“When I think about my own upbringing, there was always somebody there for me. When I felt like I could be that for somebody else, I wanted to.”
This is how Rema describes her decision to become a mentor at iMentor, an organization that pairs low-income students with successful college-educated mentors to support them to college graduation. This is an important program because only 20 percent of low-income college students in the United States graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.
iMentor has a unique approach by harnessing the power of long-term, personal relationships to give every student a personal champion, and a greater opportunity to graduate from college. Starting in high school, mentors help guide low-income and often first-generation students through SATs, college essays, and acceptance letters all the way through college graduation.
Rema, who works at a hedge fund in New York City, first met Sultana during her freshman year of high school. She was 14 years old, watching her sister enroll at a nearby public college and beginning to dream of her own journey after high school. But as a first-generation college student, Sultana wasn’t sure how to access or navigate the options available to her. With Rema’s encouragement, she applied and was accepted to her “dream school.”
Now a sophomore at Columbia University’s Barnard College, Sultana describes the challenges she faced during her first year and the critical support provided by Rema and iMentor. She tells us how valuable this emotional support has been to her.
Watch this video to meet Rema and Sultana, and to see how iMentor has bet big on the power of relationships in helping students achieve their dreams.
Rema: When I think about my own upbringing, there was always somebody there for me. When I felt like I could be that for somebody else, I wanted to. iMentor is a opportunity to have a commitment with one student at a moment in their lives where they probably need the help and advice the most.
Sultana: I met Rema in my ninth grade year of high school and I’m still working with Rema in my rising sophomore year to college.
Sultana: I started to think about college when my older sister was accepted into a CUNY School here in New York. My parents, they both came to America, so they didn’t go to school here. It was hard as a first generation college student. My sister was my only outlet into what college might look like for me, so I didn’t really know what private schools had to offer or what Ivy Leagues had to offer.
Rema: It was a lot of, well, maybe this one’s not quite right or maybe I won’t get in, or maybe… I’m just like, but why not try?
Sultana: Rema helped me see that I could apply to other schools and that’s how I found my dream school, Barnard.
Rema: From 14 through graduation and into college, you end up building this relationship. The more we did together, the more we talk, the more time we spent together, the stronger it became.
Sultana: When I started college, I didn’t expect it to be so hard and so stressful. If it wasn’t for iMentor and if it wasn’t for Rema, I wouldn’t have this emotional support that I couldn’t get from my parents or my sister because of the different aspects of what my college experience brought me.
Rema: I just can’t imagine not having her in my life. I wanted to not only see this through, but I want to see like whatever the future is going to bring.
Sultana: Graduating from college is important to my family because I had a lot of doubt when I was coming into college. So hopefully, me graduating will help them see that I’m doing this to help support them in the long run. And that the information that I learned and the skills that I gained during college is what I can use to help the larger world.