Mentee-Me; Mentorship Made For You
Entrepreneurship, Technology, Prototyping, Equity, Inclusion
Mentee-Me is a digital networking platform that allows easy exploration in both traditional and non-traditional careers for under-represented and resourced students and matches them to working professionals who are available for informational in-person or zoom meetings, to mentor, and navigate career pathways, resources, and networks.
Solidifying concept was a challenge. The lack of cohesion in my project came from the fact that I had been trying to solve for two separate issues: socioeconomic disparity and students at risk of the school to prison pipeline. While those are both interconnected, the issue being addressed is the high numbers of Bipoc youth at risk of falling into the school to prison pipeline. If I attempt to design for everyone, the design will benefit no one. Job placement services already exist as do youth empowerment and mentorship programs, but both require a significant amount of diligence, self-motivation, and time commitment from students, which is a lot to ask at that age. The purpose of my project can’t be to place kids into jobs, or to give them another responsibility.
In both schools and professional workforces, the understanding is that race does not matter. All students are treated equally, yet without anti-bias training or a deeper understanding of the issue, teachers and administrators continue to operate with implicit and sometimes explicit biases. Language and teaching styles that work for some, are barriers for others, creating feelings of inadequacy and failure for students of color. This insecurity is where I found the most obvious area of opportunity. Instilling confidence and feelings of success is what most after school and student engagement programs aim to accomplish. This platform is about realigning mindset, providing a space for students to feel successful, to feel like they can see themselves in something bigger than themselves, to feel like they want to come back. How can I design a product that makes students actively want to participate in? How can I create a low stakes, high reward method of connecting them to mentors of their choice, eliminating the fear of inadequacy and insecurity.
My final deliverable was a prototype of how the app would work. In order to test its viability, I walked through it with 2 students: Micaiah, a Philadelphia High School Student and Amanza, a high school student from the Bronx. Both students are currently going through the college exploration and application process and noted they would be interested in the app. They appreciated the idea of talking to working professionals who have first-hand experience and Micaiah liked the flexibility of being able to personally choose when to speak with mentors. In addition to this, after speaking with working professionals in my own network, and was able to put together a sample cohort of people that would be interested in mentoring.