Can one person impact the world? Timothy Mentor ’12 certainly thinks so. “I’ve always wanted to create change,” he says. It’s the reason he served as an AmeriCorps volunteer working with nonprofits after college and decided to enroll in Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs to get his master’s.
Tim graduates in May, and with an MPA in development practice, a STEM degree, he will be able to use his love of technology to make a difference in any number of sectors. “I want to work in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) consulting to help companies with technology development for sustainability practices and policies,” says Tim, who would love to see more young people of color pursue STEM fields. “It’s about more than representation. Technology is so applicable that you can use it to go anywhere: healthcare, entertainment, education, any industry. That expertise lets you pivot and opens up many opportunities.”
While in school, Tim is also gaining hands-on experience working part-time in Columbia’s information technology department – a position he says is preparing him for the future. “I do tech support, installation, and general maintenance for the hardware infrastructure of the school. It’s a good way for me to see the hierarchy, systems, and decision-making within an organization’s technology department.”
That real-world knowledge is also bolstered by his peers in the MPA program, many of whom have returned to grad school after working 10 to 15 years in the field. “They’ve gained a lot of experience and know-how, and it’s nice to be around classmates like that,” says Tim. “During group projects, I try to listen as much as I can. I’m learning so much from them as well as from my professors.”
A Foundation of Support
While Tim loves everything he’s learning in graduate school, he admits that the initial transition wasn’t easy. “The workload and hands-off mentality were challenging,” he says. “In graduate school you’re forced to be much more accountable.” He was able to push through, adjust, and find his footing.
Meeting challenges was something Tim learned at Harlem Academy, thanks to a supportive environment that encourages students to never give up. “Our teachers gave us deliberate care,” he says. “We had small classes, lots of hands-on learning, and were encouraged to explore and try new things. There was a strong sense of community and support outside of the academics. That was so nurturing.”
It's part of the reason Tim recently returned to Harlem Academy and volunteered for Interview Prep – practice interview sessions that help our middle schoolers prepare for the secondary school application process. “When I look at the kids at Harlem Academy, I see myself and my friends,” he says. “Volunteering is my way of investing in their future. As alumni, we can have an impact on children who are just like us.”