New Investment: iMentor Chicago

Mentorship – when done well – can be transformational. We can each think of mentors who have shaped us throughout our lives – helping us build skills and navigate key decisions. But the reality is when mentorships emerge – organically or through a formalized program – quality, and therefore the ultimate impact, is often inconsistent for both mentor and mentee. iMentor has cracked the code on how to make mentorship a consistently powerful tool to drive college access and success, which is why we are excited to add them to our investment portfolio.

iMentor harnesses the power of high-dosage in school programming and long-term, personal relationships to help students navigate the path to and through college. iMentor partners with schools in low-income communities, where a majority of students will be the first in their families to go to college. Working across entire 11th and 12th grades, iMentor implements a weekly class where an experienced college counselor provides students with a robust college-ready curriculum.

“School counselors face unmanageable caseloads that inhibit them from providing all students with the support needed to navigate the path to and through college,” said Dani Lubin-Levy, A Better Chicago portfolio associate. “iMentor is addressing this critical resource gap, serving entire 11th and 12th grades. This allows the organization to have a deeper impact within the school, changing the school’s college-going culture and providing each student with the opportunity to create a postsecondary path.”

iMentor provides an additional layer of support through structured mentoring, matching each student with a college-educated mentor who commits to working with a single student through their first year of college with the option to extend through college graduation. Mentor pairs engage weekly through an online platform and attend monthly in-person meetings. From how students and mentors are paired to how they supported, iMentor has left no stone unturned to ensure it is providing a robust, high-impact mentorship model. And Nyasia Martinez’s journey is just one example of that. 

iMentor’s model does more than support students on a path to college success, it also profoundly impacts the mentors participating in the program. “I have been so inspired by our mentors and the relationships they build with their students,” said Brenan Smith-Evans, iMentor Interim Executive Director. “The result is more than one thousand relationships in the Chicago area that never would have happened without this program. Seeing how these pairs support one another makes me want to come to work every day."

Since entering Chicago in 2015, iMentor Chicago has grown significantly and witnessed the impact of its model. Having graduated its first class of high school seniors last year, iMentor helped nearly 70% matriculate to college. And the organization is on a path to impact thousands of more lives – students and mentors alike. iMentor Chicago is currently serving 1,025 student-mentor pairs across four high schools. By 2023, the organization will look to support nearly 2,300 students-mentor pairs.

A Better Chicago will invest up to $100,000 over the next 12 months in iMentor’s Chicago program. As with every organization in our portfolio, iMentor underwent A Better Chicago’s rigorous due diligence process, exhibiting strength across four key areas: program impact, leadership, operations, and scale.

Learn more about our investment in iMentor >