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iMentor helps high schoolers reach their higher ed goals with guidance

iMentor helps high schoolers reach their higher ed goals
iMentor helps high schoolers reach their higher ed goals 02:16

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It's that time of year.

High school seniors are making decisions about their future.

A group of teens, who would be the first in their families to go to college, checked out some of their options on Thursday. CBS 2's Sara Machi caught up with them at a Lake Forest company that provides supplies for manufacturers.

A quiet work day at Grainger company headquarters could be opening doors to a new future for North Grand High School seniors from Chicago's West Side.

They're here with iMentor, a program in five Chicago public schools that pairs students with a mentor to navigate post-secondary education and the college application process. Many are the first in their family to pursue higher ed.

Brianna Sizemore now committed to a four-year college pursuing culinary arts and business.

"I honestly don't think I really would have continued on the route that I have gone on without the mentee that I have," said Sizemore, North-Grand High School senior.

"I love it."

Grainger's Sean Ramsey connected with iMentor a year ago. It's a natural fit, he said, for someone who grew up on Chicago's far South Side.

"Look, I was blessed that I had mentors that stepped up in my life to help guide me, but that was very unstructured," said Ramsey, Vice President of Inside Sales at Grainger.

A recent study from the University of Chicago showed CPS college enrollment rates took a hit after the pandemic. iMentor staff said the numbers are lower in the neighborhoods they serve but with higher outcomes for their participants.

"For CPS, about five out of 10 South Side and West Side students will go onto college. For our students, two out of three go on to college after high school graduation and that's because of this one-to-one mentorship," said Carey Kogol, Senior Director of Development, iMentor Chicago.

"You have to wear the dad glasses. It's a part of the aesthetic."

Sizemore said she leaves this Fortune 500 business with more than selfies with sunglasses from the company store. They have stories and a better sense of what opportunities are ahead.

"We could go into business together," she said.

The organization iMentor has 2,000 mentors in place right now, but they are looking for another 800 and they need them by August 1 in time for the next school year.

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