JERSEY CITY – New Jersey Needs You (NJNY), a nonprofit organization that assists first-generation college students in realizing their college and career potential by providing support to them and their families, is set to launch in northern New Jersey in October and is seeking mentors with three or more years of work experience. The organization pairs sophomore and junior college students with mentor coaches, who are typically young professionals in the same industry. According to reports, 85 percent of first generation college students come from low-income families and only 11 percent of first generation college students graduate from college.
“Nobody in their families has been to college,” says Shawn Golhar, President of NJNY’s Board and a Rutgers graduate, on the unique struggles faced by first generation college students. “These students often have to work multiple jobs, maintain high GPAs, and accomplish as much as they already have with little guidance.”
With the help of NJNY, the students and their mentor coaches attend twice-a-month structured workshops that teach professional and life skills, with an emphasis on personal attributes that enhance job performance and career prospects. The students, referred to in the program as “Fellows,” also hear from professional speakers from a variety of local corporations and nonprofits, in addition to receiving help selecting, securing, and succeeding in summer internships and future careers.
NJNY is the first replication of the highly-successful program just across the Hudson, New York Needs You (NYNY). NYNY currently serves 250 students with 250 active mentor coaches and a volunteer cross-sector network of more than 1,000 professionals dedicated to supporting its mission. NJNY is looking to build a similarly strong volunteer network in New Jersey, and provide New Jersey volunteers access to all social and networking events taking place in both states. For potential NJNY volunteers, part of the appeal is watching high potential students transform into young professionals with their guidance.
“If I could go back in time, I would tell myself to learn as much as possible, ask questions and network with people outside of your circle,” says Latoya Finney, a former New York Needs You mentor coach that is located in New Jersey, and will be a part of NJNY’s inaugural class of mentors. “I became a mentor coach to share words of wisdom with my younger self.”
Many of the volunteers have grown personally and professionally during their tenure with the organization. The mentor coach network supports fellows, but also each other through networking and social functions. Mentors themselves are able to enhance their own professional development by attending the workshops that cover topics such as presentation skills, managing up, and developing your personal brand. In so many areas of workplace etiquette, what was relevant five years ago in career preparation may now be obsolete. New Jersey Needs You is selecting its first class of 25 “Fellows” from high-potential rising sophomore and junior applicants in northern New Jersey. In future years, NJNY plans on adding central and southern New Jersey locations and is recruiting from all community colleges and four years schools in the state. Visit www.newjerseyneedsyou.org/apply/volunteer-application to learn more and apply to volunteer firstname.lastname@example.org.