In 2016 Mentor Foundation USA and Structured Finance Industry Group (SFIG) started what would come to be a successful partnership that has impacted many young people in the U.S. This partnership, in collaboration with Scholarship America, has made it possible to offer life-changing scholarships to youths that have completed our Career Mentoring or Youth Ambassador programs. During these years of partnership, 33 students have been awarded a combined $842,500 in scholarships, furthering their educational opportunities.
In recognition of the past five years of partnership, we wanted to revisit the topic of youth empowerment, enabling post-secondary education, and building a better future with Structured Finance Foundation (SFF), so we spoke with their Executive Director, Leslie Sack.
When Structured Finance Foundation chose Mentor USA as a charitable partner, focusing on youth education was a way in which SFF could make a significant impact on the community. What are your reflections on the impact that this partnership has had during the last five years?
When I became Executive Director of the Structured Finance Foundation (SFF) in 2019, I was pleased to find an established and working partnership between SFF and Mentor Foundation USA firmly in place. It was clear that both organizations had built a strong foundation and continued collaboration would be beneficial to all parties going forward.
The partnership has certainly grown over the last five years and to date, SFF has awarded 33 scholarships for a total of $842,500! We know that these scholarships are helping students that may not have otherwise been able to afford the pursuit of secondary education, and the letters of gratitude we receive annually serve to further endorse the decision of SFF to work with Mentor Foundation USA.
I am also happy that we have been able to provide further mutual support at our organizations’ events and fundraisers. It was wonderful to host the Dawidowicz brothers and Mentor Foundation USA staff at our past Structured Finance Foundation Benefits at The Plaza Hotel in New York City. In January 2020 we gave Jeremy and Joshua Dawidowicz a public platform to share what the SFF scholarship means to them, and all the attendees were deeply moved by the personal accounts of their hard work, perseverance, and near- and long-term goals.
Looking back at all the scholarships we’ve awarded and students we’ve supported is truly gratifying. We know SFF is making a significant impact on these students’ lives by easing the financial burdens associated with secondary education. On behalf of the Board of the Structured Finance Foundation, I can certainly say that we know these students have bright futures ahead of them and we are excited to follow them on their professional and personal journeys.
Why is it important for SFF to collaborate with Mentor USA and continue to empower our youth?
Put simply, today’s youth is tomorrow’s future. We know that providing opportunities to underserved youth better positions them to achieve their future goals. It is important that we invest in our youth so they can pursue their academic interests and enter the workforce with as little of a financial burden as possible. Over the last five years, several scholarship recipients have told us that they would not be able to attend college if not for SFF’s support, and we greatly understand how well-positioned we are to help ensure that students are afforded the opportunity to seek higher education and training.
Furthermore, we have been impressed with Mentor Foundation’s Career Mentoring and Youth Ambassador programs. The students that complete these programs are skilled, driven, and committed to community service. Year after year, we have a pool of highly qualified candidates and that is a real testament to a successful partnership between our organizations.
At a time in our lives where things still feel less than normal, SFF recognizes the value in honoring our commitment to the students we’ve pledged to support, and we do not take that responsibility lightly. We hold in high regard the relationship we built with both Mentor Foundation USA and the scholarship recipients, and our hope is the awardees find future success in all they choose to pursue.
Today’s youth is tomorrow’s future. We know that providing opportunities to underserved youth better positions them to achieve their future goals. It is important that we invest in our youth so they can pursue their academic interests...Leslie Sack, Executive Director at SFF
How does this partnership tie in with the core values of the Structured Finance Foundation?
The mission statement of the Structured Finance Foundation is “helping those in need build a better future”. In its search for a partner, SFF prioritized finding a local organization that could be substantially impacted by our support and inspire both financial and non-financial involvement in our Foundation. We were drawn to Mentor Foundation USA’s programs because they help ensure that students are prepared for post-secondary education and these programs are administered at high schools in the DMV area. Over the years, we have seen first-hand that the scholarship recipients are not only grateful for SFF’s support but are also crucially dependent on it to afford their tuition.
Additionally, SFF and our affiliated organization, the Structured Finance Association (SFA), have made Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion a top priority for our organizations. We seek to provide meaningful opportunities for those who are underrepresented and underserved, as well as enhance representation, impact and exposure of diverse professionals, and our partnership with Mentor Foundation USA helps us achieve those goals with students who may one day become professionals in our industry.
We were drawn to Mentor Foundation USA’s programs because they help ensure that students are prepared for post-secondary education...Leslie Sack, Executive Director at SFF
What are your hopes and ambitions for the future of this partnership?
First and foremost, we hope all the SFF scholarship recipients are on track to receive their annual scholarships for the duration of their secondary educations, whether they were initially awarded two- or four-year awards. We are encouraged by the students that continue to meet the renewal requirements and stay engaged in Mentor Foundation’s programs, and we hope that they ultimately complete their undergraduate degrees.
Furthermore, we have had several students who were initially awarded two-year scholarships that then transfer to four-year colleges or universities. SFF is pleased to offer financial support to these students for an additional two years so that they have the financial means to continue their academic studies.
SFF has been especially thrilled to support students that have an expressed interest in studying finance or business-related fields. Upon graduation, we hope to help these students as they navigate potential careers in our industry by connecting them to the significant network of the SFA membership, which represents all sectors of the securitization market including issuers, investors, financial intermediaries, law firms, accounting firms, technology firms, rating agencies, servicers, and trustees. We hope the resources and people in SFA’s broad and diverse network can serve to support the scholarship recipients as they begin their professional careers.
A big thank you to Leslie for taking the time to speak with us and sharing some of Structured Finance Foundations’ thoughts and perspectives on youth empowerment. We are grateful for this fantastic partnership that keeps on supporting and furthering young people’s educational opportunities!
About the Structured Finance Foundation
The Structured Finance Foundation is an affiliate of the Structured Finance Association, Inc. (SFA), a member-based, trade industry group focused on improving and strengthening the broader structured finance and securitization market. The Structured Finance Foundation seeks to support youth education and has initially partnered with Scholarship America and Mentor Foundation USA to develop and provide scholarship programs for the young people engaged in the Mentor Foundation’s programs. The Structured Finance Foundation also connects scholarship winners to the significant network of the SFA membership, which represents all sectors of the securitization market including issuers, investors, financial intermediaries, law firms, accounting firms, technology firms, rating agencies, servicers, and trustees. www.structuredfinance.org