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In 2016, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois partnered with Instituto Del Progresso Latino to help launch the first ever Instituto Scholars Fund. The fund supports low-income students who are enrolled or graduated from Instituto looking to pursue degrees in higher education, but due to gaps in funding sources finishing school might be a challenge. However, BCBSIL realized that although a scholarship is a big aid to help these students accomplish their goals, there is more we can do beyond financial help. Students who are selected for this scholarship will also have the opportunity to participate in a new mentorship program.
What is the Mentorship Program?
By collaborating with the Latinos for Advancement Business Resource Group at BCBSIL, Instituto scholars will have the opportunity to be paired up with mentors from BCBSIL for one year to help them navigate their career paths. The mentor/mentee pairs will be matched based on common interests and the unique needs of the Instituto scholars. The mentorship program will support students in three areas:
The mentor will be there to encourage students to stay in college. Instituto has seen that in the first years of a student's experience in college, many face challenges that can make them want to take time off or leave altogether. The job of the mentor is to help these students navigate these situations and explore other options. The mentor will show the student supportive relationships to develop problem-solving skill development and leadership development opportunities that empower them to practice self-advocacy.
The Career Exploration objective is to guide the student through career research. This means learning more about an industry of their choice, and connecting them with career opportunities. The mentors can offer students the unique opportunity to learn about their workplace, invite them to a work-related event or introduce them to others in their field of interest. This avenue allows the mentees to decide whether this is the career path they are interested in pursuing.
Network Building will help the mentee understand how important relationship building is to developing a strong network that can help strengthen their career path. The mentee is encouraged to identify key types of people they feel can help them along their career path.
Benefits of Mentors?
According to the US Department of Education, mentoring plays a tremendous role in helping youth develop several strengths and capacities. Students who have a mentor are more likely to retain more of their education; it benefits their health and safety, as well as their social and emotional well-being and self-sufficiency. Another factor that was discovered was that counting with mentors from a similar community or with a similar background as the students tends to benefit at-risk youth. The support and guidance of individuals in a role our youth can see themselves in can be a great push for students to strive for success. Other positive outcomes include improved school attendance and performance, better parental and peer relationships, and reduced initiation of drug and alcohol use, as well as education, health and safety, and social and behavioral interaction.
Originally published on February 3, 2017.
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