Sandia LabNews

Sandia volunteers mentor local students to improve academic, lifelong outcomes

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MENTOR, MENTEE — Tess Hogancamp, left, is Big Sister to Vianey Ibarra, 17, in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentor2.0 program at South Valley Academy in Albuquerque. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Big Brothers Big Sisters is calling upon the Labs’ talented professionals to join hands in making a significant impact on the lives of young people in need by mentoring through its newest program, mentor2.0.

With a history spanning over 100 years, Big Brothers Big Sisters believes that every child harbors the innate potential to succeed and thrive in life. Aimed at fostering mentorship and guidance for young individuals, Big Brothers Big Sisters facilitates meaningful matches between adult volunteers, known as “bigs,” and children between the ages of 6 and 18, referred to as “littles.”

Recently, Big Brothers Big Sisters launched a new program called mentor2.0, which matches high school students with college-educated mentors. The program provides support and guidance for mentees to graduate high school and succeed in college and the workforce. Mentors and mentees interact through weekly messages and monthly group events held at the high school hosted and organized by mentor2.0 staff.

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MAKING BIG PLANS — Tess Hogancamp, left, Big Sister to Vianey Ibarra, 17, in Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mentor2.0 program, work together on preparing for college applications during a monthly meeting at South Valley Academy. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Students in mentor2.0 actively participate in a weekly class where they engage with a curriculum which focuses on developing abilities crucial for collegiate success. These skills include determination, analytical thinking, seeking assistance and advocating for oneself as well as fostering a positive and enthusiastic outlook on the future. Additionally, the curriculum addresses important aspects of college readiness such as selecting a college, completing applications, and understanding financial aid.

According to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central New Mexico, “littles” who participate in the program are more confident in their schoolwork performance, able to get along better with their families, 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs, 27% less likely to begin using alcohol and 52% less likely to skip school.

Calling Sandia mentors

Sandia contractor Carla Busick has mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1996. Carla’s most recent little, with whom she connected through mentor2.0, is in her freshman year at the University of New Mexico. Carla enjoyed the program so much that she is continuing communication with the little as she enters college and starting a new match for the upcoming school year.

While the program is geared toward promoting the well-being of the mentees, they are not the only ones who benefit. “Bigs benefit as well! Learning what it’s like to be going through life today as a young person and helping navigate through some of the good and bad is a very rewarding experience,” Carla said.

Similarly, engineering program and project lead Tess Hogancamp began the mentor 2.0 program at South Valley Academy last year where she was paired with then-junior Gisselle. At the end of the spring semester, Tess began mentoring Gisselle’s best friend Vianey, too. According to Tess, both of her mentees “are incredible young women” and “it has been rewarding being their cheerleader on the sidelines.”

During their meetings, Tess both offers valuable guidance on Gisselle and Vianey’s options after graduation and assists them with college applications and scholarships. Growing up, Tess was mentored informally by her teachers, which she said was incredibly valuable to her. As a result, she joined Big Brothers Big Sisters as a mentor “to pay it forward and encourage the young people to pursue their passions and to build a life that brings them joy.”

Currently, mentor2.0 only partners with Amy Biehl High School and South Valley Academy. They accept applications year-round for volunteers in both locations. To volunteer, first complete the mentor 2.0 online application. A Big Brothers Big Sisters customer relations specialist will reach out with more information including training dates. Big Brothers Big Sisters will complete a background check and interview with each volunteer mentor. To further inquire about the program, please contact Jessica Sosa at or 505-319-6757.

Mentor requirements

• Mentors must be at least 21 years old and hold a college degree (two-plus-year degree) or have significant life experience.

• Commit to mentoring for at least one year. Organizers hope that volunteers will continue with their mentee until they graduate from high school.

• Commit to sending one weekly message on a topic that mentor2.0 provides through its online platform.

• Commit to seeing the mentee once every four to six weeks for two hours at a mentor2.0-facilitated after-school event at their school from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

• Agree to only communicate and meet within the above framework (for curriculum focus and program fidelity). After junior year and a strong relationship foundation has been established, opportunities for outside communication and meetings between the mentor and mentee may be possible.

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