Mike O'Brien

Ashoka Fellow
New York, United States
Fellow Since 2012


This profile was prepared when Mike O'Brien was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2012.
The New Idea
Mike is out to improve college readiness via high quality, technology-enabled mentoring. Believing that it is no longer enough to merely prepare students to graduate from high school, Mike is helping educators shift their focus to equipping students for college and success in the workplace: environments which demand a range of social and emotional skills not currently addressed by traditional K-12 education.

Mike recognized that the popular practice of mentoring was uniquely capable of meeting such needs, and so he set out to do three things. First, he sought to replace the high level of variability and ineffectiveness associated with mentoring with a reliable and outcome-driven model, developing a flexible program model that pairs every student within a school with a personal mentor, and a multi-year, outcome-driven curriculum. Over the course of three to four years, beginning in high school and extending through students’ college transition period, mentors and mentees exchange weekly emails and participate in monthly events, covering everything from self-advocacy, to navigating financial aid. Mentors are thus able to offer support on their own time without compromising quality, removing one of the most significant barriers to volunteer recruitment. Second, he pioneered an integrative whole-school approach: rather than work with a few students at a time, Mike partners with schools to ensure that every student has a mentor, with the result that all aspects of student support can work in concert with one another.

Mike established iMentor Interactive to improve the quality of mentorship programs as a whole, enabling schools and college access organizations to create or improve an existing mentoring program. iMentor Interactive serves as an online partnership portal, offering a combination of curricula and best practices, research and evaluation tools, and tailored consulting and support.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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