One day, Random House copy editor Debbie Deford Minerva packed up a bag of books from her of ce and went to meet a teenager named Julia Blue. Debbie wanted to give back in a way that would change one person’s life.

There was an instant connection. And then magic happened: thanks to Debbie and iMentor, Julia went to community college and Howard University and on to a career beyond her dreams.

It’s hard to imagine that this incredibly successful professional fundraiser, Julia Blue was once a shy bookworm. Julia grew up in poverty on the Lower East Side. Her mother never graduated from high school, her father was only educated through third grade.

When her mentor, Debbie DeFord-Minerva, showed up with a bag of books, the world opened up. With Debbie’s help, Julia went to the Borough of Manhattan Community College and then Howard University. She now works in major gifts at the ASPCA, helping to protect the animals she loved as a shy girl. She remains the only one of her seven siblings to graduate college.

Two years ago, Julia decided to follow in Debbie’s footsteps, becoming a mentor herself. She calls it one of the best things in her life.
When Fidelia Telfort was in high school, her parents expected her to quit and get a job. The family emigrated from Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and life was a struggle in their new country. But Fidelia’s mentor, Julia Blue, had other plans for her. She wanted Fidelia to get an education—the great equalizer. Now Fidelia is in her second year at BMCC with plans to become a physical therapist.

iMentor prepares low-income students to graduate from high school and succeed in college by offering them in-person and email mentoring. Over the course of four or more years, mentors and students form an intense bond, often resulting in a lifelong relationship. Through this highly personal connection, and with the support of dedicated program staff, mentors help students navigate their academic and social challenges. The iMentor curriculum guides mentors in supporting students with issues at school, teacher conferences, college applications, financial aid and dozens of other critical adolescent needs. Since its founding by Robin Hood board member John Griffin in 1999, iMentor has connected 13,000 students with mentors. This year alone, it will serve 3,500 students in New York City and another 2,150 nationwide. Students in the iMentor program are 50 percent more likely to enroll in college than their low-income peers.