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Happy National Mentoring Month!



Futures and Options was very excited to celebrate National Mentoring Month. Many of our programs, including the George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education Internship program funded by HSBC, and the College Success Program, connect students with young professionals and alumni mentors who guide them through their professional education.


We asked some of the mentors in these programs why they decided to volunteer their time to our students. Here’s what they said.


“My motivation to be a mentor was knowing that I was in a position to really be there for a young individual who was embarking on this difficult yet rewarding journey, and how important it is to have a support system along the way. My parents weren't as fortunate as I was to have all of these opportunities to pursue higher education, but I found multiple mentors over the years whose friendships and professional guidance I grew to cherish very much.  I think it’s vital for every student to know that there are people rooting for them and are there to help them reach that potential and one day, they will hopefully be able to do the same for someone else.“

Gaby Pena, Programme Officer, United Nations Development Programme


“I wanted to be a part of the [College Success] mentoring program because I wanted to continue to meaningfully contribute to Futures and Options. As an alum, I thought that participating in this program would be a great way to continue to give back to the organization that helped me to get where I am today. I also wanted to be a role model and help support a fellow individual whose shoes I was once in a couple years back."

Dashawn Walker, Associate Analyst, Analytics Partners


“If it weren’t for all the mentors that helped me on the way up when I had nothing, my mother, my friends, my sisters, my peers, I'm not sure I'd be where I am today. If I can spend my life being to others what those people were to me - my motivation corner - then I'm already doing so much more than I thought I could, and so much more than anyone expected of me. So I use my platform to help those out around me. One step in that process is elevating those who represent our future, the young men and women who will someday take over the world. Because they can. We know they can. Why not give them the tools they need to remind them that they can make this world even better?”

Donald T. 'DeeJay' Butler, Jr., K-12 and Pre-College Instructor, Kaplan


“I decided to be a mentor in HSBC because I view my experience as a recent college graduate in my first post-graduation job connects well with students beginning their academic and professional trajectory. The relationship I established with my mentee allowed me to see that my experience is valuable, and it is important that I pass my knowledge along."

Joey Thompson, Administrative Assistant, Futures and Options


“I wanted to be a mentor in the George Westinghouse program because I am passionate about supporting young people. The program was an excellent experience - my relationship with Alicia has been mutually beneficial; I have helped her determine her long- and short-term goals regarding school and work, and she has helped me strengthen my coaching and leadership skills."

Joanna Munoz, Graduate Student, Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs


“I wanted to be a mentor to give back to the community and help guide students to achieve a better, more focused future.”

Elizabeth Wilsterman, Market Development Representative, Rich Relevance


We greatly appreciate our mentors for giving so generously to our students.  Their caring, time and commitment are tremendous gifts.  Thank you!


Career Essentials Interns Reflect on a Busy Semester

Marcia Coard (L) and Alysha Young (R ) were interns in the Futures and Options office during the fall session of Career Essentials, where they helped prepare for and assisted with the program’s workshops.


Alysha Young: The Language of Success

I have always been an outgoing individual. Unfortunately, since I am around people of my age most of the time, I was used to the language of slang. It became so bad that I didn't even notice that I was using it toward my mother at times. She warned me that I had to first break out of the habit and learn how to speak in a more appropriate way, since I’m getting older and getting to the age of looking for jobs.


That was when I found Futures and Options. My friends saw that I was interested and encouraged me to sign up. Thank God for them! The Career Essentials program was the first step I took. This program helped me separate the way I would speak with my friends from the way I would speak in an office. On the first day of the program, we had to come up with rules as a class. One of the rules were “Be Respectful.” That didn't just mean to be kind, it also referred to how we spoke to one another.


Each session I knew I had to take initiative to watch what I say. It wasn't easy, but it took me only a little bit of time to get used to the concept. I thought of it as a pre-job: it was my first responsibility to learn how to communicate in the professional world. After completing the program, I decided to put my accomplishment into action. When I had an opportunity to work as an intern for Futures and Options, I knew the first thing I had to remember was that I was no longer in front of my friends. All of the "Yo, what’s up?" had to be left behind once I got to work - I really had to think before I spoke.


I have accomplished a lot from learning the difference, and my experience as an intern was amazing. The atmosphere was so happy and bright, and through this experience, I was able to prove not only to my mom but also to others that I am dependable and professional.


Marcia Coard: Doing the Impossible

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible.”  — Audrey Hepburn.


Nothing in life is impossible. Knowing this has helped me through the difficult times in life. This year is my last year in high school. Many students come down with the dreadful “senioritis,” a condition that only happens to high school seniors. Senioritis is a crippling disease which symptoms include: excessive wear of sweatpants, lack of studying, and laziness. The only cure for senioritis is graduation.  I overcame this phase of life by staying connected with Futures and Options. This year was my most stressful year, but by being proactive and committed to all of my activities, I was immune to senioritis.


My name is Marcia Coard and in 2014, I entered the door of Futures and Options. Futures and Options is the best organization that I have been a part of. In the spring of 2014, I was a part of the Career Essentials program. Twelve intense weeks of career preparation, networking, and the prominent Create-A-Company project. After I participated in Career Essentials, I applied for the summer core internship program and had two months of real hands-on office activity at the New York City Law Department. I still wanted to participate with Futures and Options. I was asked if I have any interest in becoming the Career Essentials assistant . I expressed a huge interest because Career Essentials is how reached to the place I am today.


Career Essentials is a program for youth who have interest or potential for becoming something great, something unimaginable. I spent the past few months with students who are thrilled and interested in learning the kinds of skills that they do not teach you in school. Most schools do not teach you how to answer a phone in the office, or how to write a resume. While working as an assistant in the program, I realized that Career Essentials is shaping the next generation for success.


Every student is not the same, and there are students who are not ready for the program. Being a part of this program is a huge commitment for the students and also for the assistants. Every day I would come in the office and prepare materials needed for the workshop and every week the students would come in for two hours after school to learn the lifelong skills of having a career.  I helped students improve their resumes, and gave them feedback on their Create-A-Company projects. Also helping out during the field trips, and answering their questions about my experience at Futures and Options made me feel as if I was a mentor/teacher during my experience. 


This year is my busiest year of my high school career. Applying for colleges, being a part of my school’s choir, and interning here at Futures and Options — I had to stay committed to each and every one, and I also had to juggle a social life. Being a Career Essentials assistant showed that the real world is full of juggling many different things at once. It was a great experience, and if I had the opportunity to do it again and relive the dream I would without a doubt. I learned more about myself, I learned about working with other personalities, and I learned even more about career preparation, making this the greatest opportunity I have had to learn more about the world around me. 

Career Essentials is generously funded by Gap Foundation, PwC Foundation and Capital One.



F+O Alumni Offer Tips on Applying For College, Financial Aid


A group of Futures and Options alumni who are currently college freshmen returned on Friday, January 9th, to share their experience and knowledge with students in our College Guidance Initiative. The alumni, who just wrapped up their first semesters at various universities, offered their own insight about the college application process and advice on making a decision on which college to attend.


Much of the conversation centered around the application process and financial aid, as many high school seniors are currently focused on these activities. Since the students on the panel were going through this process only one year ago, they had a lot of tips for making the process easier. “The most important thing is to stay organized,” said Simbiat Akanni, a freshman at Baruch College. “Use a ‘handy-dandy’ planner, and make to-do lists to keep track of what you need to do.”


The panel encouraged students to apply for financial aid, and to do so early. The FAFSA, which is currently available to high school seniors, will determine the amount of federal aid you will receive for your education. “Make sure to complete it as soon as possible,” advised Alyssa Shanderson, who attends SUNY Albany. “It is given out on a first-come, first-serve basis, so the earlier you apply, the more you could receive.”


Besides the FAFSA, there are several other avenues students can explore to help them pay for college. The CSS profile, which is an application developed by the College Board to allow students to apply for nonfederal financial aid, is also available until February 15, 2015. All of the students also said to look into scholarship options. “Don’t underemphasize scholarships,’ stressed Endigo Harmon, a student at Clark Atlanta University. “Keep applying to them, even when you get rejected. Don’t get discouraged.”

CollegeGreenlight.com, Fastweb.com and Scholarships.com were all referenced as sources to explore scholarships.


The panel agreed that both college applications and financial aid can be daunting, but staying organized and managing one’s time will help both processes go smoothly.


“Always ask for help, if you need it,” said Alyssa.


The College Guidance Initiative offers monthly workshops throughout the year on college research, application writing and financial aid. Additionally, program coordinators offer individual help with all aspects of the application process. Please contact Christine Scarfuto for more information. 


Funding for the College Guidance Initiative is generously provided by the CME Group Community Foundation. 

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