The Power of Mentoring

Practical educational and civic transformation.

The Power of Mentoring

The Power of Mentoring:

From D.C.’s Dunbar High School to Georgetown’s Business School

Emma Brown recently wrote an article in The Washington Post about a student who rose from poverty in DC to a successful graduate of Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. When being interviewed about his success, he spoke of the impact that two important mentors in his life had on him while at Georgetown and how important mentors are for non-academic support for students.

“Just 9 percent of the nation’s poorest young people earn a four-year degree by age 24, compared with 77 percent of [those whose families are well off financially], according to census data. It is a divide that both defines and reinforces American inequality.” – Emma Brown, Washington Post

Johnathon Carrington, 21, a new Business and Finance graduate of McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University, recently gave an interview in which he recalled how vital mentorship and apprenticeship was for him throughout college and its long lasting effects afterward.

As a straight-A student, Carrington graduated as valedictorian of D.C.’s Dunbar High School, where a few miles away he lived in a subsidized apartment complex riddled with drugs and violence.

Georgetown was a new experience for Carrington both socially and academically. For the first time ever, Carrington admits he experienced serious academic challenges and struggled to find his place on a campus where students were mostly white and far wealthier. But he persisted and saw it through to the end, Emma Brown writes.

When asked what he attributes his ultimate success in college to, Carrington responded that his “network of support,” which included his mentors Deborah Coburn and George Seff, was an integral part in his determination and motivation to finish strong at Georgetown.

David Peake, a classmate who grew up in a neighborhood like Carrington’s in Chicago, described being a black man at an elite college as “an everyday struggle,” saying, “You get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Mentorship was also important in Peake’s life as he leaned on the support of his mentor Rashid Darden, a 38-year-old Georgetown alumnus who also graduated from a public high school, when one of his best friends from back home was killed during his sophomore year. This is a key example of a mentor being so much more vital to students for non-academic needs than academic. Life happens to everyone, but students who have support from mentors know that there are people in their corner to help them along the way.

Carrington’s two mentors, Deborah Coburn and George Seff, had a lot to do with getting Carrington through his time at Georgetown, by checking on him, supporting him financially, and holding him accountable for the work that he needed to be doing. His business-school adviser, Deborah Coburn, met with him biweekly. And in the background was George Seff, an Arlington father of two, who met Carrington occasionally for a meal and helped him out with money for books.

The two met after Seff read about Carrington in The Washington Post four years ago, and sent him a check in care of Dunbar High. “It wasn’t the first time I had done that. But Johnathon was the first and only kid who responded with a thank-you note,” Seff said. “He’s a solid kid, he’s got a good head on his shoulders. I’m totally rooting for him.”

Carrington plans to start in private wealth management. Though he has been warned that it can take six months for new graduates to find a job, he is hoping to move more quickly.

As challenging as Georgetown was, he said that he is grateful to the people in his life that were there for him as he navigated his academic and career paths there. And he thinks he will appreciate them even more as time passes.

There are so many students out there like Carrington, who have the knowledge, intellect, and ambition to chase their dreams, but lack the resources or emotional support. Being a tutor or mentor is a way to pay it forward and give every student the opportunity to achieve their goals, just like Deborah Coburn and George Seff did for Jonathan Carrington. Just a few years of mentor support changed Carrington’s life! Being that person for someone means taking responsibility for the educational and career opportunities for the young people in your community, which is the first step in positioning them on a launching pad to soar – both in their personal lives and professionally. Many think they don’t have enough time to commit to such a task, but a little support and compassion goes a long way!

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