A Bronx Tale of Mentorship

As we celebrate National Pro Bono Week, learn how one Capital One associates used their skills to make an impact.

In 2012, Sherman Reid was working in sales when his office was visited by iMentor, a program that matches high school students in New York City with professional mentors.

It caused him to reflect on his background, a Bronx childhood that had its share of tribulations -- especially in high school. “There were times when I really struggled and basically was in jeopardy of not graduating,” he said.

By focusing on his education, he endured, went to Mercy College and got a business management degree. He decided he’d do all he could to help someone in a similar situation, so he became a mentor and was matched with Jeffry.

Sherman and Jeffry were immediately compatible. The pair emailed every week and met monthly, and Jeffry quickly confided in Sherman his struggles in math class. He was getting a 75, and they both knew that could be improved. Sherman proposed a short-term goal, to get the grade from 75 to 80. “I wanted to give him stepping points; gradual steps to do better,” said Sherman.

“Anytime I had a question, Sherman was there to answer it,” Jeffry said. “Especially when I was graduating high school and looking at colleges. I didn’t know anything about financial aid.”

“We know the good, the bad and the ugly about each other,” said Sherman, who confided to Jeffry about his own struggles in high school, how he could have forged another path like many of his peers “who didn’t finish high school and never went to college,” said Sherman.

Capital One started working with iMentor two years ago and now has dozens of mentors in the program. Brielle Nalence, a Capital One associate on the Community Affairs team, is focused on community impact. She works directly with local organizations and nonprofits harnessing the resources of Capital One to support the community. “As a former first generation college student, I’m especially passionate about our partnership with iMentor, which advances young people on their journeys to college, careers and beyond.”

Capital One’s commitment to community goes beyond traditional monetary philanthropy and focuses on leveraging its most critical asset: its people. In 2018, one out of every five Capital One associates engaged in pro-bono or skills-based volunteerism, totaling nearly 90,000 hours. Associates also volunteered more than 422,000 hours serving individuals in need. These efforts were possible because their leaders actively encourage and sponsor bold volunteer programs that connect the unique skills of our associates with the unique needs of the communities. 

“We were thrilled when we started doing recruitment, dozens of volunteers raised their hand to apply to be mentors. That really speaks to the work of iMentor and how its mission resonates with so many people,” said Brielle.

Brielle knew that Capital One had made the right choice after she went to one of the iMentor mentor-mentee nights. She stood in awe as she saw the entire school chatting away with mentees. “It’s one-to-one and they’re working on everything, talking about college, having conversations that you might have with a guidance counselor, or you might have with a trusted adult, and they’re just there, after hours, having in-depth conversati­ons.”

She said it’s a special thing to see, and when she talked to some of the students, they remarked how they felt like the mentee matches were designed just for them. “And some of them said they know now who they wanted to be when they grow up.”

Seven years into the mentor-mentee relationship, Jeffry is thriving as a junior at Stony Brook University, majoring in computer science. “He shares practically everything about his academics with me,” said Sherman. “When he was considering switching to a college with a weaker computer science program because his financial aid package wasn’t enough, I connected him with resources that ultimately enabled him to stay in his program.”

As time went on, Sherman began to realize that the mentoring program was much bigger than his relationship with Jeffry - that its real currency is the future, an investment, with dividends paid by Jeffry and mentees like him. “For Jeffry, my hope is that one day he’ll establish himself, get a nice job, start his own family and then give back and become a mentor as well.”

It’s an idea that resonates with Jeffry, “I imagine that, like me, there’s someone out there who might have trouble with college, or with high school. So, definitely, yeah, I would love to be a mentor, and like me running to Sherman asking for help, someone will run to me.”