Mentors and Students Go on a Hunt

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Not all business meetings begin with a scavenger hunt. But on Friday afternoon, students from the Urban Assembly School for Wildlife Conservation, a public school in the Bronx, met with employees from the EMC Corporation’s New York/New Jersey Division on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to kick off their involvement in this year’s PENCIL Partnership Program.

Through PENCIL, an organization that builds relationships between public schools and the private sector, the school and EMC have worked together since 2008 to create mentorship opportunities for students and a monthly lunch series featuring talks by EMC professionals.

PENCIL also sponsors the Principal for a Day program.

At Friday’s outing, 11 mentors from EMC joined the students. Three of them were meeting their students for the first time.

Sean Lee, director of business development for EMC, has been with the program since it began in 2008. Three years ago, he was paired with Valdrin Berisha, now a 15-year-old 10th grader at the Urban Assembly School. Mr. Lee said the best part of the program was, "seeing the kids grow up--literally.’’

“When I met Valdrin, he was already a tall kid, but now he's 6 foot 4. I look up to him," he said.

"When we first met the kids, they were eleven or twelve, and still a little all over the place. Now they ask us about college, the work place, we help them pick out the right subjects."

Valdrin said the program has helped him. "They motivate us with their own experiences. If we've had a really hard day, they relate and let us know they've been there. They tell us about their own high school experiences, how hard it was for them, and they never gave up."

Shannon Russell, an EMC marketing manager and new mentor in the program, met her partner at the day's scavenger hunt. When they took a break from filling out their questionnaire, Ms. Russell said "I decided to get involved because I saw the impact it's had on the other employees. They get insight from the kids.

Lily Ng, the school's partnership coordinator, said that this year there are 14 matches, a number that has grown over the years from its original seven.

"The process is about compatibility," Ms. Ng said. "We try to make sure matches are suited through an interview process. Their relationships go beyond the school building. The students are also able to visit their mentors at work, and connect their curriculums and understand where good writers come in, where math comes in. Everything begins to click over time."