Erick is a teenaged and talented, first-generation American. He has a knack for business – scoring a part-time position at a retail bank when just in high school – and he excels in academics, is active in extracurricular activities, and loves puzzles and math. His parents emigrated from Mexico to start a new life and he is determined to take advantage of the opportunities afforded him. He enrolled in iMentor, a national organization dedicated to helping young people graduate high school, navigate college and fulfill their potential. iMentor partners with high schools around the US and pairs students from historically marginalized communities with college-educated mentors who pledge a four-year commitment to support students.
Erick was paired with Mirza Kafedzic, a managing director in Mizuho’s fixed income department, who himself is an immigrant. His family fled a war-torn country in Europe when Mirza was twelve years old and arrived with practically nothing in search of a better life.
Aside from their shared backgrounds and studious nature, Erick and Mirza both love brainteasers and strategy games. In one of their earliest meetings, Mirza gave Erick a 4x4 Rubik's Cube – exponentially more difficult than the original 3x3 – as a birthday present. Erick promptly solved it.
Erick and his family on high school graduation day
Mentor and Star Wars fan Mirza
Nazaria is also a first generation American whose parents are from Honduras and first-year college student. Talented and driven, Nazaria explored the opportunities her high school provided and gained extensive knowledge in the law field by participating in extracurricular activities such as mock trials organized by various schools in the New York area. Like her mentor Nathalia Cotrim, a Brazilian national and a vice president in the operations department at Mizuho, Nazaria is bilingual. They quickly connected and found much in common, including passion for travel, a common hobby of painting and love of the arts. While the pandemic prevented them from going to museums and fun art classes, they have made plans to do these activities during Nazaria’s college breaks. They also both have lived in Utah and had many stories to share.
Nazaria and her family on high school graduation day
Mentor and travel enthusiast Nathalia
Both Nazaria, who is studying pre-law at Hunter College and Erick, who is studying accounting at Baruch College, are high-performing and self-motivated students. But, many times, academics and achievement are not enough to be successful in navigating college and career planning. Especially if you are among the first in your family to pursue such a path.
“We aren’t tutors,” says Mirza of mentors in the program. “Doing well in school is the student’s job. It’s our job to help guide them through the maze of real-world requirements that help ensure college success.”
Over the course of the multi-year mentorship, iMentor methodically walks each mentoring pair through a series of activities that help students apply and gain admission to college. Important skills that often benefit from the guidance of an experienced professional include helping to identify and evaluate college and career opportunities, writing an effective cover letter, results-driven resumes, active interview skills, and filing compelling college, job, and financial aid applications.
During the high-school years, all the current program mentors and students meet once a month (virtually during COVID) at the school. The first part of the meeting is a group exercise, followed by smaller break-out sessions, and then one-one-one meetings. Short, weekly assignments by the students are sent to and reviewed by the mentors, which is as straightforward as answering an email.
“iMentor makes it very easy and rewarding to lend your expertise,” says Nathalia. “It is a shame to think that someone like Nazaria, who has more than held up her end of the bargain by working hard, can put herself unknowingly at a disadvantage when it comes to paperwork and presentation.”
With Erick and Nazaria now in college, the focus shifts to post-secondary success. “We still check in regularly and Erick sometimes asks advice on course selection,” says Mirza. “But mostly, he’s past the take-off stage and cruising at 30,000 feet at this point.” “Nazaria and I have become friends,” says Nathalia. “So I mostly hear about her life as a freshman.”
Since 1999, iMentor has matched nearly 38,000 students across the country with mentors. During the 2020-21 program year, iMentor served more than 10,000 students across four regions in Baltimore, the Bay Area, Chicago, and New York City and in 12 additional states through partnerships with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Mizuho employees have volunteered with iMentor since 2019, as part of the Mizuho Cares program, which provides various opportunities for employee engagement in our local communities. To learn more, visit imentor.org.