SC4’s new professional mentorship program to lift underrepresented students and non-students alike

When we see successful people in the world we often imagine that they somehow just woke up that way, as if there wasn't any hard work, dedication, and sacrifice involved. Now there are some who are naturally talented, or skilled in a particular field, but even they have help from somewhere. That help can appear in many forms, one of the most helpful being a mentor, or someone familiar with the goals, plans, or line of work necessary to help you achieve your dreams. 

There is a new program coming to the city of Port Huron. Set to debut January 12, 2022, its goal is to provide mentors for those seeking further knowledge and education for their chosen career path. The program, entitled Strive Mentorship, is the brainchild of Jessica Brown, Director of the Equity and Inclusion Office at St. Clair County Community College.

“I thought of Strive Mentorship because of my personal passion for helping students, and the mentorship program just bridges that for me. It’s designed for those who feel they may need academic motivation and mentorship,” says Brown. Brown has been in her current position at SC4 for two years; she has 25-plus years experience helping underrepresented students in education. 

Teamwork makes the dream work, as they say. The Strive Mentorship program has partnered with local organization Michigan Works! as well as another organization operating out of Detroit: Streetwise Partners.

“Alphonso Amos (Streetwise Partners) and I have a great working relationship. We’ve served on a few committees together over the years so we have had time to brainstorm on a few ideas that would allow us to come together to provide something to help people out with academics, mentorship, and job placement,” says Brown.

Streetwise Partners is a nonprofit that was formed in 1997 in New York City with the founders’ goal being to provide role models and access to professional networks. Their model focuses on the essential soft skills and networking, things you can't learn from a textbook. In 2006 the program expanded to Washington D.C. and then to Detroit in 2019. Streetwise Partners has since developed strong partnerships with larger corporations such as Comcast, DTE Energy, Henry Ford Health Systems, LinkedIn, and many others. 

Representing Streetwise Partners is Michigan Program Director Alphonso Amos, of Port Huron. Amos may be familiar to those in the Port Huron area from his time serving as a city council member.

“What we do is, we leverage mentorship to increase employment opportunities for adults in overlooked and under-resourced communities. We connect individuals who are unemployed or underemployed with business professionals who provide skills, resources, and access to networks needed to secure and maintain employment,” Amos says. 

Being that Port Huron currently has a 6% unemployment rate, according to HomeFacts, this program will be good for the economy as well as the individuals who decide to participate. The program will run for a year to get the analytics and to calculate the effectiveness of the program. If deemed a success, the program  may continue, but details are still being worked out as of this publication.

“The program is broken up into two phases and three cycles, winter, spring, and fall.  The first phase is 13 weeks that involves hardcore essential skills-building through a structured curriculum we have here at Streetwise. After that, they will transfer to alumni status which allows them an additional nine months of support through the Streetwise staff and their mentors. We are really excited to bring this program to Port Huron. It will be our first time partnering with organizations within the community and hope to see the same successes we have experienced in the Metro Detroit area,” says Amos. 
 
It’s also important to note that the community at large can participate; one does not have to be an SC4 student to capitalize on the benefits provided by the program. You may not be eligible to participate in the academic portion of the mentorship program if not enrolled as a student at SC4, but Streetwise Partners is offering the mentoring aspect, networking, and essential skills portion of the program, provided absolutely free of charge to those interested. 

“It was a great experience. There are lots of tools they provide to assist job seekers. They reviewed my resume and helped me with certain aspects of that. My mentor, who is an attorney, was really awesome and able to provide me with great feedback in regards to where I was starting in my professional journey,” says Marissa Williams, a former participant in the Streetwise Partners program. 

With just a few more weeks before the program launches, Streetwise Partners, SC4, and Michigan Works! have a bit more time to make any necessary tweaks and adjustments before it rolls out in January. The lead for the Strive Mentorship program is SC4 DEI Coordinator Haran Stanley.

“My role as coordinator is to support Jessica and the initiatives that come out of this office. I spend a lot of time behind the scenes handling our podcast, helping to plan out the DEI events we have on campus, supporting any of our book discussions, and connecting with other organizations in the community; to name a few of my responsibilities. I think that any student or non-student can benefit from this program. Things such as building their resume, going through mock interviews, and job shadowing. I believe those are things people need a little bit more of to secure gainful employment,” says Stanley. 

Being that the program is still in its infancy, there may be changes and tweaks made as time progresses.

“We kind of have the latitude to change and tweak things as we go, modifying certain aspects for the benefit of those participating in the program,” Stanley says.

Read more articles by Harold Powell.

Harold Powell is the Community Correspondent for The Keel and owner of Phantom Pen Media offering multimedia services to individuals and organizations across the Blue Water Area. He is a current board member for the Blue Water Area Chamber of Commerce and the most recent Chamber Choice recipient at the Eddy Awards. Harold is an avid volunteer for the YMCA of the Blue Water Area as well as Bridge Builders Counseling & Mentoring and in his spare time, enjoys spending time with his son, writing and listening to music, playing video games, and not folding laundry.