eMentor program helps students prepare for college and careers

December 12, 2023

U.S. Bank employees help high school -and college-aged students navigate personal finance lessons and more via virtual mentoring platform

The U.S. Bank eMentor program, which is designed to help students plan for college, careers and adulthood through financial education and literacy assistance, recently wrapped its fall sessions, which featured more than 500 employee mentors paired with mentees.

Woman headshot
Shannon Morelos

The program offers high school- and college-aged students – many of them from diverse, underserved or low- to moderate-income communities – access to U.S. Bank volunteer mentors who can support the students’ college and career prep journeys, including guidance on personal finance.  

Employees and students pair up and connect using UStrive – a virtual platform powered by the nonprofit that gives mentors and mentees flexibility to converse in ways that work best for them, whether that’s through a secure video chat or checking in via secure text messages.  

In addition to college and career tools, the platform includes videos that the pairs can watch together or on their own and discuss, covering topics such as budgeting, credit, debt, fraud, saving, investing and paying for college, to give students a strong foundation in personal finance and an understanding of how to build wealth over the long term. Students who participate in the program are entered into a scholarship drawing for $1,000.

Recent mentor Shannon Morelos, who works on the bank’s Finance Enabling Functions team and is based in Kentucky, used her experience as a first-generation college student and her background in finance to help her mentee, a first-year high school student, plan what he’ll need to do to prepare for life after high school.

“He was really excited to learn about different budgeting guidelines – knowing he could have a portion of his paycheck to spend on extracurriculars – how to save and how he’s going to be able to support himself in college,” Morelos said. “It was really a lot of the basics. He was very engaged with not only the modules but also doing further research on his own.” 

Knowing that many employees were looking for financial education mentoring opportunities outside of large group settings, U.S. Bank launched a pilot of the eMentor program in 2021. This fall, more than 500 mentor-mentee pairs participated, meeting over a period of three months. U.S. Bank plans to expand eMentor to a year-round program in 2024. 

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Jirard Washington

The virtual mentoring program is designed to make it easier for mentors and mentees to connect across geographies and time zones via a secure platform, as well as fit in time to connect among their busy school and work schedules. Many mentors have said they enjoy the opportunity to meet with students one on one because the format allows them to get to know the students well and provide guidance on the topics that resonate the most with each student. 

Morelos said she also helped her mentee navigate the job search process, which resulted in him getting his first job, and to think about the classes to take during high school that would help set him up for a strong start in college.  

She also picked up a few tips herself.

“Having student debt and just buying my first house, I found some of the financial planning modules very helpful and got a lot of tools that I’m going to be applying to my own life,” Morelos said.

For U.S. Bank fraud analyst Jirard Washington, who lives in Florida, mentoring two students this fall helped him get back in his high school mindset as he helped them understand the bigger picture about personal finance and planning for college and beyond. 

“Listening to the high school students made me reflect on what I was thinking when I was a high schooler," Washington said. “I would think, how can I afford a car or even an apartment when I grow up and to start earning money? The first thing that I introduced them to was the idea of personal finance budgeting – the foundation of all things money-related. I feel if you can’t get the budget right, in the future, you could never buy the house or the car that you can realistically afford at the lowest interest rate available.”

Woman headshot
Dolon Bose

Dolon Bose, a Massachusetts-based program manager in Consumer and Business Banking, has volunteered as a mentor before but never on the topic of personal finance, and said she appreciated how the UStrive platform made it easy to foster discussions with her two student mentees.  

While she used the personal finance topics as a jumping-off point, her meetings also covered college testing and application prep, time management skills and things to consider when choosing a college and career path, she said.

“I liked the fact that the UStrive program was structured – they had a plan, they had a calendar, they gave suggestions as to what you could talk about,” Bose said.

Mentors said the positive experiences they have had make them eager to continue supporting the program and make a difference in students’ lives.

“I want to know when I retire for the evening that I did something impactful for someone else. I always will encourage individuals to give back to someone else,” Washington said.

“You can see yourself making a tangible difference in someone’s life,” Bose said. “Students are really thankful to get an opportunity to connect with experienced professionals from the financial world who can answer their questions. It’s just a little bit of investment of time and energy and it’s an incredible return that you get.” 

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