University of Miami senior Nathalie Rodriguez first created the non-profit organization Mentoring America during the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2020. Since then, she has gone on to help dozens of high school students in South Florida through educational mentoring meant to further post-secondary education.
Rodriguez, born and raised in Stuart, Florida, says she is working to help high school students achieve their academic goals and hone in on their abilities. Her organization now has nine staff members and three coordinators, as well as numerous college mentors.
She says her biggest goal has been to help kids with unique backgrounds get the best education they can.
“For me the biggest thing that made me start Mentoring America is that my parents are immigrants,” said Rodriguez, a political science and economics major in her final year at UM. “They never went to school here and they had no idea about college applications. I had to figure everything out by myself.”
In addition to aiding children of immigrants, Rodriguez says Mentoring America aims to help adolescents overcome any obstacles that could block a high school student’s path to higher education.
“I practically got to college myself with no help from my guidance counselor. A lot of kids don’t go to college because they think it is not accessible to them,” Rodriguez said. “At the end of the day, it’s figuring it out all by yourself that’s the hard part,” she continued.
Rodriguez says she designed Mentoring America to cater mentorship programs and resources to specific students, no matter how unique their situation may be.
“They can use us whenever they want, how often they want, for free, ask whatever questions they want, and I feel like it is very comforting for students to know, ‘whatever I want, I can use them,’” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s organization encourages students to ask for help. One of her primary objectives, she says, is to equalize access to post-secondary education regardless of a student’s background. Other members of Mentoring America say they are motivated by the desire to help kids like them with the college application process.
“I wish I had someone to help me with my SATs and understanding college life, and I love that we get to do that now,” said Natalie Corrales, a third-year University of Miami student studying biomedical engineering and the vice president of Mentoring America .
From college applications to the SAT’s, the organization will pair high school students with university students who have recently undergone the process in order to help provide guidance on what is often a stressful process for high school students.
While Rodriguez says her upbringing motivated her desire to support struggling students, Corrales credits her grandfather for passing down his affinity for helping others.
“For me, I gauge a lot of my happiness from helping others, and while I’m not a college graduate, I am helping them the way I can.”
Anyone interested in contributing can check out Mentoring America on their Instagram @mentoringamerica and their website.