“Without guidance, you’re like a ship at sea without a rudder, left to sway with the waves with no purpose or direction,” says IVY Member Kamar Foster, who was one of the original 50 mentees to participate in America Needs You (ANY). “A mentor is like a rudder, there to guide and keep you on a path worth pursuing.”

Foster, a former Peace Corps volunteer and current Account Executive at Yelp, recognizes the profound impact the experience had on his life. His mentor at ANY — a nonprofit mentorship organization for first-generation, low-income college students — encouraged him to pursue interests in entrepreneurship and sales, write a business plan, and develop a deep sense of self-worth and confidence.

Foster’s experience with mentorship is a testament to the resounding role mentorship can play in overcoming the achievement gap, increasing workplace diversity, and fostering next-generation entrepreneurship. Time and time again, research suggests that whether it takes place within the classroom, office, or on the field, effective mentorship is instrumental to success.

IVY partnered with Defy Ventures to provide business coaching to help formerly incarcerated men and women find success.

According to The Mentoring Effect, the first-ever national survey of young people on the topic of mentoring, programs like ANY lead to increased high school graduation rates, lower dropout rates, higher academic aspirations and college enrollment rates, and enhanced self-esteem and academic performance. Yet according to the same report, approximately 16 million youth nationwide — including nine million at-risk youth — will reach age 19 without ever having a mentor.

Acknowledging the importance of mentorship, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper in February 2014 to connect boys and young men of color to mentoring, an initiative that continues under the Obama Foundation today.

In an attempt to further bolster mentorship across the country, IVY is hosting a series of “mentorship match” events featuring top mentorship organizations in each of IVY’s seven chapter cities. This national series of panel discussions aim to demystify mentorship for those interested in becoming a mentor.

“Many young professionals are interested in becoming mentors, but may be worried about time commitments, a lack of support, or a fear of failing,” says IVY’s Director of Social Impact, Anabay Sullivan. “But today, there are nonprofit programs that offer various levels of involvement, various ages of mentees, and various types of mentoring — from sports to business and everything in between. Mentoring is made easier and more fun with supportive nonprofits, digital communication, and group mentoring. I often hear that mentors feel like they learn just as much or more from their mentees, which is wonderful — it’s like a partnership.”

Panelists speak at IVY’s “How to Become a Mentor” salon discussion at TOMS New York.

To hear a personal take on mentoring and how to get involved ahead of IVY’s national series, IVY Magazine talked to Foster and IVY Member Lee Almonacy, a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. See below for a list of the partners that will be featured in the upcoming series, and click the following links to attend a “mentorship match” in Boston, D.C., Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

What was your experience with mentorship?

Kamar Foster: “Mentorship is guidance. It’s about someone who is much more experienced, providing guidance and transferring information to me. Without the tribe of mentors (Tim Ferris reference here!) I’ve had in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t have developed or cultivated the intrinsic beliefs that propel me to become great.”

Lee Almonacy: “My overall experience with mentoring was great. I learned a lot about my little and myself. (We used the terms little and big to describe mentees and mentors.)”

What impact did it have on your life and/or the life of your mentor/mentee?

KJF: “I was in the first group of 50 mentees at America Needs You. Having not gone to business school, writing a business plan seemed like a daunting task. I was completely lost and didn’t know where to begin. He provided me with multiple plans he had written and then let me get to work, advising me from the first draft to a finished plan for my first venture as an entrepreneur. Even though I failed many times, he was always there pointing me in the right path by asking the right questions and poking holes into my assumptions. It has made me into the gritty individual that I am and continue to become. I applied to be a mentor for this year’s cohort, fundraised for last year’s triathlon, and plan to do so this year, as well!”

LA: “I was humbled by the experience as it proved to be harder than I anticipated. These young kids are sometimes faced with adult situations and, sometimes, even with the best of intentions, the results were not always guaranteed.”

IVY partnered with The New York Foundling to elevate career exposure for foster care youth who are transitioning to the workforce.

In your opinion, why is mentorship important?

LA: “Mentorship is important for so many reasons: 1) To support the parents; 2) To reinforce good morals, ethics, and provide life lessons to the kids; 3) To offer help to those kids without (active) parents; 4) To give a different point of view other than what they are accustomed to; 5) To teach them that others, and not just their family, care about them and want to help; 6) To strengthen our communities by investing in the youth; and so much more.”

How can someone get involved with mentoring?

KJF: “To be a mentor coach, you must have a genuine interest to share your knowledge, expertise, and life skills with ambitious, first-generation college students. Be patient with them for their ambitions are raw and need to be molded and set in a purposeful path. Check out the deadlines for the mentor coach applications on America Needs You.”

LA: “As easy as clicking on the ‘Get Involved’ button right on bbbs.org.”

The following organizations will have panelists featured in IVY’s national mentorship series: