Whew! This year flew by fast at TRUE Mentors, leaving us with so many great memories and reasons to celebrate! As excited as we are to jump into 2018, we can’t help but look back at our few our favorite moments in 2017. Check out our top 17 reasons we are celebrating as we head into the new year!
- Creating 34 new matches in 2017!
This year we set a new record of 9 matches, not once but TWICE, in the months of July and November! Thanks to our new mentors matter program, all of our new matches received FREE ice cream cones at Ben & Jerry’s, sandwiches at Jimmy Johns and a trip to the Hoboken Historical Museum/Fire House. We look forward to celebrating their 1 year anniversary in 2018!
- Averaging 29+ mentees each week in Enrichment Clubs!
The 2017-2018 school year kicked off with over 30 children in attendance, setting an organization record! As if this wasn’t exciting enough, we broke our attendance record of 43 mentees not once, not twice, but THREE times this year! Our mentees enjoy the program so much they recruit their friends. Even in the month of December we signed up two new mentees! Due to our tremendous growth, our Tuesday evening program is currently looking for new volunteers. Click the link to learn more and sign up for our new volunteer orientation!
- Growing our teen internship program by 40%!
We kicked off the 2017-2018 cohort with 22 teen interns this year, including 8 returning seniors and 6 new mentees recruited from our enrichment club program. This is the first year we expanded our program to include 12th grade students. We are excited to continue our college and career readiness program with them as they make plans for college and beyond.
- Launching a partnership with Shoprite Inserra to provide healthy snacks each week at Enrichment Clubs
Providing fresh fruit, water and a healthy carbohydrate option for our students was our priority for 2017-2018 Club program. Thanks to our new community partnership with, Shoprite – Hoboken, we were able to fulfill this wish. Our students have enjoyed trying new foods each week, like hummus and sunbutter and their faces light up whenever apples and oranges are on the menu.
- Hosting our First Thanksgiving dinner with our teen interns, their families and mentors!
One of my favorite events of the year was watching our interns proudly walk in with their homemade (or in some cases store bought) dishes for Thanksgiving dinner. It was a fun night of celebrating new TRUE relationships between our mentors and mentees, and moved several of us mentors to tears as our interns went around the room sharing what they were thankful for this year. A highlight for me was our intern, Hope, being thankful for her internship at Hoboken Grace and her recent baptism and Mikey’s mother sharing her gratitude for the TRUE Mentors program and the impact it has had on her son (senior intern).
- Summer Field Trips
Who doesn’t love field trips?! At the end of the school year our students requested a field trip to Funplex for a day of go-carting, laser tag and all the arcade games and rides! We had a blast teaming up against each other in laser tag and putting the pedal to the metal on the go carts. The sun wasn’t out that day to enjoy the water park, but with unlimited laser tag and go-carts, who needs water slides?! Thanks to our partnerships with Mason Civic League and Hoboken Family Alliance, our students also enjoyed a trip to the Hoboken theater to see Despicable Me 3 and a trip to the Monroe Center to Mad Science to play with robots! Summer time is great on its own, but the TRUE Mentors field trips made this summer extra awesome!
- Co-Hosting Hoboken’s First Annual Pizza Fest with Hoboken Happy Hours
Just when we thought 2017 could not get any better at TRUE Mentors, we had the honor of co-hosting Hoboken’s first ever Pizza Fest! As if bringing all the great pizza places together, (Tony Baloneys, Napolis, Venti’s, Frankie & Ava’s, Mickey Blue Eyes, Dozzinos, Hot House, under one roof wasn’t exciting enough, we also listened to music by the Fuzzy Lemons and Gravy Train, and were entertained by an epic pizza eating contest! It was also the first time our teen interns and mentors came together to promote the TRUE Mentors programs, recruit new volunteers and also serve up a few slices. We look forward to improving on this event next year and many years to come.
- Hosting the 8th Annual Chili Cook Off and Homebrew Contest
The only event that can possibly top pizza fest is the always amazing chili and homebrew contest! With over 20 chili entries, 13+ home-brewers, and music by Gravy Train, this event tops the list as the all-time best moments of 2017. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year, and 2017 proved to be our best year yet, raising over $16,000 for our mentoring programs! Thank you to everyone who served up their homemade chili and beer and bought a ticket to our event. Interested in participating in 2018? Click the link to sign up!
- Upgrading our technology with CarePoint Health
We kicked off 2017 by purchasing 4 google chromebooks to support our teen internship program. In addition to our newly purchase chromebooks, we also had several outdated and occasionally working laptops. Our teen interns require access to technology to update their resumes, check their emails, research and apply to colleges and create their internship presentations. Upgrading our technology was vital to expanding our program and thanks to our new community partnership with CarePoint Health, we added 10 google chromebooks to our teen internship program. With 20 interns currently enrolled, we are looking to add 7 more to provide a 1:1 experience for our teens at our weekly workshops. Want to help? Sponsor a chromebook in 2018!
- Ben & Jerry’s – Hoboken
Two Words: Ice Cream. We really don’t need to elaborate here, but we just can’t help ourselves from celebrating Ben & Jerry’s! They kicked off our 6th Anniversary Party in January with ice cream, served up all the crowd favorites at the Chili Cook Off and Pizza Fest and made several appearances throughout our match celebration events and started the school year off the right way, with a special field trip to make sundaes at the store. We can’t wait to visit their new store in NYC in 2018!
- Sponsoring 6 community service projects
Our middle school students kicked off our first community service project of the year with a field trip to the senior center in uptown Hoboken. It was great to see our mentees step into the mentor role, and host an arts & crafts club for the residents. For the second year in a row, our students volunteered at the Night Out Against Crime, painting faces and recruiting new families for our programs. This year we also added a community service requirement to our teen internship program, participating in Hoboken Grace 1Day for the second year in a row, as well as adding opportunities to serve at Pizza Fest and the HoBOOken 5k race. We look forward to continuing to serve in the community in 2018. If you have a community service project for our mentees, please email [email protected] with more information.
- Celebrating our volunteers this holiday season with Hoboken Grace
Our second annual Holiday Soirée was bigger and better than ever thanks to our partnership with Hoboken Grace! This year we recognized 3 new community partnerships that stepped up and helped fill a need for our programs, as well as several of our amazing volunteers for the incredible work they do with our mentees. It was TRUE-ly an honor to recognize some of our outstanding volunteers for their contribution to our mission. Although they have only been with the organization for just four months, our Rookie’s of the Year, Ken Shvetz (Clubs) and Alex Wittner (TIP) have shown outstanding dedication to improving our programs and supporting our mentees. Jackie Peres and Sasha Steward were recognized for their dedication to their mentees as well as to the organization, each receiving the TRUE Mentor Award. In addition to mentoring an individual child, Jackie currently holds a Club leadership position and Sasha is a project manager on our marketing team. Our Volunteer of the Year Award went to our fabulous TIP Workshop Coordinator, Emily Baum. Emily stepped into this role for the 2017-2018 school year and is the driving force behind our decision to expand the program to include our returning senior interns. The organization depends on Emily’s efforts each week to coordinate our TIP workshops and programming.
- Our incredible donors and event sponsors
We simply could NOT continue our work and fulfill our mission without the strong support of our donors and event sponsors. Our event Chili Cook Off sponsors in 2017 included Hudson Bike Share, Sparrow Wine, Mason Civic League, Hoboken Grace and Ben and Jerry’s. Thanks to their support, we were able to host our largest fundraiser of the year, raising over $16,500 for our mentoring programs. Outside of our events and grants, we rely on the generosity of our donors to fund over 50% of our programs. Our crowd-funding campaigns, TRUE starts with YOU and Giving TRUEsday together raised $10,000, providing funds for match celebration events for our mentors/mentees, background checks and training for new mentors, and materials for our weekly mentoring programs. In 2017, we added 7 new donors to our Monthly Donor Club! Our monthly donor club is vital to our programs, allowing us to plan for the future and sustain our weekly mentoring efforts. To learn more about how YOU can make a difference each month or fund a project, check out our donor page and sign up to sponsor a child or activity!
- Partnering with Hoboken High School
Launching our new Junior Teen Internship Program at Hoboken High School is one of my favorite moments in 2017! In December we interviewed 8 applicants and look forward to matching each one of them with a mentor in January! Our Junior TIP program connects our freshmen and sophomore students to a mentor and bi-monthly college and career readiness workshops as well as an unpaid internship opportunity at TRUE Mentors. Interested in mentoring a teen intern? Fill out an online application and schedule an interview to learn more about how YOU can make an impact on a child in Hoboken.
- Our dedicated board members
TRUE Mentors relies on the tireless efforts of our board members. This year we added our newest board member, Tara Casazza, to the team! Tara brings with her 3 years of grant writing experience for the organization, helping us secure CDBG funding for the third year in a row, as well as a grant from Hoboken Family Alliance and Party with a Purpose. Tara is a welcome addition to our team. This year, we also recognize the contributions of two of our founding board members, Dana Harrison and Jennifer Johnson Talerico. Dana and Jenn joined the board shortly after its inception and after 6 years of service, have chosen to step down to spend more time with their families. They have each had a tremendous impact on the organization that will continue in years to come. We also want to thank Tim Occhipinti for his contributions to the organization. Although Tim stepped down this year to spend more time with his family, his legacy remains with the Chili Cook Off event we will host each year.
- Hosting the Community Dinner at Hoboken Housing Authority
One of my favorite moments of the year was attending the community dinner with our Enrichment Club kids. The first community dinner was held by Julia Rosa as a way to bring members of the Hoboken community together each month to share a meal and get to know each other. This fall, our older mentees hosted the dinner, teaming up with our volunteers to cook lasagna and garlic bread and prepare a salad to serve to the residents of the Hoboken Housing Authority. The event was a huge success! We served over 100 Hoboken residents and look forward to hosting another dinner together in 2018.
- Our mentors and volunteer support staff
We have so many reasons to celebrate this year, but ultimately there is only one reason we are able to continue our mentoring mission in the community; our mentors and volunteer support staff. With over 120 active volunteers involved in our programs, we simply could NOT serve and support our students without people like YOU. Each week we get the opportunity to see the impact our mentors are having on the children in Hoboken and continue to be blown away by the individual impact stories from our mentees and their families. As our programs and mentee waiting list continue to grow, as does our need for volunteers. Interested in making an impact? Check out our mentor and support staff opportunities and fill out an online application! You are just a few clicks away from making a difference!