Spotlight Nonprofit: Matching college students with business professionals to fulfill career dreams

LatinaLista — It’s one thing for a child to dream of what they want to be when they grow up, but for many college students, that childhood dream can turn into a state of confusion when faced with reality in college.

While college is supposed to be a time to discover yourself, too many students feel lost, overwhelmed and unsure what their career paths should be. As a result, a lot of them don’t finish college.

It’s a situation to which Stephanie Bravo could relate. The first-generation college student didn’t have anyone to turn to ask for advice about classes or career choices. She had a feeling she wasn’t alone.

She thought how cool it would be if college students could be matched with business professionals from anywhere in the country to ask them advice on everything from careers, classes, internships and resume writing to interview techniques and money management.

So Stephanie co-founded StudentMentor.org.

A study from the U.S. Department of Education that found students who met with advisors regularly during their freshmen year had 170 percent greater chance of completing their bachelor’s degree than those who did not, reinforced the idea Stephanie and her co-founder, Ashkon Jafari, had. They knew they were on the right track.

In business for over a year and a half, StudentMentor.org has students sign up as mentees and professionals sign on as mentors. Since it’s not necessary that mentor and mentee live in the same city, mentoring sessions can take place via a variety of ways using today’s technology and the organization’s own messaging platform.

“In delving into the research and looking at other nonprofits, I found that nothing like this had ever existed before–where professionals from any industry can connect with a college student from any university in real time and at their convenience,” Bravo told Latina Lista in a Facebook message. “And, so I launched StudentMentor.org to break down the barriers to mentorship for students and boost student’s college completion.”

Claiming exponential growth in the last year, Stephanie tells Latina Lista that StudentMentor.org now has a network of 3000 mentors and mentees spanning the country.

“The best part is that we’ve already transformed participants’ lives,” Bravo said. “The biggest challenge right now is increasing funding and creating a financially sustainable organization, but we’re very optimistic that funders will see our value-add to society.”

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