As the son of immigrants who helped his parents deal with assorted problems, among them the English language, Francisco Ventura learned from an early age the importance of supporting others, something that led him to become a student mentor in New York.

"It's something I recommend because there are a lot of young people who need help from someone who tells them 'I went through that' and I'm here to help you," Ventura, who is participating for the second consecutive year in the iMentor program, told Efe.

iMentor, which was started as a pilot program with 49 students in the South Bronx in 1999, is administered by a non-profit organization of the same name that helps high school students in low-income communities continue their studies. 

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Ventura works full-time Monday through Friday at a bank in Manhattan, but those responsibilities have not stopped him from supporting a student who is participating in the program.

"Adults and professionals like me can be an example in the life of a teenager, sometimes recently arrived, (and can) be a guide to tell them the importance of passing their exams, of making the correct decision and moving to the next level, which is the university," said Ventura, who is 28 and of Dominican origin.

iMentor works directly with public schools on the high school level in New York, which includes a space for the program once a week as part of the school curriculum and enrolls all its students in it.

Students are assigned a mentor - after this person has been trained - with whom they meet at least four days a month, and they communicate via email if they want to schedule a meeting.

"iMentor believes that all students, regardless of their school performance, should benefit from the individual help of a mentor," the organization told Efe.

In the case of immigrants who are not fluent in English, the students are linked with a mentor who has faced similar obstacles.

Once a week a representative of iMentor goes to the schools and during that visit the young people read and respond to the emails of their mentors using computers provided by the organization. 

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Being able to communicate via technology means that many professionals are able to involve themselves in the program, the organization emphasized.

The mentors foster among the students academic and personal performance, they help them with their homework and to development leadership skills, social and professional habits.

"The program is a bridge" for the students to have a successful transition to the university, said Ventura, who noted that the young man he helped during his first year as a mentor did not have any plans to go to college because he did not have the money to do so.

However, Ventura said with satisfaction, when the student finished his last year of high school "he was motivated and told me that he was not going to forego going to college just because of money," and he finally did so.

iMentor is recruiting mentors and adults who want to participate or get more information on the program can do so on its Web page www.imentor.org.

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