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College Mentors Bring Uncommon Good to the Lives of Local Youth

June 7, 2012

Volunteer mentor Maricarmen introduced her mentee, Kim, to the world of possibilities that college holds!

When Nancy Mintie founded Uncommon Good in 2000, she did so around one basic belief: inspiring children to obtain higher education would help end the cycle of poverty families faced. Then a lawyer working with low-income families on Skid Row, Mintie noticed that even families who won settlements often found themselves in need again, as they did not know how to manage money. This led to a hypothesis. “She realized that the key to getting families out of poverty is to work with the kids and get them educated,” recalls Uncommon Good Volunteer Coordinator Nancy Dufford, “so she started the Connect-to-College Mentoring Program.”

Through this program, volunteers who are in college or college graduates are partnered with students from low-income families who have demonstrated the ability and desire to go to college, serving as mentors who help their student-partners envision themselves going to college. “These mentors can help educate their partner students learn about steps to going to college, financial aid, show them college-related activities that inspire them to go to college, take them to see college performances or lectures. There’s great flexibility,” notes Dufford.

Mentors often introduce their mentees to the awesome facilities available on their campuses, such as the rock climbing wall at one school’s local gym.

To become a mentor, there are a few qualifications that need to be met, but all are for very practical reasons. “We ask that volunteers be over 18 and, since this is a college-bound volunteer program, the volunteers either be in college or have graduated from college,” says Dufford. It is also strongly preferred that volunteers live in communities within the Pomona Valley, as local volunteers often best understand the difficulties local students face. Beyond these, however, Uncommon Good is open to volunteers of all ages and backgrounds.

Though mentors definitely provide their mentees with a wealth of valuable information, Dufford points out that oftentimes the mentors get just as much from the program as they give. When asked to describe what mentors get, she wastes little time pointing to her favorite part of the program – helping kids learn things they might not have otherwise been able to. “We’re watching children that we know would never have understood what it takes to go to college going off to some of the best colleges in the country,” she notes. “It’s a really good feeling.”

Groups outings with college students to places like the bowling alley or arcade are great ways of introducing mentors to the atmosphere of college!

That, in a nutshell, is why Nancy believes mentoring is so powerful, and why she encourages everyone to give it a try. By building a relationship with another human being, both individuals grow. “Usually [mentors will] do this because they think they’re helping a child, but they’ll get just as much or more out of it themselves. They’ll realize along the way that one person can make a difference in someone’s life. And if that person happens to be you – what can be a better feeling than that?”


Want to become a mentor? Go to and create a volunteer account. Once you have an account with HandsOn Inland Empire, you can find Uncommon Good’s volunteer opportunity by clicking here.

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