Launched in 2015, a mentorship program for students participating in the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) offers a valued relationship-building opportunity for the university’s first-generation and low-income students—and their alumni mentors. The Georgetown Voice, a student-run news magazine, recently highlighted the mentorship program’s rapid growth as a facet of GSP’s many programmatic and financial resources.
Since GSP’s creation in 2004, more than 1,600 Georgetown students have participated in the program, a nationally recognized model for supporting first-generation and low-income undergraduates. GSP provides resources and programming to support students’ success at Georgetown, including professional development, wellness services, a course on navigating the college experience, and microgrants for unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. In addition, GSP serves as an on-campus community, connecting students with staff and peers dedicated to their success.
Expanding network of care and guidance
This focus on community-building set the stage for GSP’s mentorship program, formalized by Claire Joyce (Parent’15) in 2015. With philanthropic support, the program across the past six years has expanded to include more than 650 alumni mentors, some of whom once participated in GSP themselves. GSP leaders say the alumni mentorship program will continue to evolve as the program receives additional feedback, volunteers, and donor support.
To opt into the GSP mentorship program, students fill out a form, providing insight into their interests and needs. Yasi Mahallaty (M’21), GSP assistant director, uses that information to make a match. “I carefully consider characteristics mentors and mentees may have in common, such as if a student and mentor both grew up in Southern California, root for the Knicks, or love Netflix documentaries,” Mahallaty told the Voice.
Alumni mentors, meanwhile, have access to guidelines and other tools to help maximize their role. Some mentor-mentee relationships focus on professional development and networking, while others evolve into lasting friendships.
“She was someone I knew I could call immediately and she would be there in five seconds,” Julian De La Paz (SFS’15) says of his alumni mentor, Deven Comen (C’12). “Deven is to this day one of my closest friends.”
Washington, D.C.-based mentors, like Nancy Clark (C’77, M’81) and husband Kevin Clark (C’76, L’79) say they enjoy exploring the city with their mentees, inviting them to their home during the students’ time on the Hilltop, and continuing those relationships well beyond graduation. “We have traditions,” says Nancy Clark’s mentee, Jazmin Pruitt (C’19), who now works in Georgetown’s Institutional Diversity, Equity and Affirmative Action office. “She bakes me a pecan pie for every birthday and invites me over. Anytime I needed anything, she was just a phone call or a drive away.”
Other mentors offer support from afar. Kurt Butenhoff (SFS’84) says he focuses on “trying to help on all fronts when possible: whether that’s advice on career direction, approaches to interviews, challenges in school life, or anything else.” Vincent Dong (C’20), Butenhoff’s mentee, says he has turned to his mentor with a variety of questions about goal-setting and career pursuits. “As we approached senior year it was more about job finding, and now it’s character building and how to handle this COVID environment.”
Students participating in GSP are future leaders, Butenhoff says—“not only in the traditional sense of political figures or CEOs, but also in the local sense of going through the program, experiencing Georgetown, and wherever they end up going … giv[ing] back.”
“That’s what it’s all about: paying it forward,” Pruitt emphasizes, saying that she may eventually become a mentor. “Nancy definitely did not have to invest in me—that takes a lot of time and resources—and so I would love to pay that forward in any way that I can.”
“GSP extends far beyond the Hilltop, and so much of that is the alumni network, which is a gift that keeps on giving,” De La Paz adds. “They go above and beyond to make sure that students and graduates feel supported.”
Learn about another way GSP supports Georgetown students
As part of the university’s commitment to removing financial barriers for students with the greatest need, Georgetown in 2010 began providing grants to students encountering unexpected out-of-pocket expenses such as medical co-pays and emergency travel.