When It Comes to College Graduation and Finding a Job, Mentors Make a Difference

I am living proof of the OneGoal motto: “College graduation. Period.”

I’m a recent graduate of Southern Illinois University (SIU) of Carbondale where I studied information systems technology. And I did so with the tools I learned in my OneGoal classroom—tools designed to help me navigate through my college career seamlessly toward graduation.

Let me take you back a few years to 2013—the year before I started OneGoal, a college access and success program. I was a sophomore in high school, a few years away from graduation. I was going to my classes, staring at the clock, hoping time would magically speed up so that I could sit next to my best friends at lunch, get through the day and graduate high school.

I was always the sit-in-the-back, goof around type of kid. But someone was watching me and saw that I had more potential. The next fall, OneGoal was on my schedule. To me, it was the beginning of my junior year, but to OneGoal it meant that I was starting “Year One.”

Somehow—even though I didn’t know what was in store for me—I knew it would be OK, because of Venice. She’s one of the best humans in my life, my motivation, my life adviser, and basically, my family. She’s also my OneGoal program director.

Venice had already been my teacher earlier in high school. She lived in the Chicago neighborhood where I grew up, so we connected on a cultural level. Venice would be my program director for three years, from the beginning of my junior year through my first year of college.

Through OneGoal, Venice helped me build my academic skills to increase my college options and develop real-life skills like resilience, goal setting and resourcefulness. Venice ignited my leadership potential in academics and in my life. She helped me realize that I was already a leader and that I just needed to push beyond my own expectations. Venice challenged me to strive for greater.

So when OneGoal CEO Melissa Connelly reached out about an internship opportunity for a small group of OneGoal fellows, I applied and was accepted. For the first time, I had a career path, a salary and a professional opportunity that I didn't have exposure to before. That opportunity was a game-changer and it propelled me to major in information systems technology. And six months before graduating from SIU, I received an incredible job offer as a development operations engineer.

I can honestly say, without OneGoal and without Venice’s guidance, I would not be the leader I am today. For the students who may be reading this, this is me now—a graduate about to start my career, but I was in your shoes just four years ago. I know what you’re going through. I know that you’re thinking about a lot and you’re also excited about what comes next. Stay excited, because the future holds so much for you.

Photo courtesy of the author.

Jawon Mayberry is a OneGoal-Chicago alumnus and a graduate of Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois.

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