FIVE Network, a Georgetown Digital Mentoring Platform, Hosts Summer Cup

FIVE Network — a Georgetown-based digital mentorship platform group located at 3526 Prospect St. NW across from Booeymonger — trains and connects employees from leading companies to provide mentoring for talented high schoolers from underrepresented areas.

As the first Mentor Operating System (mOS), FIVE seeks to bring the advantages of mentorship to a digital, scalable platform in which mentors can access mentees at any time, from anywhere. The FIVE Network calls it a “durable solution to help strengthen the economy, counteract the weaknesses within the school system, connect people who are disconnected, and bring positive reciprocal outcomes for mentors and mentees.” 

Rob Lake, co-founder and president of FIVE Network, says the organization recruits talented juniors in high school from areas of the country such as Anacostia, the Mississippi Delta, Alabama Black Belt, Houston, etc. The organization trains them for several months, most importantly on how to take advantage of their network and its incredible mentors. The mentorship program lasts four years, and the relationships a lifetime. 

“The core of what we do at FIVE is actually much more than mentorship,” Lake said.  “We enable authentic relationships between diverse people using mentor tech as the framework. We’re creating value for the mentees on one side and the mentors and their companies on the other.”

Lake explained that from the mentor standpoint, corporations pay FIVE to see the kids through the program. Their top employees are nominated to be mentors, which promotes employee engagement within their companies. It also exposes employees to gifted adolescents from places otherwise foreign to them, introducing employers to areas from which they likely would not have recruited, while also enriching the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). The result is a reciprocal talent pipeline, with careers ranging from law to tech. 

The program is 90-precent virtual, with a mix of asynchronous training and live Zoom sessions. While in-person opportunities are growing with the waning pandemic, Lake said the Covid era has enabled people to be more socialized and skilled in the virtual field. 

“If we had this utopia where you had talented kids while there were teams of mentors locally with a wide range of interests and expertise and professional careers, and they all had time and they could all get together, then of course that’s the best scenario,” he said. “But the reality is that’s not possible. But with this digital platform we can match mentees and mentors in a detailed and effective way, and they can be matched regardless of where they live.” 

When asked how they account for Wi-Fi and technology disparities in impoverished households, Lake said the mentees are trained in making use of the tools that almost all of them have. “Virtually all of these kids have smartphones. So, if they’re not in an area with Wi-Fi, we suggest they go to their local McDonalds, Walmart, what have you,” Lake said. “Even in the poorest areas of the country, there are places like this that have really strong internet.” 

By the time mentees have completed their course with FIVE, they have a personal team of mentors of five to ten professionals who know them intimately and are able to open up doors, give work references, and provide life advice for their mentees. 

“Our north star is when, five or ten years in, somebody is having an extraordinarily successful career that started with their relationship with their mentor their junior year of high school,” Lake said. 

On June 20, FIVE kicked off its Summer Cup, a two-week mentorship program in which mentors and mentees work toward a focused goal, while mentees have the opportunity to earn scholarship funds and prizes along the way. The summer program draws on the science of goal setting. It entails a rigorous five-part rubric — hence the name FIVE — that helps mentees and mentors undertake the goal-setting process, consisting of exploration, prioritization, planning, action and assessment.

“The idea is that summertime is a period when there’s often motivation loss. We wanted to make a meaningful experience that the mentee and mentor could share during this time,” Lake said. “They’re not just sitting around during the summer, and by the end of it, kids feel really great about what they’ve accomplished.” 

Ismaila Cheesay, FIVE’s senior program manager leading this year’s Summer Cup, said the mentees’ goals run the gamut, from spiritual and wellness aspirations, like meditation and exercise, to tangible academic strides, like obtaining a specific ACT score. 

“One said they want to work on getting their license and being prepared for passing the test after previously failing. Another is going to a camp for change-makers and hopes to get experience and knowledge for a club that he wants to start at school,” Cheesay said. “Another girl wants to earn at least a thousand dollars this summer. Many aspirations are related to getting into college. It’s a mix of practical and material goal setting.” 

Cheesay also emphasized that while the Summer Cup is not compulsory, it provides a critical opportunity to engage mentees during a time that typically marks an education gap. The mentees strengthen their bond with their mentors during this bonus educational period, as they win prizes from monetary rewards to headquarter tours. And most important, they have fun in the process. 

Winners of the Summer Cup were announced on July 15.

More information about the FIVE Network can be found here.



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