Equitas Academy is committed to supporting 100 percent of scholars to and through a four-year college or university. Over 90 percent of Equitas scholars qualify for free/reduced lunch, and will be the first in their family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. First-generation, low-income scholars will face unique hurdles as they may lack people able to support their access to and through college. Fewer than 30 percent of eligible students in the bottom quarter of incomes even enroll in a four-year school. And among that group, fewer than half graduate.
However, mentors play a critical role for first-generation college students! Mentors serve as effective “compensatory resources” and help outcomes for first-generation students look more like those of continuing-generation students.
How Equitas MVP Works
Equitas alumni who are currently in high school are encouraged to enroll in the Mentor-Volunteer Program. Alumni will be paired with a mentor who shares similar career interests.
Once a month, mentors and mentees will check-in for 30 minutes virtually (or in-person, if permitted post-COVID19).
Mentors will be provided resources and ideas for the monthly check-in with their alumni mentee that is grounded in goal-setting.
Concurrently, Equitas alumni will complete 10 volunteer hours for their mentor and/or with their mentor's support.
While mentors share their college experience and serve as a role model, alumni will volunteer their time and gain real-world experience in a field of interest.
In a mutually beneficial mentorship, mentors and alumni are each other’s MVP.
Equitas Alumni are expected to:
Commit to a responsive and reciprocal relationship with their mentor.
Participate in a 30-minute check-in with their mentor once a month.
Together with their mentor, submit the “Monthly Check-in Reflection Form” each month confirming that the check-in took place.
Log 10 volunteer hours with their mentor by the end of the calendar year.
Mentors are expected to:
Have a deep level of commitment to the educational outcomes and general well-being of their mentee.
Coordinate and conduct monthly 30-minute check-ins with their mentee once a month for the duration of the 2021 calendar year.
Together with their mentee, submit the “Monthly Check-in Reflection Form” each month confirming that the check-in took place.
Provide and/or coordinate 10-hours worth of volunteer projects by the end of the calendar year.
All mentors must have an active, clear criminal background check with the California Department of Justice prior to becoming a mentor. *See FAQ below for more information on who this applies to and how to complete the background check.
How to Become an MVP
Equitas Alumni: Submit the MVP Alumni application by February 15, 2021. APPLY NOW
Mentors: Submit the MVP Mentor application by February 15, 2021. APPLY NOW
NOTE: All mentors must have an active, cleared background check on file with Equitas Academy prior to applying to become a mentor. Please see FAQ below for more information.
MVP Spotlight: Esmeralda & Cathy
We linked up with MVP Pair: Esmeralda (Class of 2025) & Cathy (Managing Director of Development, Equitas Academy), to learn a little more about their experience with the MVP program and their advice for those considering becoming an MVP.
What is your favorite part of being an MVP mentee/mentor?
Esmeralda: I like getting to learn more about college, what the experience was like, and how I can be prepared. The best part of having Cathy as my mentor is that I get to build a new connection and get advice on my college applications. We have developed a strong relationship and I know I can talk to her when I'm feeling stressed about my college applications. She helps me get out of my comfort zone and go for what I would never have done on my own.
Cathy: Esmeralda is a joy! She's incredibly talented, bright and responsible...and has a huge heart. Connecting with Esme and learning about her interests and dreams on the path to and through higher education inspires me to do even better in identifying resources for Equitas. Every time I engage with Esme and use the resources provided by our amazing alumni programs department makes me even more proud and confident in the knowledge that I'm raising money for an organization that is helping to close the education equity gap. I love our Alumni Programs & HS Placement department and I'm invested in helping them grow to the best of my ability. As the guardian of two 25 year old boys, I know that support to and THROUGH college is essential for our scholars and I'm so proud of my colleagues for fulfilling this need.
What is the best part about having Esmeralda as a mentee?
Cathy: Esmeralda is a high achiever and witnessing such a graceful and dignified human being excel in learning, in spite of having to spend her senior year in distance learning, fills my heart with joy. I'm so grateful that the pandemic, economic depression and results of hundreds of years of systemic racism have not crushed her spirit or significantly dampened her ability to dream. Esme adds much needed light to our journey forward. She gives me hope that the next generation will lead us better than we have led so far.
What is one way being an MVP has helped you as you prepare for college?
Esmeralda: Being an MVP has helped me prepare for college because I am pushed to do things out of my comfort zone and consider things I probably wouldn't have considered if I didn't have someone to give me that nudge and push me to go for opportunities. I am generally a person who overthinks and stresses about the future, and being a part of the MVP program has helped me to be more at ease and not to stress about college.
What would you say to other alumni considering being an MVP? Why did you decide to join the MVP program?
Esmeralda: I would say join. It's a great experience and you get to build a strong connection with your mentor. I decided to join the MVP program because I am a first generation student and I know I would need help with my applications and college stuff in general, and in life.
What would you say to others considering being a mentor as a part of the MVP Program?
Cathy: Do it! And once you're in, remember that you have the capacity to be an adult who makes a positive impact (small or big) on your mentee's life. Show up consistently, ask questions and listen. Stick around and be available. It's not a huge time commitment but it has a huge impact on their perception of adults outside of their immediate daily environment.
Why did you decide to join the MVP Program?
Cathy: I was excited to sign up for the Equitas Mentor Volunteer Program because the adults who helped me when I was a teenager made a huge influence on my self image. I lived overseas the first five years of my life and when we moved to North Carolina in the mid-seventies racism was a shock to my system. Navigating adults who didn't like me on sight hurt my self-esteem and made the ones who truly saw me as a human being even more impactful. I want to provide kids and teenagers with all the kindness and recognition in the world in the hope that they also feel seen and heard and know that there are people outside of their families who are invested in their success.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long am I an MVP?
For at least one calendar year. Mentors and alumni will be asked at the end of the calendar year if they intend to renew their MVP status with their current mentee. It is possible, and encouraged, to be each other’s MVP throughout the alum’s academic career.
What is the time commitment?
Each month, MVPs have a 30-minute mentoring session referred to as “check-ins.” After each check-in, both MVPs need to complete a 2-minute reflection form confirming the check-in has occurred. Additionally, by the end of the year, mentees must have completed 10 volunteer hours engaging in their career interests with their mentor.
Did you notice the program runs on a calendar year, not academic year? Yes, that's intentional. Summer transitions in high school and college are critical times for alumni during which they can use the support of their MVPs. We hope mentors remain just as (if not more!) engaged during the summer.
Do I need to complete a background check to become a mentor?
All mentors must have a clear criminal background check with the California Department of Justice prior to becoming a mentor.
Current staff members of Equitas Academy have completed this background check upon hire, and therefore no further action is required prior to applying to be a mentor.
Board members of Equitas Academy must complete a background check prior to applying to be a mentor. Their ability to mentor an alum of Equitas Academy is contingent upon clearing a criminal background check with the California Department of Justice.
Past staff members of Equitas Academy must complete a background check prior to applying to be a mentor. Their ability to mentor an alum of Equitas Academy is contingent upon clearing a criminal background check with the California Department of Justice.
Members of the community must complete a background check prior to applying to be a mentor. Their ability to mentor an alum of Equitas Academy is contingent upon clearing a criminal background check with the California Department of Justice.
What can I expect after signing up?
February-March: MVP applications due + match notifications
April to November: Monthly check-ins
December: MVP Celebration and last check-in of the year
Where do monthly check-ins take place?
Due to COVID-19, we ask that all MVP mentors and mentees meet virtually (over the phone, video conference, etc.) to maintain social distance.
What do we check-in about?
MVPs check-ins have two main focuses: goal-setting and college pathway exploration. The first check-in will provide a space for alumni to share and/or set their college and career goals with mentors. Subsequent check-ins will provide a space for mentors to check in with alumni on their goals. Each check-in will also provide a space for alumni and mentors to build a relationship that provides alumni with a college graduate currently in a field of interest who they can lean on through their college pathway exploration.
When are the “Monthly Check-in Reflection Forms” due?
Within a week of each monthly check-in, mentors and alumni should submit the reflection form to confirm they have completed a check-in. These forms also provide a way for you to share any additional follow up we may need to do. If an alum asks for support on SAT practice during their check-in, for example, mentors can add it to their form to ensure the Equitas Alumni team connects alumni with appropriate resources.
How are mentors and mentees matched?
We aim to match mentors and mentees with a compatible MVP based on career interests, hobbies, education, and other factors noted in each application. We recruit MVPs with the intention of matching all mentor/mentees who are interested in participating. In the event that there is a surplus of mentor applications, mentors will be paired on a first-come first-served basis. In the event that there is a surplus of alumni applications, high school seniors will have first priority, then juniors, sophomores and freshmen.