Mentor: Jessicah Pierre
Work: Communications Associate, Community Catalyst, Boston
Education: B.A. Political Science, UMass Amherst, 2013
BUILD Student Business Team: Revamp’D
One day while riding the Commuter Rail, Jessicah Pierre saw a BUILD mentor recruiting ad in the Metro. She had been thinking for some time that she wanted to volunteer to give back to the community, so she responded to the ad. Three years later, Jessicah is still as enthusiastic about her mentoring role as she was when she started.
“It’s the perfect way to give back,” Jessicah says. “I feel equipped to help these students because I know the importance of working hard in high school so you are prepared for college. And that is really what BUILD’s mission is.”
BUILD uses entrepreneurship as a way to engage students who are at-risk of dropping out, and who attend Boston high schools where fewer than half the students graduate in four years. Jessicah attended such a school, Brighton High, and had her own challenges as a high school student. “I missed a lot of school because of a series of surgeries,” Jessicah says. “I remember how hard it was for me to catch up and bring my grades back up. My family pushed me to get good grades, but I had no real role model to help me balance my life and navigate through high school. So I am not that far removed from the students I mentor. I am there to help them not just academically but also personally.”
Jessicah mentors a group of juniors from Community Academy for Science and Health, in Dorchester. The students are in their third year of the four-year BUILD program. Their business is called Revamp’D, which sells charms that attach to the ends of shoelaces. It is a subtle fashion accessory that has proven very popular, especially among high school students. Their biggest seller so far was a breast cancer awareness charm. “We sold out of the 200 units we made,” says a Revamp’d student. “People really connect with a cause, so we’re making an autism one now too.” Also in high demand are sports-related accessories, like their New England Patriots charm.
BUILD students take a daily Introduction to Entrepreneurship class their freshman year, and then continue to meet with their mentors once a week throughout high school. Mentors help students develop their businesses, but also help with homework and life issues.
“A lot of these students don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Jessicah says. “They don’t understand the importance of doing well in high school. Many have no family members who have gone to college, so they lack that guidance.” She says her role as a mentor is not only to use her skills to help the student-run business, but to help students realize that high school matters. “I constantly stress the importance of performing well in high school because you will need those skills and discipline to succeed in college.
When I was in high school and college, I had to figure things out on my own . . . I’m hoping to bridge that gap by taking all of my life lessons, and giving back.”
Her commitment to her students is clearly paying off. In 2014, Revamp’D won second place in the SAGE (Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship). National Competition “SAGE was the highlight of my time as a mentor so far,” Jessicah says. “My students were very serious, and confident. They were so open to learning. I was so proud of them!”
It was not the team’s first taste of success. They won first place in BUILD’s Annual Youth Business Plan Competition in 2013. This event is the culmination of BUILD’s freshman year. About 15-20 ninth grade business teams compete in front of a large audience and a panel of judges who are executives from the Boston startup and business community.
Jessicah adds that mentoring is not always easy. “My four students have very different personalities. Like most teenagers, they like to fool around,” she says. “Some days the kids are not in the best mood and don’t want to talk to me. I may be tired after work but I remember my commitment to helping them crack down and get focused.”
Jessicah and her students have built strong relationships and she looks forward to mentoring them all the way through high school. “I love my team. I am always happy to see them.”
In talking with her students, you can tell that the feelings are mutual. “She doesn’t just help me with my business and with school,” says Revamp’D student Raven. “She helps me learn about life and myself and working with a team.”
To learn more about mentoring for BUILD visit www.buildinboston.org/mentor.