I Wouldn't Be The Person I Am Today

Two years ago, I was a senior at Science Leadership Academy, figuring out which college or university I wanted to spend the next four years at. Financial aid played a large role in my decision-making process, but finding the school that fit my personality and a school where I could excel was a struggle for me. I was the first generation in my family to receive an education here in the United States and to have goals to attend college. I had no mentorship at home in regards to higher education, and that’s when I came across a scholarship opportunity called the Jill Melmed-Buzzeo Award.

I was one of many candidates competing for this award that offers $2,000 and a mentor who will help guide you through the process of adjusting to college life and making good decisions that will benefit you and help you better yourself. Luckily, I was chosen to be the inaugural candidate, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

Going into college my freshman year was the scary part. I didn’t know what to expect, how to adjust, or how to be a responsible adult. I was 18 years old, about to turn 19, when my mom dropped me off in the middle of nowhere at Juniata College. I said my goodbyes and had a “freakout” moment. The first question that came to my head was, “How am I going to get through college?” My mom never went to college so she couldn’t really give me advice on what to expect. But each day got better and easier because my mentor reached out to me and helped me each step of the way when I encountered an obstacle that I didn’t know how to face. 

My mentor has helped shape me into the adult that I wanted to become and was there for me in ways that my parent couldn’t be. Without this award, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Through this award, I gained a mentor, a friend, and someone I consider family. 

-- Amy Chen, 2015 JMB Award recipient

Give a leg up to our 2018 recipients! Help us reach our 2018 fundraising goal >>

Amy with her mentor, Fran, at our 2017 summer retreat

JMB Award Secures Fiscal Sponsorship

Starting this month, donations to JMB Award of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia qualify as tax-deductible as JMB Award now operates as a fiscally sponsored nonprofit project of CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia.

This relationship offers us multiple benefits, including bookkeeping, insurance, fiduciary oversight, and operations feasibility assessments through their CultureTrust program. 

It’s more important than ever that each of us support organizations doing work we believe in. We hope we can count you as a member of our community.

2018 Cycle Open For Nominations

JMB Award is delighted to open our fourth award cycle. 

We invite you to nominate eligible students within your school or community organization and to share this information with others working with high school students.

Nominations are accepted until March 1, 2018. Upon receiving nominations, JMB Award will contact nominated students to invite them to complete our application process, open until March 15, 2018. All finalists will be interviewed in April or early May. Recipients will be named in late May.

Contact fran [at] jmbaward [dot] com with questions. 

Nominate >>

Revving Up For 2018

It's wild to think we're opening our fourth cycle in January 2018. When we first kicked around the idea of the JMB Award, we practiced controlled enthusiasm. We were uncertain how far our idea would take us and how far we could take our idea.

In the past three years, we've gone from supporting one student each cycle to supporting four. We've added a travel stipend, financial capability building, prep test support—and so much more. Now, looking into 2018, we're revving up! We're crafting a three-year report so we can share our growth, achievements and impact in the categories below. For now, here's a glimpse at what we're working on.

Capacity Building

  • Seeking fiscal sponsorship. We're in the process of securing an agreement to operate under CultureWorks' nonprofit umbrella. That'll allow us to share their exempt status with donors and seek institutional support as well. Through this agreement, JMB Award also retains CultureWorks' HR staff support, marketing and fundraising expertise, legal tools, and insurance. We'll be informed of their decision in January.
  • Planning a strategic retreat. We realize we need concentrated time to discuss and refine our mission and vision. We'll hold a strategic retreat in 2018 to examine our impact to date and to map our desired impact for the next three to five years. 

Mentoring Program

  • Recruiting a diverse, talented group of mentors. In anticipation of granting awards to more students in 2018, we've filled out our mentor slate and recruited mentors from diverse personal and professional backgrounds. These women come from within education, the arts, and journalism.
  • Providing necessary training. In mid-November, we held training to further develop the skills of our current mentors. The focus was on building trust quickly, mentoring across long distances, recognizing our value, and preparing our mentees for summer work and internships. In March, we'll hold onboarding training for our new mentors to acquaint them with our mission and our approach.
  • Applying for technical assistance. The National Mentoring Resource Center provides technical assistance to youth mentorship programs. JMB Award is seeking their support to help us further improve and expand our training, matching, and evaluating efforts. We'll be informed of their decision soon.

Intergenerational Support 

  • Hosting a winter dinner. We're hosting a winter dinner for recipients and their mentors in early 2018. These events give us the opportunity to catch up, share stories, network, and celebrate. At this particular event, we'll return the "notes to self" recipients wrote at our summer event and see how their words of self-encouragement speak to them now.
  • Identifying our community. Through our network we've been able to offer informational interviews, provide employment, help restore medical insurance coverage, and get a leg-up on a coveted internship. For 2018, we plan on creating a process for more systematically identifying our community and the ways they can support our recipients. 

Who Doesn't Love Care Packages?

Remember when you were a first-year college student? So do we!

There's the loneliness. The stress. The desire for the comforts of home, whatever home may mean.

That's why we created the JMB Award Care Package and shipped one to each of our recipients this fall. A virtual hug in a box, the items were collectively curated by our mentors and included the practical and the indulgent. Toward the latter end of the scale was a signature Jill item: Snickers®. Jill marked bad days as "six-Snickers bars days." We included six, but went with the fun size. Moderation, amiright?! 


JMB Award Care Package

Summer Retreat

We had a jam-packed agenda for our first summer retreat with recipients and their mentors: 

  • Budgeting basics
  • Transitioning to college
  • Building a strong mentoring relationship
  • Networking and risk-taking

Through it all, personal stories and experiences took center stage.

Everyone had tips on how to stretch a dollar, and those entering their first year of college got additional pro tips on how to afford costly college books and late-night pizza ordering.

Money-saving wasn't the only thing on recipients' minds. Many benefited from a Q&A session with former recipients, especially as they discussed their transition to a rural campus with less pavement and diversity.

When our board joined later in the day, recipients heard their stories of perseverance, taking risks, accepting help, and leaping into the prepared-for unknown. This last session struck the deepest chord with our recipients, many of whom were reassured to learn "our path is not determined" and "everyone hits rock bottom in their life, and it's okay. It's about how you pick yourself back up." 

We couldn't say it better.

2017 Summer Retreat