Mentoring helps scholarship students find path to success
Timothy Ho, UNCF scholarship recipient
Mentoring helps scholarship students find path to success
Timothy Ho, UNCF scholarship recipient
Volunteering & Giving
February 23, 2017

Mentoring helps scholarship students find path to success

Wells Fargo team members provide mentoring and other coaching to enhance the company’s support of UNCF and other education-based nonprofits.

When Timothy Ho, a first-generation college student, traveled to Washington, D.C. in 2016 to attend a leadership conference as part of his UNCF scholarship, he had no idea he would also find his mentor.

The University of Texas at Austin computer science major was interested in learning how Gary Simms Sr., a senior technology strategy consultant at Wells Fargo, had navigated his career. So, after attending Simms’ seminar, Ho struck up a conversation. This conversation was the beginning of a mentoring relationship that continues to this day.

Gary Simms Sr. chats regularly with Timothy Ho, the student he's mentoring. (3 minutes)

The two speak regularly — with Simms coaching Ho through his 2016 summer internship with Dell, and even helping him secure an internship with Capital One for this coming summer.

“Having someone like Gary be able to guide me through the nuances of how I behave at work, and how I build a strategic network, was really powerful and comforting because there was always someone I could rely on to ask the difficult questions to,” Ho said.

For Simms, time spent with Ho and his seven other mentees is a way of both giving back and continuing his own education. “We don’t just come with all the knowledge and we learn as we engage our mentees,” Simms said. “You can’t put an end on learning and growing.”

Helping students to and through school

Simms and Ho represent just one of many mentor-mentee relationships that exist as part of Wells Fargo’s partnership with UNCF and other national, education-based nonprofits.

“It’s part of the personal side of our commitment to doing everything we can to ensure the success of our next generation, and support equity in its opportunity,” said Gigi Dixon, director of national strategic partnerships at Wells Fargo.

UNCF is one of eight education-based nonprofits that Wells Fargo supports, both financially and through college-assistance programs like the leadership conference where Simms and Ho first met. In addition to the more than $1 million Wells Fargo provides annually to both UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which supports students attending historically black colleges and universities, the company made individual $40,000 grants to each nonprofit in February in recognition of Black History Month.

“Our funding helps to make these programs possible, but our people help make them meaningful for students,” said Dixon. “What counts is what the students take away and plug into the future.”

“At UNCF, we are grateful for the tremendous commitment, support and investment that Wells Fargo has made, not only to our educational programs, but to help advance our efforts to get students to and through college,” said Paulette Jackson, vice president of development at UNCF. “Through our educational programs like the Empower Me Tour, we strive to connect our students with dynamic professionals like Gary Simms Sr., whose impact can transform the lives of first-generation college students and graduates.”

Volunteers who make a difference

Wells Fargo also provides volunteers to back up their financial support. In 2016 alone, more than 150 Wells Fargo team members spent more than 1,100 hours working with the company’s seven education-based strategic partners: UNCF, Thurgood Marshall College Fund, The Point Foundation, American Indian Graduate Center, Hispanic Scholarship Fund, Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and Scholarship America.

For Simms, having his employer fully support his volunteering efforts is a source of pride.

“Watching what Wells Fargo does in engaging students through UNCF and Thurgood Marshall College Fund is phenomenal,” he said. “They really, really do take the time and energy and effort to allow us as team members to use our volunteer service time to support these activities and to really help nurture the growth of not only these organizations, but the students participating.”

Keys to successful mentoring

Simms believes mentoring comes in all shapes and sizes, and even from unlikely places. “In reality, mentoring comes from everywhere. I truly, truly believe the greatest mentor I ever had was an administrative assistant who taught me to be humble,” he said.

Both Simms and Ho agree the key to any mentor-mentee relationship is trust and open communication. “I wasn’t afraid to share with Gary when I was struggling,” said Ho. “And at the same time, Gary never held back those hard stories that he had when he first started working. And I think, like, that was the personal touch I needed in order to be successful.”

Ho also points out that fear should not stand in the way of making connections.

“You can’t just go up to someone and ask them, ‘will you be my mentor’, but my advice to any other college student that wants a mentor is to never be afraid to reach out to the people that they’re interested in,” Ho said. “Whether they’re an executive, the president of an organization, or even if they’re just a professional in the workplace, if you’re interested in what they do and if your values align with theirs, don’t be afraid to reach out.”

Having the courage to speak to Simms during the leadership conference in Washington, D.C. has enabled Ho to strengthen his resume, his confidence and his outlook on the future.

“Gary is a part of my network now,” said Ho. “He’s my friend, he’s my mentor, and no matter where we go, we’re always going to be there for each other.”