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Mentorships impact students of all ages

The Shallow Ford Foundation has been fortunate to work with generous individuals and organizations who want to truly impact the lives of students of all ages. In this two-part series, we will look at the role mentorships play in several of these efforts.

By Greg Keener
Shallow Ford Foundation

When we think of a “mentor,” we might think back to that high school or college educator who taught us more than historical dates and scientific facts. We might think of a coach providing motivation or a fellow church member offering formative advice. A mentor can come in many forms.

In this community, mentors include young professionals like Mike McGilvary who is mentoring Owen Hopgood, a 19-year-old working to establish a tech start-up, or Dennis Ammons, a pastor who meets regularly with Adia Redfearn, a mother with an established career who is returning to school to study health information technology.

Mentors are not all late-career experts; nor are all mentees just hanging their first diploma on the wall of their first job. Anyone can benefit in this relationship. Dr. Allison E. McWilliams is assistant vice president of mentoring and alumni personal and career development at Wake Forest University. “We all need, and can benefit from, great mentorship, because no one is a finished product,” McWilliams said. “We all have opportunities to learn and to grow, and that’s what mentoring is all about: it’s another person saying, I care about you, I care about your growth and development, and I am going to walk beside you on your path.”

For McGilvary and Hopgood, the mentoring relationship started with a scholarship application.

Mike McGilvary and Owen Hopgood. Mike has worked with Owen as a mentor since 2019.

McGilvary and Hopgood

Owen Hopgood was the recipient of the first Mason H. Hunter Vocational Education Scholarship of the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce. This scholarship honors the life of Mason H. Hunter, who passed away unexpectedly in March 2018 at the age of 17. It benefits area students seeking to continue vocational and occupational education and training which provides a clear career path. Hopgood went on from West Forsyth High School to study aviation at Guilford Technical Community College. He will complete classes this December and begin working in aviation in January.

In addition to the financial support the scholarship provided, Hopgood was paired with Mike McGilvary, partner and financial adviser with Marzano Capital Group, to be his mentor. Today, while also preparing to start a career in aviation, Hopgood is the chief networking officer for Solvelop, an IT start-up offering app development, voice-over IP development/consultation and other technology-based solutions. And McGilvary was involved, in his mentor capacity, from the ground floor. Perhaps, even before there was a ground floor.

“Two months ago, I sent Mike a text message saying, ‘Hey, a buddy and I have this idea, how about we meet for coffee and talk about it.’ Since then, I’ve been invited to the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber meeting, and other networking events, and one connection has led to another. It has just grown from there,” Hopgood said.

While still in the early stages, Hopgood shares that, “September looks like it will be a pretty exciting month” for his start-up. McGilvary is surely watching and glad to have played a role.

“I was happy he reached out to me, and proud that he did. I am privileged to be rooted in this great community, so I was immediately able to say ‘you need to connect with these local networking groups, I’m going to put you in contact with the leaders of these groups to get you introduced. As a result, they were able to immediately slide in and start shaking hands,” McGilvary said.

McGilvary, like many other mentors, sees his role as a way to help others in the same way he was provided help. “I was excited because I wanted to give something back to the community I grew up in and help retain talent,” he said.

McGilvary goes on to share, “Small business is the backbone of America, but it’s really the backbone of our local economy here in the Triad. It’s exciting to see that part of business being grown in our area, seeing talent come back here, and wanting to grow a business here is very rewarding.”

This year, three students were awarded the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce’s Mason H. Hunter Vocational Educational Scholarship. Austin Casey and Bailey Coleman from West Forsyth High School and Jackson Curd from Reagan High School were all awarded a scholarship and have just begun to connect with their mentors as they begin their college career.

Dennis Ammons and Adia Redfearn

The Salem Glen College Assistance Program, started in 2020, aims to help high school seniors and adults returning to school to improve their options for a higher-earning career. The program assists students as they navigate and pursue a degree or career certification from Forsyth Tech or Davidson-Davie County Community College. The program also provides a mentor pairing to scholarship recipients to aid occupational goal engagement. Mentors are selected volunteers from the Salem Glen neighborhood.

This year’s awardee, Adia Redfearn, now has financial support for her courses at Davidson-Davie County Community College as well as personal support from her mentor. Dennis Ammons, a pastor and resident of Salem Glen, says he is ready to give her the kind of support she has asked for. “She told me, ‘I need you to pick up me up when I’m down, lift me up when I fall, I just need you to be there. That is all I need.’ She didn’t ask for anything else, just asked for me to be there if she needed me.

“If we separate ‘coach’ and ‘mentor,’ I am not trying to coach her to a specific goal, I’m trying to be her support as she achieves whatever goal she capably sets for herself,” Ammons said.

McWilliams said, “Adding a mentoring relationship to these scholarships has the potential to deepen that experience and ensure real, tangible outcomes for the recipients beyond just financial support.”

In part 2 of this series, we will highlight two local organizations working to connect experienced mentors with eager students.

Greg Keener is program officer with the Shallow Ford Foundation.