By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Cadman Plaza Park in Downtown Brooklyn was a sea of celebrating high school students and mentors on Saturday as a year of “iMentoring” reached its successful conclusion.
“I look at things differently now, I’m more confident, and I notice I’ve become more mature,” said Ismael Soumaoro, 16, a junior at John Jay Secondary School of Law. Ismael said he’s excited about going to college and is considering studying business or sports management.
His mentor, Quinton Mudd, 29, an accountant at Forest City Ratner Companies, said that his mentee actually inspired him. “He’s matured, I’ve matured,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle. “I expected him to become more responsible, but I’ve become more responsible.”
iMentors and their mentees communicate by email and meet in person once a month, following a set curriculum. “It’s lots of fun,” said Soumaoro. “The computer makes it way helpful to keep in touch.”
“Next year we’re going to focus on college,” Mudd said. “SATs, standardized tests, maybe visit local colleges.”
The iMentor program matches high school students and professionals to insure that more students graduate from high school ready for college, says Mike O’Brien, CEO of iMentor. “The program supports schools made up of primarily low-income students,” he said. “Every kid in the school gets a mentor, and every kid’s mentor focuses solely on them.
“Obviously it’s a challenge but it’s extremely rewarding,” O’Brien said. “Mentors and mentees form a tight bond. Every week they email, and once a month there’s an activity. It’s all supported — they don’t have to worry about what to say. It’s a flexible way to volunteer and it’s totally supported. This allows us to bring unbeatable human capital to the schools.
“The program is growing — we mentored 1,800 students this year and hope to help 2,600 next year,” he said, adding that people interested in becoming mentors should visit www.imentor.org.
Both Soumaoro and Mudd urge others to join the program. “Hopefully this is the start of a long relationship,” said Soumaoro.
“It’s a matter of us caring,” said Mudd. “We who have been through what they are going through now can reach back and help.”