Leading the Way

Beyond School Walls mentor program helps students succeed

For the past two years, Unum has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Chattanooga to help coordinate the Beyond School Walls mentoring program.

Beyond School Walls pairs up youth from Orchard Knob Middle School to meet with a professional employee mentor throughout the school year.

“The program allows the students to experience the benefits of having a mentor, while also being exposed to a variety of career opportunities that they can begin to consider for their own future,” Miles Huff, Community Relations Specialist for Unum, said. “It also offers our employees the opportunity to develop themselves by mentoring their ‘little’ and learning how to navigate a relationship with someone who may be very different from themselves.”

As part of the program, students participate in weekly relationship building sessions with their mentor as well as Career Days every four to six weeks. The events feature special guest speakers, company tours and career-focused activities and discussion.

Jeff Sheckley, Assistant Vice President of Internal Audit at Unum, has volunteered as a big brother for the past 10 years. “Beyond School Walls has given me a platform to reciprocate the support I received during my own personal growth and development,” he said. “I have been fortunate enough to make a difference in the lives of four young men and have enjoyed and learned so much from my time with each of them.”

Since the start of the program in 2016, BBBS has matched 44 Orchard Knob students with Unum mentors.

“I have seen students mentored by Unum volunteers grow in self-confidence, develop leadership skills, improve their grades and become inspired about future career opportunities,” Emily Barrow, program manager and director of site-based learning for BBBS, said. “Our volunteer mentors from Unum are some of the best. Their time and dedication has helped influence dozens of young people.”

The success of the program, as well as Unum’s ongoing financial contributions, have served as a catalyst in the Chattanooga community. Since its launch, two additional companies have now partnered with BBBS, meaning that around 60 students are being mentored.

“We are very thankful for our collaborative partnership with Unum,” Theresa Varos, Chief Executive Officer of BBBS, said. “It was their willingness to host the first local Beyond School Walls Program in 2016 that has enabled Big Brothers Big Sisters to expand our program, thus allowing for life-changing opportunities for so many of our city’s youth.”