What Mentoring Means to Us – Honoring the Mentors of IHADLA


At the “I Have a Dream” Foundation—Los Angeles (IHADLA), we know that mentoring is a powerful force in the lives of our students (Dreamer Scholars). Mentors serve as a consistent and trustworthy adult role model in addition to Dreamer Scholars’ parents and expose them to a variety of positive, new experiences they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. Results show that students with mentors experience higher educational persistence rates as well as much lower rates of drug use and gang affiliation. All of these outcomes demonstrate the countless benefits of mentorship on the life of a student and why this is a core element of the IHADLA model.

Providing our Dreamer Scholars with the long-term program of comprehensive support IHADLA is known for takes a village, with staff, parents and more coming together to help students achieve their full potential. And although they aren’t always in the spotlight, our group of dedicated mentors are an essential part of this work. That’s why we’ve taken the time to highlight a few of the incredible mentors who help support our underserved youth. Take a look below to meet some of the dedicated mentors in our program and learn more about their experiences working with their IHADLA mentees!

Ashley and Jessica

Our first mentor spotlight features Ashley Fumiko Dominguez and her 10th grade mentee from Watts, Jessica who were matched in 2016 and have had a strong connection since. Ashley was inspired by her own background coming from an underserved community to share her experiences with a mentee and after meeting Jessica, knew that she found the right match. Ashley says of her experience, “I originally joined the program as a mentor with hopes of assisting a young woman in exploring new experiences and considering different ideas, I fully understand the challenges and pitfalls to success and wanted to share my journey. I have stayed in the program as a mentor because I get to spend time with the most amazing young woman. I get great joy watching her challenge her ideas and pushing her boundaries. Whether it’s a simple visit to play cards at a cafe, or an afternoon musical, we have a great time discussing current events, her school life, and setting goals for her future. I started this program to give back, and had no idea how much I would receive. I am constantly grateful to be with her on her journey to success.” Ashley and Jessica’s relationship is exemplary of the positive impact mentorship can have on the lives of both the mentor and mentee in the long term and we could not be more grateful for Ashley’s support of Jessica and IHADLA’s mission.


Annie and Kimberly

Annie Jung was matched with 10th grade mentee Kimberley in 2017 after going through a difficult personal time herself. She says that she “wanted to participate in something that wasn’t about me but something else. I really took to heart the advice that the best thing to do when you’re feeling this way is to volunteer. I’ve always been told I would be a good mentor but never had the confidence to do it because the impact we can have on people is intimidating and scary. I decided to take the leap and was matched with my mentee Kimberly and it has been such a wonderful experience. Mentoring Kimberly has been a great reminder about perspective, compassion, and the importance of having someone to talk to.” And the feelings are mutual! Annie also shared that although “Kimberly and I were only meeting once a month, she told me having me there instilled a confidence in her that she was lacking. In turn, she’s been teaching me not to lose that childlike hope, kindness, and compassion. It’s been fun exploring the city with her and introducing her to new things and getting introduced to new experiences. It’s been such a joy to watch her grow in the last couple years. I’m excited and hopeful for all the opportunities that will come into her life and would love to help her in any way I can.” Annie’s story shows the reciprocal nature of our mentor/mentee relationships and how the program changes the lives of everyone who participates, no matter their reason for getting involved!


Mike and Shawn

One of the most unique and important aspects of IHADLA’s mentor program happens even before our mentors and mentees are paired together. Our multi session matching process ensures that everyone feels excited about their new mentor or mentee and helps build a solid foundation in the pairs for years to come. On his experience with 10th grade mentee Shawn, new mentor Mike Giordano says, “I had wanted to be a mentor for quite some time. I decided to join IHADLA after hearing about a colleague’s excellent and rewarding experience with the organization. I was fortunate to meet a number of students whom I would have enjoyed mentoring, but I felt like Shawn and I had an especially strong connection from our first conversation. From Shawn’s love of soccer (which I share) and his interest in building his own computer (which thoroughly impressed me) to his positive outlook and his mature recognition that there is life to prepare for after high school, I felt like there is a lot we could learn from each other. I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together so far, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with him.”


Jordana and Ari

Another recent addition to our mentor program Jordana Gardenswartz remarks on her experience with mentee Ari, “I have loved getting to know my mentee, learning about her life and world and having new experiences together. One of my favorite activities we have done is going to La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a museum in DTLA on the art and history of Mexican Americans. I chose to be a mentor because with everything wrong that is happening right now, I think our hope is in human connection, strong relationships, and love. I thought being a mentor would be a way I could work on connecting to another person, crossing boundaries, and building something together.” Having the opportunity to share in fun and new activities and experiences while building connections across age, location and background is just one of the many one-of-a-kind impacts our mentorship program has on mentors and mentees alike.


Next Steps to Becoming a Mentor

An “I Have a Dream” Foundation — Los Angeles (IHADLA) mentor joins a powerful community of support for our Dreamer Scholars. In the first two months, you will participate in an interactive mentor training followed by three fun and motivational group sessions with your mentee to build our community. By maintaining regular contact, you enhance your impact as a friend, counselor, teacher, and confidant. IHADLA also organizes large group outings in which mentees and mentors can participate together. Without the time, commitment and support of those profiled, and the rest of our wonderful mentors, this program would not be possible, and all of us at IHADLA extend our deepest gratitude to all those involved in the lives of our Dreamer Scholars.

For more specific details about what it takes to be an IHADLA mentor and an application form, visit our Mentoring webpage