DSF Scholar, Alumni mentorship pairs share success

After a summer of planning and preparation, the Alumni Advisory Committee (AAC) of Denver Scholarship Foundation (DSF) is gearing up to kick off its Mentorship Program this fall. Now in its second year, the program empowers DSF Scholars and Alumni to grow professionally while inspiring them to contribute to the Denver community through individualized mentorship.

Participants in the 2018-19 DSF Mentorship Program play an icebreaker game at the program’s final event of the year.

Mentor and mentee pairs enjoy several large-group events over the course of their year-long commitment to the program. These events include mentorship development and community building workshops, as well as social gatherings. Pairs set their own meeting schedules and aim to check-in with each other about once a month. However, many participants find that their meetings and check-ins happen more frequently, and organically, throughout the year.

One mentor-mentee pair—Assael Ramirez, DSF Alumnus, and Oliver Martinez, current DSF Scholar—bonded over first-generation college student experiences and their shared passion for finance. We asked Assael and Oliver to share how the DSF Mentorship Program helped them grow professionally and personally.

What interested you about the program, and why did you become involved?

Assael: As a former AAC member, I played a role in developing the DSF Mentorship Program. Two years ago, we piloted the program with AAC members as mentees, and community leaders as mentors. From this trial run, the AAC collectively determined that our main goal should be to give back to current DSF Scholars. From there, we restructured the program to give AAC members and other DSF Alumni the opportunity to serve as mentors, with current DSF Scholars as their mentees. Knowing I wanted to have a real impact on a current DSF Scholar motivated me to participate in the revamped program as a mentor.

Oliver: When I learned about the Mentorship Program, I was going through a transition in my academics and knew I would benefit from a mentor to guide me through the change. Heading into the program, I sought a mentor who could show me how they succeeded as a first generation college student.

Mentor Assael Ramirez, left, and mentee, Oliver Martinez, right, at the DSF Mentorship Program 2018-19 kickoff event.

What interests and experiences do you have in common?

Oliver: One important experience that Assael and I share is that we are both first generation college students. Being the first in our families to pursue a college education has shaped the way we have experienced college. Further, we both share an interest in finance. When I started the Mentorship Program, I was in the process of switching my major from accounting to finance. His ability to connect the theories of finance to real world applications beyond the classroom helped solidify my interest in the subject.

Assael: Our many shared interests and experiences set the foundation for a great learning experience. Oliver and I are both first generation college students. Additionally, I graduated from the University of Denver (DU), and Oliver currently studies at DU. Since we have this in common, I am able to connect him with resources on campus and help him navigate through course material. As a professional in the finance industry, I am able to share my knowledge with Oliver to help guide his career goals.

What did you learn through the Mentorship Program?

Assael: By mentoring Oliver, I gained a deeper understanding of my industry. Oliver’s curiosity challenged me to think creatively about what resources I could share with him. Most importantly, I drew connections between what he was learning in class, and the work that I do in my role at S&P Global. These real-world applications helped Oliver ground his own understanding of finance and accounting. In turn, I gained a fresh perspective on my own career.

Oliver: After switching my major from accounting to finance, I felt lost. I did not know how to connect the two worlds. Assael helped me see that, figuratively, accounting and finance run parallel to each other, but also sometimes intersect. In my meetings with Assael, he helped dilute the information for me. One of my favorite parts of our relationship is that Assael introduces me to books that he is reading. In fact, one book that he recommended actually helped me pass my portfolio management class with an A. The knowledge I gained from that book—and from Assael himself—helped secure my success in the class.

How is the DSF Mentorship Program different from other mentorship programs you have participated in?

Mentor Assael Ramirez, left, and mentee, Oliver Martinez, right, celebrate a successful year at the program’s final 2018-19 event.

Oliver: The DSF Mentorship Program is unique in that it positions both mentors and mentees for shared success. Since all participants in the program are either DSF Scholars or Alumni, we automatically go into the program with a common thread. That makes it easier to break the ice and develop a meaningful relationship where both people can grow.

Assael: I appreciate that the program encourages mentors and mentees to grow together. The DSF Mentorship Program sets the expectation that both mentors and mentees hold each other accountable. By sharing with Oliver what projects I am tackling at work, or explaining my goals outside of work, I gained a sense of responsibility to set an example while also helping him achieve his goals.

Are you a DSF Alum or current DSF Scholar seeking a meaningful mentorship experience? Apply for the 2019-20 DSF Mentorship Program online.