Nuestra Comunidad: Mentoring programs helps with student successes

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When Angélica Calderón was just a young girl, her family emigrated from Mexico to Georgia. Today, at 23 years of age, Calderón is the first in her family to obtain a college degree, having graduated from Emory in 2013, and she currently works as a financial consultant for Colgate-Palmolive.

This position came about, in large part, thanks to Calderón’s involvement with a program called INROADS. Founded 45 years ago, INROAD’s mission is to connect minority college students with corporations where they are able to participate in key initiatives such as internships.

“With INROADS, the student doesn’t just get an internship, they get a mentor who will be with them throughout their college years,” explained Myrna García, who works as a liaison between universities and the participating corporations which offer internships.

According to García, the organization offers participants important lessons in professional development. The majority (86 percent) of students who partner with the program end up being hired by participating companies, she added.

Travelers, Kaiser Permanente, Wells Fargo, Regions Bank, Cox Enterprises and UTC are just a few examples of the 200 businesses that partner with INROADS.

Divanny Peña, 23 years old, has already completed three internships during the summer months with Pepsi, another of the program’s partner corporations. The Kennesaw State University student and mechanical engineering major is grateful for the opportunities INROADS has provided him.

“I’ve been exposed to different skills that I can’t learn in class, such as working on my resume or interview skills, or how to deal with coworkers. I gained a lot of professional experiences in my internship that you can only get on the job,” said Peña, who is of Dominican descent.

In today’s competitive and constantly evolving job market, these types of skills are key to securing employment upon graduation from college, which is why INROADS makes it a priority to provide participants with the kind of preparation they will need to ensure professional success, assured García.

Another benefit, she added, is that students like Calderón and Peña are changing the socioeconomic reality of their families and communities.

“My parents have always told me: ‘I’m not going to leave you an inheritance in the form of money, but I’m going to give you the best possible weapon: a good education.’ Education is the great equalizer, and it’s something that nobody can take away from you,” said Calderón, who, upon graduating from Emory, left for Chicago to work for Colgate-Palmolive.

For that reason, students such as Peña invite other Latinos to take advantage of the opportunities that this organization offers. In order to be considered for INROADS, students must be enrolled at a four year collegiate institution, possess a 3.0 GPA and be in the country legally.

“They have been a key piece to finding a field I’d like to work in, because for a lot of us it’s difficult to find the type of experience that many companies require when you graduate from college, and INROADS has been the opportunity to obtain it,” assured Peña.