The Bridge Program, a free career development mentorship program for immigrants and refugees, is making strides in providing guidance to people in the local community.
The program is active in the Southern Tier and was created by United Health Services (UHS) and the American Civic Association in partnership with Broome Community College (BCC) and the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce. Eligible mentees for the program are adult immigrants and refugees who are seeking long-term career development. The program mentors are skilled professionals in certain industries who provide guidance and encouragement to their respective mentees.
Lameess Mehanna, head of the Bridge Program, explained what the program aims to accomplish.
“Our program is focused on the long-term career goals of our mentees,” Mehanna said. “In this case, our mentees are immigrants and refugees. We want to support them in getting to their long-term career goals.”
The program is finishing its first cohort this year after starting last summer. So far, 10 pairs of mentees and mentors have participated in the program, which hopes to double its numbers to 20 pairs next year.
According to the Bridge Program’s website, the program’s primary focuses are education, integration and preparation while supporting new immigrants professionally. Mehanna expanded on how the program hopes to grow in terms of its goals for the next year.
“We are hoping to continue our main mission, which is to support mentees in reaching their career goals,” Mehanna said. “Our goal as a program in Broome County is to continue working with other people and organizations in the area. We want to make sure people know about the Bridge Program and know that it exists as a program in the community.”
Mehanna explained how each mentee has a unique mentoring experience focused on meeting their individual needs.
“What makes it unique is that we meet each of our mentees where they are at,” Mehanna said. “None of them have to be at a specific or same level, none of them have to have a degree or experience already.”
Mehanna expanded on how the program seeks mentees with a specific vision in mind for their career.
“The biggest thing we look for is that our mentees have that goal and that passion,” Mehanna said. “Even if they know it’s going to be a really long road because then we know where to look and who can help them get on that path.”
Colleen Nugent, a sophomore double-majoring in philosophy, politics and law and French, is an intern with the Bridge Program. Nugent explained how the program is making a difference in the Binghamton community.
“The Bridge Program is one of the most unique programs I have ever heard of or had the opportunity to become involved with,” Nugent wrote. “Providing mentees with professional support through volunteer mentors within the Binghamton community is an amazing way to help promote and ensure the success of Binghamton’s immigrants and refugees.”
Participants in the program are mentored based on their individual needs. According to the Bridge Program’s website, this includes learning language and job skills as well as career preparation.
Nugent expressed why the program is meaningful in particular to the Binghamton community.
“Binghamton has a large foreign-born population, and supporting these people is so important,” Nugent wrote. “It is also a meaningful way to get involved with the local community. I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience so far in assisting with the program details and encourage you to apply as a mentor or mentee if you are eligible!”
Laura Guerrero, a senior majoring in English, took part in a mentoring program known as iMentor, which was offered at her high school in New York City. As a student with experience as a mentee, she shared her thoughts on this new program in the Southern Tier.
“While in high school in the city, I was part of a mentoring program, [and] having a professional to encourage me and believe in me changed my life.” Guerrero said. “I am glad the Southern Tier is offering mentorship to immigrants and refugees.”
Guerrero continued to express how she admires the program and its work for the community.
“If the mentors at the Bridge Program put the work in, they’ll help their mentees adjust and plant their roots in the [United States],” Guerrero said. “That is priceless and I applaud every person that is making the program happen.”
The Bridge Program is currently accepting applications for the next cohort of mentees and mentors. Acceptance is based on rolling admission until the positions are filled. Interested participants in the program can fill out an interest form at https://www.americancivic.com/bridge.