Divya 2We are so fortunate to have nearly 3,000 caring volunteers working with children and youth in our community. And we love when they share their experiences with us. Divya Jha is a mentor in our EXCEL Program™ and she recently shared her experience this past year in the hopes that hearing directly from a volunteer will inspire others to get involved. 

I have been an In-School Mentor with BGCBIGS since 2011, and I have loved every minute of it. About 2 years after I first began, my good friend and fellow mentor, Mohit Kumar, created EXCEL.

I was on board immediately; I found 1-on-1 mentoring to be valuable, but I knew that if a group of dedicated mentors could focus their efforts on a group of students; together, we could create the best experience possible. Before we knew it, EXCEL was underway. Our team made huge strides in the academic performance and self-confidence of the students. More than that, the sense of belongingness we have worked hard to cultivate in each and every mentor and mentee has kept attendance high and motivation strong. It is team spirit that makes everything we achieve in EXCEL possible.

Delivering a weekly mini-lecture series on preventative health was an idea that Mohit had been keen on since he first envisioned EXCEL. He waited until EXCEL was firmly in place before he approached me to organize and deliver the series. I was more than happy to do so, because of my background in health and research. We brainstormed some topics: substance abuse, nutrition/exercise and mental health. I was confident that I had much to share about each subject, but I had not anticipated how much my own breadth of knowledge would grow; simply by approaching each topic from the viewpoint of our students.

For many of our mentees, this lecture series was the first introduction to certain health topics. It was up to me to deliver a concise, memorable presentation on some very serious subjects. Thankfully, I knew my audience quite well and was able to create this series in a student-centered way. Doing so helped me think more closely about each topic and its delivery; whether that was consulting pediatricians for the most up-to-date recommendations, including a list of helplines and hotlines for each lecture, including information about ethnically diverse foods in our lecture about nutrition, or asking my fellow mentor and EMT worker, Krista, to share some of the valuable and relevant information she has gained from the ‘real world’, so to speak. Our health series was a resounding success; it was immensely rewarding for me to see so much enthusiasm and curiosity surrounding health. We have received valuable feedback from the students and their mentors, and we look forward to bringing forward an even better health series in the future.

It has been a privilege to equip our students with the tools and skills with which they will navigate their health in their own lives. The work that I put towards this lecture series has only enhanced my passion for health and dedication to the wellbeing of our students. For 3 years now, our team has enjoyed learning and growing together in EXCEL.

I invite you to join us and become an EXCEL Program™ Mentor as we move forward in our mission to Excite, Challenge, and Empower Learners.

To learn more about the EXCEL Program™, click here for details and to apply.

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