Juniors Activate Lead From Here With UNC Mentorship Exchange

Juniors Activate Lead From Here With UNC Mentorship Exchange
  • Makers
Julie Dengler

Working with scholars from the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, students put their citizen leadership competencies into practice in preparation for the professional world.

This year, a group of Ravenscroft juniors with a passion for blazing new trails has had the opportunity to take their learning in Lead From Here one step further as they participated in a mentorship exchange program with student scholars from the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship — like Lead From Here, Ravenscroft’s citizen leadership framework — is the only one of its kind in the United States. Founded in 2004, the program offers courses, internships and travel programs designed to empower its scholars to “turn their ideas and inspiration into action” through learning about start-ups; developing competencies in communication, collaboration and networking; and connecting with successful entrepreneurs.

“As we continue to think about how we prepare students for ‘a complex and interdependent world,’ this mentorship program gives our students the opportunity for a college experience and to learn more about who they are and how they represent themselves,” Associate Head of School Justin Brandon said. “It supports our mission and Lead From Here by providing our students with a real-world experience to use the skill set they have learned and to see what it means to lead self, lead others and change their world.”

This year’s juniors in the Shuford Mentorship Program gather with their mentors — including three Ravenscroft alumni — during a visit to the UNC campus earlier this year: (front row) Siddarth Kamma ’25, Jai Gupta ’25, Sasha Olander ’25, Ethan Silverman ’25, Peyton Gallagher ’25, Lilla Megyeri ’25, Nina Sharkady ’25, Gracie Goldberg, Lauren Shaffer ’20; (back row) Michael Sisson ’19, Brodie Batten ’22, Rosser Martin, Nicholas Hutto, Andy Vitello ’25, Victor Qi ’25, Leven McConahay ’25, DyQuan Antonio and Carter Bridges.

“A lot like what Ravenscroft does”

The mentorship program at Ravenscroft began with a chance meeting between two Ravens: alum Michael Sisson ’19 and Kathleen Malik, parent of Macey ’26 and Sammey ’26.

At the time, Sisson was a Shuford scholar, teaching assistant and student ambassador at UNC. During a Shuford advisory board meeting, he and Malik, who has been a board member for four years, quickly found common ground in their Ravenscroft connection — and a shared interest in championing mentorship.

“Lead From Here, at least for me, all of its qualities have shone throughout my college experience,” Sisson said. “When we started the [mentorship program at Ravenscroft], we were thinking, not only is this about building on the Leading Self part and learning more about yourself but how you can better communicate and work together with others. I think it comes into Changing Your World.”

Juniors listen to alumni of the Shuford Mentorship Program pilot talk about their experiences and takeaways during a fall 2023 workshop in the Keim Center for Innovation and Research. While the formal mentorship exchange program is limited to 10 students, the fall workshop was open to additional Ravens.

Malik shared a similar perspective. “Shuford is globally conscious. They emphasize respect and kindness over everything else,” she said. “That sounds a lot like what Ravenscroft does.”

When Malik approached Angela Finn, Ravenscroft’s Director of Library Services, with the idea of creating a mentorship program between Shuford scholars and Ravenscroft students, Finn ran with it, first getting Brandon and Head of School Doreen Kelly on board. After a pilot was conducted in the spring of 2023, the Shuford Mentorship Program was formally launched this year with a robust slate of opportunities for learning and collaboration.

As an educator who for more than a decade has watched Ravenscroft students prepare for their next steps after high school, Finn said the value of this mentorship exchange was very clear.

“I loved what I was seeing in the [Shuford] program — the diversity of students [and their fields of study] but also what our students were going to get out of it personally and what they would bring back to the Ravenscroft community,” she said. “It’s about finding your passion, selling yourself and selling an idea you have.”

At left, Ravens involved in the Shuford Mentorship Program pilot visit UNC in the spring of 2023: (front row) Kiya Quao ’24, JJ Mitchell ’24, Rachel Zaytoun ’24, Grace Petrov ’24, Abby Dix ’24, Laurel Caplan ’24; (back row) Yash Agarwal ’24, Jonathan Sisson ’24, Andrew Becton ’24, Arnav Gupta ’24 and mentor Michael Sisson ’19. At right, participants including Arnav, Grace and Abby listen to a presentation during a workshop in the Shuford suite at UNC.

“One of the most direct Leading With Others initiatives”

With the support of the UNC program’s executive director, Bernard Bell, Ravenscroft’s Shuford Mentorship Program focuses on the concepts of entrepreneurial skill sets and the importance of mentorship throughout an individual’s life and career. Shuford mentors, Ravenscroft mentees and educators from both schools have found the parallels with Lead From Here competencies as a key connection.

During the course of the program this spring, which included visits to the Shuford headquarters at UNC, students created an origin story — a personal exploration of their life experience and how it impacts their goals and dreams. Other sessions included practice making a first impression, role-playing resolving a professional conflict, and creating a strong resume and LinkedIn profile. In the end, participants presented a group capstone project.

Jim Martin, who teaches Ravenscroft’s Entrepreneurial Problem Solving class in the Upper School and worked with Finn in an advisory capacity, highlighted the value of that opportunity to work in groups using the design-thinking process — taking an idea, researching it and presenting a prototype to peers.

Bernard Bell, Executive Director of UNC’s Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship, makes opening remarks to the Ravens gathered in the Shuford Suite on the UNC campus for a working session; Siddarth Kamma ’25 and Bell practice greetings and handshakes, which the Shuford program instills in its participants as an essential skill for entrepreneurs.

“This is one of the most direct Leading With Others initiatives I have seen at Ravenscroft,” he said. “Students demonstrate empathy, communication and collaboration with their fellow Ravenscroft students, potential [customers] and mentors at UNC.”

That connection is clear to other Ravens as well. Lauren Shaffer ’20, another UNC Shuford scholar, served as a mentor during the pilot and became the program’s student coordinator for this year. For her, the partnership couldn’t be a better match.

“Both the Shuford program and Ravenscroft share a commitment to nurturing individual potential, fostering a love of learning and preparing students to thrive in a complex world,” she said.

Entrepreneurship is “for everyone in any career”

The experience has already fostered a sense of legacy, with Ravenscroft students from last year’s pilot program — now seniors who will enter college this fall — participating in the November workshop that welcomed the new class of juniors to the exchange. Among them was Rachel Zaytoun ’24, who plans to attend UNC and major in exercise and sports science and minor in entrepreneurship at Shuford.

“I would have never found the value of learning networking and self-branding skills if it hadn’t been for the Shuford program my junior year,” she said. “What it truly made me realize was that entrepreneurship is not only for those interested in business but for everyone in any career.”

Current program participant Lilla Megyeri ’25, a musician and visual artist, is interested in studying psychology in college. Like Rachel, she doesn’t see herself on the business-studies track, but she emphasized that she nonetheless gained a tremendous amount from the Shuford mentors.

“The Shuford program allowed me to create a design sprint and sit in on an entrepreneurship class. Both experiences caught my attention because they showed me the creativity that goes into business,” she said. “The program involved students from all fields and interests. To me, understanding the world around me is one of my biggest goals.”

Finn said the Shuford Mentorship Program at Ravenscroft will continue here, with UNC program leaders also hoping to establish a similar model for area public schools.

As Bell reflected, “The [Ravenscroft] program’s impact is a direct reflection of the commitment, passion and innovative spirit shared by all involved. Our motto is, ‘People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,' and if this isn’t an example of that, I don’t know what is!”

That spirit — dedicated to learning, sharing and giving back — has tapped into the kind of partnership and experiential learning so many students in today’s educational environment are seeking. As Finn said, “It truly shows us there’s a need.”

The Shuford Mentorship Program at Ravenscroft has been facilitated by Upper School Entrepreneurial Problem Solving teacher Jim Martin, Director of Library Services Angela Finn, Ravenscroft parent and Shuford advisory board member Kathleen Malik and former Shuford scholar Michael Sisson ’19.

At top, fall 2023 workshop participants Molly Gantt (a UNC Shuford mentor), Jin Jeong ’25 and Ethan Silverman ’25 participate in a small-group activity.

Eve Caudill ’25 works with a partner during the fall 2023 Shuford workshop.


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