Set for Success – iMentor Chicago Volunteers Ensure CPS Students Beat College Completion Odds, More

Local nonprofit iMentor Chicago is on a mission to help students in under-resourced communities navigate the path to post-secondary success and economic mobility. We do this by matching an adult volunteer mentor with every student in our Chicago Public Schools partner schools, no matter the student’s GPA or test scores.

Mentors work with students for two to four years to help them transition out of high school and on to college, a career, military service, or certification and training programs. Mentor/mentee pairs are supported by iMentor’s full-time college counselors, who are embedded in our partner schools and implement our proven college success curriculum in weekly classes that are part of the school day.

The results? Students in the iMentor program are 74% more likely to complete college than their peers from similar high schools, and more than 90% of mentors return to the program each year. 

Now, iMentor Chicago is gearing up for even greater scale with a goal to double the number of CPS schools in the next three years. This is significant in a time when the impact of COVID-19 on our students, mentors and programming has been wide-ranging. The ongoing pandemic has compounded a set of systemic inequities that limit economic and social mobility for many of the young people who iMentor serves.

To support our students and equip them to succeed in a changing workforce during an accelerated economic crisis, we know we must ensure they have equitable access to the social capital, skill-building and career readiness opportunities that will best position them to compete for, and secure, high-quality jobs — and more broadly, to thrive in their careers and the workforce. In response to this deep need, we have built upon our critical post-secondary programming to support the career aspirations of the students we serve and provide equitable opportunities for them to gain workforce skills, secure employment and thrive in their careers. 

In addition to college readiness programs, we are building a pipeline of talent that reflects the communities we serve in Chicago and helps the city meet its labor needs. We are working to create career pathways for young people of color in a range of industries, including tech, manufacturing, financial services and health care. With all our students’post-secondary aspirations in mind, iMentor’s Next Gen Leaders initiative extends our focus from college through to career. We are thoughtfully poised to combine our impact and ready students for flourishing, post-secondary pathways within high-demand sectors in Chicago. We currently partner with Northwestern Medicine, Grainger, William Blair, and the NBA Foundation/the Chicago Bulls

iMentor’s post-secondary program supports students for an additional two years after they graduate high school. Students are enrolled in a variety of certification and degree programs across all career verticals. Our Next Gen programming focuses on building necessary skills and relationships to kick-start our students’ full-time careers. Each time a mentor and student work together, it creates a ripple effect of positive change for the entire community. As our work continues to grow, that positive change will be felt throughout all of Chicago.

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