Several students stand onstage in red graduation robes

Believe in Syracuse to launch mentorship program to connect students and local professionals

The mentorship program will connect Say Yes Syracuse college students with local professionals in an effort to retain talent in Central New York.

Ahmeed Turner, executive director of Say Yes Syracuse, noticed a disconnect between local employers and recent college graduates.

“How can young people say there’s no opportunity, but businesses say they’re looking for talent?” said Turner, sergeant of arms at Believe in Syracuse. “There’s something that’s not connecting and we wanted to find a way to fix it.”

Turner and Believe in Syracuse (BIS) designed the Greater Syracuse Career Mentoring Program to create meaningful mentor relationships between Say Yes Syracuse (Say Yes) scholars and college-educated professionals.

The one-to-one mentorship program is designed to support students as they transition from college to career and help retain talent in Central New York. We provided Believe in Syracuse with a grant from our Collective Impact Initiative Fund to launch the program this fall with nearly 30 Say Yes scholars and mentors.

Turner said by connecting Say Yes scholars with local, college-educated professionals, the program will increase educational opportunities for students, boost graduation rates and create connections that will help launch careers.

“When you know someone, you’re more likely to get a job than if you don’t know anyone,” Turner said. “We want to create a vehicle for students to find meaningful employment here in Syracuse and ultimately help our local community by retaining talent and strengthening our economy.”

Ahmeed Turner sits behind a desk in a plaid suit, pink shirt, and tie
Ahmeed Turner hopes the Greater Syracuse Career Mentorship will help retain talent in Central New York.

Turner hopes the program will help level the playing field for first-generation college students, who might not have the familial connections in industries they want to work in. BIS put out a call for volunteers this spring, and received a strong response with close to 100 professionals showing interest in becoming a mentor. This fall BIS is partnering with the Hillside Work-Scholarship to help with student recruitment.

Mentors and students will be matched based on a survey of their personal interests, backgrounds and professional goals. There will be at least two in-person events, sponsored by BIS, to connect students and their mentors.

Additionally, through a digital platform, mentors and mentees will be able to schedule meetings with one another, and communicate easily. BIS can also track interactions and collect data to ensure future success and to make sure each student is receiving support.

Turner said he hopes that local college graduates will more easily find meaningful employment in the region, and that the local business leaders in tech, medicine, and engineering will find what they’re looking for right here in Syracuse.

“Our hope is that employers and companies will see our mentees as a viable option to fulfill their needs right before they go elsewhere,” Turner said. “I know there’s enough talent in Syracuse to fulfill everybody’s needs.”

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