Program provides mentoring for college students

20-year-old Karen Alvarez is the first in her family to go to college. She grew up in the Dominican Republican and moved to New York by herself a few years ago to pursue higher education. She’s currently enrolled at Bronx Community College.

“It gives me the opportunity to build my goals and to construct my ideas and to say that I can do anything,” said Alvarez. 

This ambitious young woman is one of more than 1,200 first-generation college students who have joined the nonprofit America Needs You (ANY). Each student gets paired with a mentor and gets access to career workshops. ANY also has an annual clothing drive where participants can choose from donated items to wear on a job interview.

“All of our students are the first in their families to go to school and they’re all from low-income families. And they really want to change the trajectory of the lives of their families and they know they want to do something incredible professionally, they just don’t know if they have the tools, skills or networks to get to that next phase, said Kimberly Harris, CEO of America Needs You. 

Ayana Wingate was part of the first ever ANY program in 2010. She now volunteers as Karen’s mentor while working as a bank analyst.

“It’s a huge accomplishment, never thought I would be able to you know fulfill one of my mom’s dreams so that was amazing,” said Wingate. 

As for Karen, she’s majoring in biology and hopes to become a surgeon one day. Her dream is to transfer to Brown University to get her bachelors. She’s filling out applications now, and tells us it’s been a blessing to have Ayana by her side. 

Every other Saturday ANY holds career development workshops for students. To apply, head on over to For now, the organization accepts 700 students a year, but that number is quickly increasing. Volunteers and mentors are always welcome.