From Buffalo to Brooklyn, mentoring organizations have been sending us inspiring nominations that share the stories of remarkable mentors, mentees, and mentoring relationships! Following a careful selection process from the Awards Selection Committee, we’re thrilled to announce the four recipients of this year’s MENTOR of the Year Awards and the recipient of the Luke Boisi MENTOR of the Year Award. Each mentor serves as a shining example of what it means to give back to your community and the profound impact both mentors and mentees can have on each other’s lives.
Meet Gabriella Ferreira Bigs & Littles NYC Mentoring At just 26 years old, Gabriella Ferreira is committed to forging pathways for BIPOC students, equipping them with the same knowledge, encouragement, and kindness she received from her own mentors. Gabriella's journey as a mentor was shaped by triumphing over obstacles she faced growing up in Brazil—and her firsthand experience revealed to her the incredible impact of mentorship for children of color and its power to unlock new opportunities.
Gabriella's bond with mentee Estefany has flourished over the last five years and evolved into a deep familial connection. The mentorship has changed Estefany's perspective and ignited her dreams of pursuing higher education, she says, while instilling in her the belief she can achieve her goals. Estefany's mother, Guadalupe, recognizes the profound impact Gabriella has had on her daughter's life. The mentor is now an integral part of their family, attending important milestones such as Estefany's eighth-grade promotion, her Quinceanera, and the celebration of Guadalupe receiving American residency.
“Having ‘Fany as my mentee influenced the kind of lawyer I wanted to become,” Gabriella says. “I will continue to support and empower students of color to follow their dreams and believe in their potential.” Meet Drin Kukaj Student Sponsor Partners Drin Kukaj's journey with the Student Sponsor Partners (SSP) community spans over two decades, beginning when he himself was a student in the program. Drin immigrated to the US at a young age and found much-needed support and guidance in SSP.
"If not for SSP and my mentor Bill, I don't know where I'd be—and that's exactly what I want to give to Zaire," Drin said.
Drin and Zaire were matched during the peak of the COVID pandemic, but despite being remote at the time, the pair managed to forge a strong connection. Drin ensured Zaire knew he was there to talk through the tough times and provide advice on how to make the most of the beginning of his high school experience.
"Drin helped me to become comfortable and we started to have really deep conversations about who I want to be," Zaire said. “It gives me high hopes that I can really achieve my dreams."
Today, the pair enjoy exploring the city together and sharing Zaire’s passion for art and drawing. Drin describes Zaire's success and growth with great pride and is excited to help him with the next step: searching for and applying to colleges.
Meet Dr. Arlene Guerrero
Baldwin High School No individual had a greater impact on Ruby's high school experience than Dr. Arlene Guerrero, known affectionately to students as “Dr. G”. A beloved assistant principal at Baldwin High School, Dr. G oversaw over 100 pairs of mentors and mentees at Baldwin Middle School, before co-running the high school mentoring program. Through it all, she had her own mentees, including now 19-year-old Ruby Malik.
Ruby recalls that whenever she had a problem or issue, Dr. G would take the time to walk her into her office and calm her down. She was an amazing advocate, Ruby says, always putting the student's mental health first. The pair describe their relationship as one of mutual support and understanding, with Dr. G noting that she probably gets more out of it than Ruby. Her mentee is a continual source of humor and laughter, she says, and was “a ray of light, especially during some dark days of COVID.”
As Dr. G retires this year, she leaves behind a legacy of care, compassion, and inspiration for her mentees. Ruby has since graduated from Baldwin but still considers Dr. G to be one of the most important people in her life. “Without her, I would never have made it through high school,” Ruby says. Meet Michael Brisbane Bronx River Community Center Michael Brisbane, fondly known as “Coach Mike,” grew up at the Bronx River Community Center where he now serves as an activity specialist. He is an extraordinary mentor, coach, and advocate for young people aged 13 to 19 who seek community and purpose within the center. “They remind me of seeds, you know?” Mike explains. “Seeds need time to grow and they have to be nurtured right. I understand that the future lies in their hands. I think they’re a gift to the world.”
Mike invests his time and energy to ensure each mentee feels empowered to pursue their goals. In his eyes, the learning process is mutual, as he acknowledges that he grows and learns just as much from the young people as they do from him. Whether they’re playing basketball, supporting community events, building their resumes, or simply spending time together, Mike’s mentees note that he is a consistent presence in their lives. He credits his own mentors—many of whom still visit the center—with equipping him with the tools necessary to provide unwavering support. “Learning from the older adults gave me an understanding that we’re all in a developmental stage, and that goes for every age,” Mike explains. “There’s no top level where you stop learning, and that helped me understand that I have to be patient with the students and participants and give them time.” Meet Reginald Murray Sports Oriented Nurturing (S.O.N.) Partnership Reginald Murray, aka "Coach Reggie," has been coaching and championing young people for the past 17 years. He founded the nonprofit organization Sports Oriented Nurturing (S.O.N.) Youth Partnership Inc. in 1998, to provide a safe place for Brooklyn youth to play sports, get help with homework, spark their creativity, and engage in activities that support their well-being. The initiative has impacted the lives of hundreds of young people, with many alumni achieving remarkable success in academics and sports at the collegiate and professional levels.
Reggie is not just a mentor but a beacon of support for the youth who enter the program. He possesses a unique ability to identify when a young person needs extra support to reach their personal or academic goals and was quick to take the initially shy Joshua under his wing. To Joshua, Reggie has become a trusted confidant—someone he can always rely on for guidance and understanding. “[Coach Reggie] is not only a coach to me but a big brother and another dad,” Joshua said. “Coach Reg always checks in on me regarding my grades and what I possibly want to do in the future.”
We’re proud to honor Reggie with the Luke Boisi MENTOR of the Year Award, in recognition of his torchbearer’s spirit. Reggie attributes his own personal growth to the mentors he’s had throughout his life, crediting them for teaching him discipline, good manners, and the importance of giving back to your community and the next generation. Every year, we honor the vibrant life of Luke Boisi, who tragically passed away at the age of 21. Luke was the brother of Zach Boisi, a former Director of MENTOR New York, and the son of Geoff Boisi, the founder of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership. Luke was personally impacted by mentoring and spent the last few years of his life committed to helping others through his service with AmeriCorps.
Meet these inspiring mentors and hear their full stories live at the 2023 MENTOR of the Year Awards on Wednesday, June 21 at the Bowery Hotel in Manhattan. Can’t attend the event? You can still show your support by making a donation.