In Real Life Blog Series: Mentors Help Youth Leverage Summer Learning Opportunities

July 14th, 2016
Posted In: Corporate Engagement, In Real Life

Mentoring can happen in moments big and small.  Think back to the guidance you received from that experienced colleague during critical moments when navigating your career path, and how that relationship empowered you.  This July, we’ll share resources, stories and tips that illustrate how you can pay-it-forward through mentoring and help youth build a foundation of knowledge as they embrace their journey to success.  This post shares information on how JPMorgan Chase employees are playing a valuable role in helping youth leverage summer learning opportunities and providing guidance and support year-round. 

Sponsored by JPMorgan Chase – The Fellowship Initiative

American entrepreneur and leadership guru, Jim Rohn, shares, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” A consistent commitment to continual learning opportunities can be transformative in expanding one’s knowledge, experiences and skill-building. Unfortunately, many students in low-income communities do not have access to summer learning and skill-building opportunities, which translates to academic achievement gaps.Steven.Ronald

The National Summer Learning Association reports that “all young people experience learning losses when they do not engage in educational activities during the summer,” as evidenced by over 100 years of research. In fact, more than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth is due to unequal access to summer learning opportunities, which impacts graduation rates among low-income youth. Specifically, low-income students are likely to lose more than two months of reading achievement over the summer.

Mentors can play a valuable role in helping youth to access, take full advantage of and reflect on various summer learning and skill-building opportunities. Employees at JPMorgan Chase that mentor young men of color in The Fellowship Initiative (TFI), provide year-round guidance about academic issues, college planning, financial aid and career pathways. Through the following types of summer learning opportunities, the program is designed to provide young people with access to comprehensive support that positions them for success in college, their career and in life.

International Experience

According to The Hechinger Report, “the number of Americans studying abroad has tripled over the last two decades, as students increasingly see the academic, social and professional advantages of overseas experiences.”  However, for cultural and financial reasons, many first-generation and minority college students are less likely to study internationally.

Addressing this issue, JPMorgan Chase has partnered with The Experiment in International Living, a global organization that provides summer abroad programs for high school students, to take the Fellows to South Africa this summer. The international experience is designed to equip Fellows with invaluable new skills, connections, awareness and knowledge that will help them to thrive and lead in diverse environments. Dr. Aaron Morehouse, the Executive Director of The Experiment in International Living, validates the importance this international experience.

“The Experiment is not about passively observing another country,” said Morehouse. “It is about getting out of your comfort zone, changing your perspective on the world and discovering your true potential. It develops leadership and intercultural skills that are vital in today’s schools and workplaces, but simply can’t be taught in a classroom,” he added.

Fellows will return from their Experiment experiences with new leadership skills, international peer networks, and global perspectives that will help them to thrive as leaders in our globalizing world.  

Outdoor Learning

Outward Bound, a character development school that annually engages 35,000 students in high impact activities in a combination of classroom and wilderness settings, has a proven track record of building confidence and developing students’ abilities to interact and work effectively with others. Last summer, Fellows participated in Outward Bound programming which focused on enriching their leadership, teamwork, communications and problem solving skills while increasing their confidence.

“The college tour upstate was a real eye opener for me personally and it got me excited for college. I became interested in universities like Stanford, UC Davis, and Berkeley. It showed me what college life was like and it motivated me to keep on pushing to get better grades. The outward bound trip was a gruesome experience that really pushed me to my limits. But it also taught me to not give up and to always stay positive. The pain that followed, with each step I took, reminded me that I was just that much closer to finishing. We were all united on this task and together we completed it. With all these new experiences, I will start this next school year and try my best at everything I do.”  – Oscar Barragan (TFI Los Angeles)

Research on outdoor learning opportunities through programs like Outward Bound has shown to have positive influences on youth development outcomes such as adventure/exploration, independence, positive identity, peer relationships and other positive qualities that carry over to academic settings and lead to academic achievement. According to the American Camp Association, “Researchers have also found that access to nature nurtures self-discipline, peace and self-control. The ability to have self-control, concentration and other positive qualities can carry over to academic settings, leading to academic achievement.”

Summer Employment

Summer is a perfect time for young people to engage in an employment opportunity that builds their resume with diverse experiences, broadens their network and perspectives and helps them gain invaluable skills.

Summer jobs have been shown to have tremendous impact on young adults. In addition to developing new skills, summer jobs contribute to improved school attendance and educational outcomes and increased earnings. In the long run, these types of experiences begin a young person’s lifelong process of increasing earning potential and supporting their ability to climb the economic ladder.

However, a recent JPMorgan Chase report revealed that only about 38 percent of teens and young adults looking for summer jobs were able to find positions in 15 cities surveyed. “At a time when millions of young people who want to work cannot get jobs, increasing summer work opportunities is critical, especially for populations that struggle to enter and succeed in the labor market,” writes Linda Rodriguez, the Head of The Fellowship Initiative.

Rodriguez reflects on her personal summer work experience as a youth, “As a student, I was often bored in class but working was not like school. At work, I felt like I could make a difference on my team, completing my tasks mattered and people relied on me. That job brought out this new, serious and responsible part of me.”

Mentors can help young people navigate summer employment by researching opportunities, completing applications, preparing a resume, prepping for interviews and developing the skills and work ethic to propel them forward on their career pathway.

Overall, mentors play an invaluable role in helping young people identify diverse summer learning opportunities ranging from international travel to outdoor learning to employment. They can coach young people in preparing for these new experiences and support them in reflecting on what they have gained from their engagement that positions them for future success.


9 million young people in America are in need of a trusted adult in their lives to guide them in moments big and small. Join the In Real Life movement and become an advocate, make a donation or become a volunteer.

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