mentors I was 13 years old."

2) Helios: "How were you connected to Take Stock in Children?"

Velez: “I was in 8th grade, and one day when getting the mail, I noticed there was an offer about having a mentor throughout high school and a college scholarship. It said I had received it for being in good academic and behavioral standing. It encouraged me to apply if I was interested by contacting my guidance counselor or go online and fill out the application. I went to my guidance counselor because they were very involved in the process. We also did an interview and after the interview, we were told who had been selected for the program.”

3) Helios: "How did having a mentor impact your life at the time?"

Velez: “Throughout the weekly meetings, we not only had the common goal to help me get through high school and in college, we were already friends in a way. We talked a lot. We did activities to help me do planning and reflect on my grades, life skills in general. She would check on my grades and ask questions like, ‘Well, what happened here?’ and we would talk about it. She met my teachers, and would introduce herself as a mentor with Take Stock in Children.

 “It was very involved, and it was nice having this figure in my life because she already had children she had sent off to college … I am first-generation, so she gave me that pillar of support of knowing how the college-going process works.

“Just having someone who says, ‘Yes, I know how this is, and I understand what you’re going through, but it’s possible if you take these steps.’ Things like the SAT, ACT, all of that, she was great with recommending how I can be prepared. Just taking the essential steps to get here.”

4) Helios: "How has having had a mentor impact your life now?"

Velez: “My mentor and Take Stock in Children taught me success skills that have greatly helped me in college and in everyday life. Additionally, I know the importance of sound advice and that is why I have received mentoring from my professors and adviser. 

“That’s the impact of the mentoring through Take Stock. When I first came here (to FIU), if I hadn’t had them, it would have been terrifying. I would have been doing Google searches about what college would have been like, but with them, they really guided me throughout high school. I came here and it’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve been diligently following my grades, being involved on campus. It’s just been amazing.”

5) Helios: What are your goals for the future?   

Velez: "I want to continue being involved in my community and campus throughout my college career. Ultimately I want to receive my degree in nursing so I can help people on a daily basis and also become a mentor to aspiring students who will be going through the same experiences I went through."

Helios is grateful for partners like Take Stock in Children whose work helps so many students succeed in high school and continue into postsecondary education. 

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