I travel the world looking for stories to read about companies that are a real force for the good of humanity and our planet.
That’s why I’m HAPPY to introduce to you Deborah Heiser, Founder and CEO of The Mentor Project ™.
The mission of Deborah Heiser and The Mentor Project is to use the world’s most precious natural resource. Our experts in STEAM, law, business and finance work to mentor more than 2 billion students for FREE worldwide. Our mentors pass on their knowledge and skills to change the trajectory and overall impact of the next generation.
Their impact to date? Over 61,000 students online and in person have benefited from free mentoring from experts from the United States, Argentina, Russia and India.
Let’s dive into the deep end.
Diana Tsai: What problem are you solving?
Deborah Heiser: We’re creating equal access to global expert mentors for students around the world who would otherwise never have access to this kind of knowledge base. Our mentors go to schools, create online content, develop and mentor hackathons, develop lectures, pitch contests, podcasts, television and virtually mentor individual students. We do this for FREE so that all students have an equal opportunity to access global experts.
Tsai: What’s the MEASURABLE IMPACT you’ve made so far?
Deborah Heiser: We have served 61,000 students in 4 countries (USA, Argentina, Russia and India). Half of our students live in underserved communities.
A story I love to share about how our mentors and partners are changing communities: At schools in Robeson County, one of the poorest counties in the United States, we partnered with Embedded Ventures, which has donates 8-bit computers to three classrooms. 8-bit computer assembly instruction by Jenna Bryant as part of their technology program. This live program was also broadcast live on twitch. Following this, we partnered with Ad Astra to create a chapter of the National Stem Honor Society to further their growth in STEM.
Tsai: Can you share any other stories about how you’ve transformed lives through your work?
Heiser: At the height of the pandemic, one of our mentees came up with the idea of patenting a doorknob that didn’t require the use of hands to open it, was able to get a patent for his vision with the mentors Jura Zibas and Bob Cousins. Bob, the prolific innovator, and Jura, an IP Superlawyer, worked for free with this mentee on the necessary forms, the required research, all the details needed to file a patent. A patent is impossible for most people, but because they worked with him every week for free, he could get a patent pending! And, for a 16-year-old, it’s a life-changing experience. The world opened up for this mentee with possibilities, new confidence and new skills. He plans to apply to college to pursue his passions for technology and innovation.
I also want to share a story about the impact of our work on our mentors. Bill Cheswick, the “Father of the Firewall,” said to me, “I want to go to classrooms to teach quantum mechanics to grade 4 students. Bill, well known the world over, well known the world over, had time to mentor but couldn’t find children to mentor for his world-changing cybersecurity job. He just didn’t have access to young children. Bill’s life changed as soon as he started going to school. He went there as often as the schools could get him. One school named the day it arrived “Ches Day”. He drove his Tesla from his farm in NJ to the Bronx, Long Island and schools in New Jersey. Bill became invigorated, productive and enthusiastic about planning programs from elementary school to high school.
After the pandemic hit, he had to stop going to schools, but now that they’re reopening, he’s ready to hop in his Tesla to travel to North Carolina for in-person mentorship at schools. Bill is happy and productive and knows his expertise is not wasted which has been transformative.
Tsai: What personally motivated you to start this business / organization?
Heiser: As an expert in applied developmental psychology and aging, I have come to think of mentoring from a mentor’s perspective. Research shows that we are built to want to give back to others by the time we hit our forties (when we become experts). Erik Erikson invented this stage in our Generativity lives. In my coaching practice, I continued to meet people with expertise but without the possibility of a mentor. A friend introduced me to Bob Cousins (the guy who patented the way we use credit cards on the internet and was named inventor of the year 2020), and he introduced me to countless innovators who also did not have access to mentees. Bob and I founded The Mentor Project to connect mentors with mentees.
Tsai: A little vulnerability – how do you take care of yourself to be the best version of yourself for the world?
Heiser: I surround myself with intelligent, generous and supportive people. The most useful way to relieve stress has been exercised. I also joined a pickleball team.
Tsai: Where do you see your organization in five years?
Heiser: I see The Mentor Project reaching a million mentees in 3 years and I think we will be in at least ten countries in five years.
Tsai: How can readers get involved / support / help?
Heiser: Get involved by going to our website. If you would like a mentor, click our Request a Mentor button. Visit our website if you want to access our podcasts, video content, participate in a hackathon or a conference. You can also apply to become a mentor by contacting us through our website. Access our podcasts on all major platforms.
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