I’m excited to shine a light on companies that are doing incredible work in the mentorship arena, how they are impacting their communities, their culture, and their employees. I’m particularly fascinated when they incorporate Project Based Mentoring into their mentor/mentee experience. Below, you will find more on the incredible work that JP Morgan Chase is doing in Chicago, New York, Dallas, and L.A. It is my privilege to interview them and share their model, in hopes that more companies can follow suit.

JP Morgan Chase: Interview with Rudy Lozano

Tell us about the JP Morgan Chase program. How did it start? How has it grown?

JPMorgan Chase created The Fellowship Initiative in 2010 in New York. The program was developed to respond to a growing crisis in underserved communities—even though high school graduation rates in some cities were increasing, education and employment outcomes for young men of color were not improving. Too often, young men of color were either at one extreme or the other: they were at the bottom of the graduation rates and at the top of the incarceration rates. Because of the complex systemic barriers often faced by these young men, we knew that we would need a comprehensive and thoughtful approach. Drawing from promising youth development organizations and leveraging JPMorgan Chase’s resources—especially our employees—we built an intensive model that focuses on the needs of this target group.

TFI is a multi-year cohort model. Each class of Fellows is selected at the end of their freshman year in high school and they complete the program in their senior year. We recently expanded the program to work with Fellows during the transition to college as well.

In 2017, TFI reached a milestone—the first class of Fellows graduated from college. One of those graduates is Dariel, who was a featured speaker at events during MENTOR’s Annual National Mentoring Summit. After completing TFI, Dariel attended Bard College where he launched a new mentoring program, Brothers at Bard. This is a wonderful example of the ripple effect of mentoring programs.

Over the past year, TFI has grown to serve 200 Fellows in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York.

What do you look for in mentees?

Mentees, or as we call them, TFI Fellows, are students in the academic middle (e.g. most of the Fellows have B or C grades when selected), who want to improve their lives and go to college. We target schools that serve low-income students and look for high levels of need.

Each applicant is asked to submit recommendation letters, an application and an essay. Everyonegets an interview. We do not screen out students with lower grades or IEPs or any other issue. We also encourage each applicant to bring a parent or guardian. In essence, the interview becomes a double-interview. We are interviewing the students and his/her parental figure.

We also observe the students’ interactions with other students at the interview. We look for young people who want to be in a supportive peer group and demonstrate a commitment and willingness to improve themselves. If chosen, TFI Fellows are asked to meet three times a month on Saturdays, from 8am – 4pm.

What is your Saturday mentorship program like?

I feel a little like a principal at the program. The first half of the Saturday is academic. We have teachers who offer one hour of math and one hour of English and the arts. We then have one hour of open tutoring and homework assistance.

The second half of day consists of experiential learning. We collaborate with leading youth development organizations to develop this programming. For example, in Chicago, we are working with Chicago Young Authors, Mikva Challenge, and the Illinois Mentoring Partnership, among other groups. One project is providing the Fellows with civic engagement training, asking them to identify a pressing social issue and potential solutions. The Fellows will then fund three or so organizations that they choose to address the issue. The Fellows will learn about program evaluation and track the organizations’ progress addressing the issue. Through these types of projects, we help the Fellows further develop their communications, problem-solving, collaboration, critical thinking and project management skills.

What do the students learn? What is their take-away?

All of our programming is designed to prepare the Fellows for college and career success. First, we emphasize youth voice and the Fellows’ experiences as a way to develop a sense of brotherhood in the cohort. This peer support network is a key strategy: Fellows walk away from TFI with social capital—peer networks, mentors and other professionals who are invested in their success. For example, this spring the Fellows are developing a large-scale mural together that will represent their definition of success. This collective visioning process is an example of how we are creating a strong program culture grounded in the Fellows’ aspirations, brotherhood, leadership and excellence, while supporting real skills development.

Can you describe the role of a JP Morgan Chase Mentor? What exactly are they charged to do, and how often, with what audience, and to what goal?

We have one mentor for each Fellow. Mentors have a once-per-month expectation of a face-to-face meeting, but we ask that they have weekly “touchpoints” – meaning they touch base via phone or e-mail at least once a week. The mentorship program lasts for about three years. Throughout that time, we provide training and support to the Fellows and mentors to make this an effective component of the program. This is an intensive model and we are grateful to our colleagues for their incredible commitment and enthusiasm. The relationships they create with the Fellows are often powerful, lasting connections that will continue well beyond the program.

We are fortunate to have a CEO, Jamie Dimon, who has been incredibly supportive of this program. To our colleagues’ surprise, they have even received thank you notes from Jamie for their role in the program. Because of the program’s outcomes and our employee commitment to it, we have been able to grow it with each class and have started to explore opportunities to collaborate with other businesses to expand it.

Can you give us an example of how a mentor/mentee relationship has been impacted?

“Mary,” a mentor with 18 years of experience at JPMorgan Chase, is a Senior Vice President. She was paired with “George,” whom she exposed to new worlds. Mary took George to corporate events, taught him how to present himself and how to network. She pushed him to take pride in his health which he took steps to improve with Mary there to support him every step of that journey, which he credits with changing his life. George now views her as his second mom.

George came from a high poverty area outside Chicago: North Lawndale. When Dr. Martin Luther King was killed, over 40% of North Lawndale was burned down in protests. To this day, George’s street only has three homes standing. The neighborhood has never recovered.

George began as the class clown; he often needed to be removed from others. His teachers would seat him alone, in the corners of the room. At home, things were not much better. His mom was a single mom with other siblings to care for. George’s aunt became important in his life.

George said he would never forget that moment when I visited his school and told the class, “if you join this program, we will help you be who you want to be … We will help you change your lives.” That’s when he decided that he needed to be a part of TFI.

By the time he graduated from high school, he was selected by his peers to give the TFI graduation key note address. He talked about his upbringing, and his outlook on life at the time. Today, he is a student at West Illinois University with a 3.4 GPA.

In the words of one of the graduates, “This program has changed my life. Being a Fellow, we received help for school, personal development, and leadership training as well as learning the value of helping our communities… Jesse Jackson once said, ‘The only justification for ever looking down on someone is to pick them up,’ and that’s exactly what we do: pick each other up.”

Rudy Lozano
JP Morgan Chase

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