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Chicago students gain valuable career insight through new mentorship program

Mercy, a junior at Whitman College in Washington, knew she wanted to turn her passion for environmental science into a future career. But when it came to applying for internships, she was unsure how to land the right opportunity.

Through a new career mentorship initiative College Possible Chicago launched this year, Mercy found the direction she was looking for. The program matches students with experienced professionals who offer specialized, first-hand insight to students as they start their careers. After signing up, Mercy was matched with Lily, a mentor who became an especially valuable resource given her years of experience working in environmental science  –  the same field Mercy was interested in pursuing.

This support proved crucial in helping Mercy overcome the initial anxiety about how to transition her college degree into a career path. “At first I was worried about finding an internship since I had never worked in the field before,” said Mercy. “But Lily helped me polish my resume and feel more confident submitting my applications.”

This summer, Mercy is excited to be working as an intern at an environmental organization, an opportunity she credits her mentor with helping her find and secure.

Bridging the gap between college and career

According to research from Strada, students are five times more likely to say their education is worth the cost if they have support connecting their degree to a future career. First-generation students, however, are less likely to participate in social-capital building experiences, like networking and internships, that can help them build career skills while in school.

“Many students from underrepresented and first-generation backgrounds do not have access to a professional mentor, someone who is experienced in their field and can advise them on specific career tracks or how to build their network as they are starting out,” said Keri Foley, director of volunteer services at College Possible Chicago. “Our new mentorship program helps bridge that gap and provides students an extra layer of support as they prepare to transition into the workforce after college graduation.”

Adriana, who recently graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, says College Possible’ mentorship program was a beneficial support as she planned her next phase after graduation. Her mentor, Mohit, shared insights from his own professional journey, offering advice and reassurance as she searched for a position that would be the best fit for her.

“My mentor, Mohit, was extremely open and willing to share lessons from his own career,” said Adriana. “This was so helpful in calming my anxiety as I searched for jobs.”

After graduating this spring, Adriana was excited to land a full-time position as a behavior technician and looks forward to staying in touch with her mentor as she navigates this new stage in her career.

Based on the program’s initial success, College Possible will continue to expand this model in the upcoming school year. “So far, we’ve seen strong interest in the program from both students and mentors who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise,” said Keri. “We look forward to growing this program next year, as we’ve seen what an incredible difference it makes for our students.”

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