At MENTOR New York, we have been working closely with our partners and providing guidance on how to best support the young people in their programs during this challenging time.


We see firsthand how they prioritize the needs of young people, which is why we are telling the stories of these incredible mentoring heroes!


MENTOR New York's CEO,

Brenda Jimenez, thanks the mentoring heroes who are serving young people throughout this pandemic.


...connecting the dots.

How MENTOR NY Supported William's Work

“That’s what MENTOR NY and the conference [National Mentoring Summit] did for me. I knew all this stuff, but connecting the dots and making it all make sense - the conference really did that for me. It really put it into perspective.”

William Rivas

Executive Director, C.O.C.O.A House

“We have the opportunity to walk in greatness. Greatness in our hearts, greatness in our efforts, greatness in the way we go about our lives, the way we live. And for me that’s a choice. It’s the same choice I grant all the youth I come in contact with.”​

Not even a pandemic will stop William Rivas from helping his community.

As the Executive Director of C.O.C.O.A. House (Children of Our Community Open to Achievement), William’s work with young people and his community is essential. Each day wearing a mask and gloves, he goes to the homeless shelter to help people get settled and ensure they have access to resources and services. He stays connected to the young people served by the C.O.C.O.A. House program and continues to manage the (now virtual) mentoring program.


Mentoring Magnetism

William’s mentoring program is near-peer model for Schenectady youth. When the pandemic struck, the college students mentoring wanted to stay connected and go virtual. William describes the mentee's virtual connections with their mentors as magnetic, especially as the college students relate to and help the mentees with virtual school and socializing. Both mentees and mentors love the Virtual Friday Pizza Parties where everyone comes together on Zoom and enjoys pizza delivered by William and other volunteers. 


“It all started with an idea.”

Knowing that many families in his community usually rely on school for meals, William found a way to ensure there was a warm meal available to those young people calling the initiative Pizza for the People.


“It all started with an idea. It was just one of those things where [I said to a friend] ‘I just wanna feed people. What do we do?’”


Partnering with Domino’s Pizza, he began going door-to-door hand-delivering pizzas to families most in need. It began in Schenectady at first with weekly pizza deliveries. And then it began to grow until he and other volunteers were delivering pizzas throughout the Capital Region (Schenectady, Albany and Troy) on both Wednesdays and Fridays. Recently, they hit a major milestone of 1,000 pizzas delivered.


“Understanding as a child who grew up in poverty, I know what it’s like to have no lights; I know what it’s like to go nights without food; I know what it's like to have days where your mom is really doing the best she can and it just wasn’t financially working out; and I know what that feels like to a child.”


To his community, his mentors and mentees and to us, William is a hero.

“This is a lifestyle for me. It’s not work, it’s not a job, it’s not a hobby. You know, it’s life. I get up every day to give back.” invaluable thinking partner.

How MENTOR NY Supported Ali's Work

“There’s a lot of just uncharted territory right now and there’s definitely a lot of sensitive issues coming up right now... So having another organization [MENTOR NY] that is so experienced in mentoring and can help us make certain judgement calls is really helpful.” 

Ali Harbon

Managing Director of Programs, Student Sponsor Partners

“Our mission hasn’t changed through COVID-19, but as the needs of our students have really expanded, our level of support for them has expanded as well.”


Ali Harbon feels like she’s racing the clock to get the mentees in her program the resources and technology they need to be successful. As the Managing Director of Programs for Student  Sponsor Partners, she has worked tirelessly each day to meet the needs of mentees and mentors. 


“We’ve just been trying to figure out how we can really implement all of the resources at our disposal to help our students.”


Racing the Clock

Within the first week of students working from home, Ali and her team discovered that many mentees didn’t have the right technology to be doing their work. Ali said “I worked with the development team to get a grant where we could purchase Chromebooks for all of the students,” but found there was a long wait for technology to arrive because of the high demand. 


“There’s a lot of work to be done, but [we are] really trying to get as much support to students really quickly,” she said. Ali’s goal is to make sure that the students can end the school year strong.


A Safe Haven for Young People

Ali and her team will continue to “be something that provides a community and provides a safe haven for them [the mentees], even if it’s virtual.” 


Ali’s intervention on the behalf of these young people to provide resources and ensure they have a caring adult to turn to is critical during this pandemic. She is a mentoring hero!


MENTOR New York supports the work of mentoring heroes like these throughout NY State. To continue providing this support, we need your help. Consider making a donation or partnering with us to ensure every mentoring hero has access to MENTOR New York's services.


Services include: no-cost consultation, research-based virtual training sessions and peer-learning opportunities. We are their trainer, their thinking partner and their go-to expert on all things mentoring. Help us help them. 

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