September’s Mentee of the Month: Jaala Alston CC'22

Congratulations to Jaala Alston CC'22 for being selected as our Mentee of the Month for September. Lauren is a Sophomore and is studying Economics and Ethnicity and Race Studies. She has connected with her mentor as part of the Odyssey Summer Match program.

Interview with Jaala Alston CC'22

What has your Summer Match program experience been like?

The Summer Match Program was especially helpful to me in the sense that it empowered me to start experimenting with options and paths I could take while networking to hear about the experiences of former Columbia students who were not my mentor. I thought I wanted to do law, so I was connected with a person who had gone to law school, but hearing him explain that he worked mostly tangentially to the legal field and even that he did not enjoy the practice of law very much was very freeing and cathartic for me because I had realized this year it might not be my first, second, or third priority in career options.

What advice would you give an alum who is looking to mentor a student?

Understand that many of us just need to hear from someone who has done it that it is indeed possible. Do not skip out on telling us the times you failed or struggled, because it makes a difference with us in an environment where failure or struggling is not necessarily embraced or talked about. Also, feel free to talk to us about making Columbia a valuable experience. One of the most important things my mentor shared with me is that a Columbia connection got him into the job he has now as a means of transitioning. Taking the time to connect with us and introduce us to your network is especially helpful and effective in bridging the gap.

What has been the most helpful part of being a mentee?

I am not the mentee of only one person. I am being taught and schooled by a variety of people on the Odyssey platform, and gaining knowledge and developing an understanding of the world has made me begin to think less about what career path I’ll go down as much as it has been how I can use my passions and my skills to get there. Overwhelmingly, you’ll find that even if the goal is different (Ph.D. versus law school; business school versus med school), the skills you need to succeed are pretty much the same. You might need different qualifications on paper, but being willing to prepare yourself, invest time in your narrative and communicate in a positive and effective way are all skills that propel your career. You learn from everyone, whether you think you would like to be them or not. Get involved early, and use your time with people wisely.

What has been most surprising about being a mentee?

Being a mentee has helped me transition into being a mentor in my own right to high school students and first-years. Understanding my fears and the hospitality that has been extended to me, and the optimism, positivity and security these alumni have is something that makes me want to continue to work hard and believe in myself. I think all students can relate to that, so my interpersonal skills, my belief in myself (not just because of personal abilities, but also because of who is backing me) makes college more enjoyable. I know how to be a student leader because I’ve been taught those qualities when the camera wasn’t rolling. Giving back is of paramount importance to me because I know how blessed I have been in the past year. To have people hear my story, see my face, listen to my aspirations and conclude in a few minutes that it is possible for me … it touches me daily. I carry these people with me, and I feel genuinely unstoppable.

About the Odyssey Mentoring Program

The Odyssey Mentoring Program (OMP) was founded on the belief that Columbia College students and alumni want to support one another, share stories and encourage one another’s success, thus creating a strong and tight-knit community. The College has more than 50,000 alumni working in myriad careers and around the country. OMP makes it possible for community members to connect in a variety of ways, from an email exchange to in-person meetings and small group gatherings.