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Project OpportunitySM is pleased to announce the completion of its initial Mentoring Pilot Program which was conducted with graduates of Harford County Veteran and Military Spouse Classes. A total of nine (9) individuals were selected to participate with seven (7) completing the program and graduating on September 14, 2023.

Since the first Project OpportunitySM class in 2010, graduates have expressed a desire for mentoring after course completion to assist them in the pursuit of a successful business. Numerous surveys, phone calls, and conversations over the years continually brought this topic up as the number one desire of our graduates.

In 2023 we were able to receive funding from the Safeway Foundation to establish a pilot program for mentoring graduates. Harford County was chosen as the location for this program based on a small number of graduates and a strong community support of veterans.

Robert Brown, Harford County Veterans Affairs Coordinator, was brought on to develop and manage the pilot based on his previous experience with developing and managing mentoring programs while with the US Office of Personnel Management. His thoughts are “A mentor is that person who can listen and provide insight from a “been there, done that” perspective. The mentor is the person who balances the candid feedback, push, and support to build confidence in the mentee.”

The original concept of this pilot program was to identify veteran-owned businesses in Harford and Cecil Counties to act as mentees for our program participants. We were able to identify four veteran business owners to assist us but had to also request Project OpportunitySM graduates from other areas of Maryland to assist us.

Mentor/Mentee matches were based on input from interested mentees gathered during informational sessions, questionnaires, and surveys.

Informational sessions were held for both potential mentees and mentors to explain the goals of the program. Emphasis was placed on the differences between mentoring and coaching. Expectations from both groups were sought out and incorporated into the program development.

Focus groups were held for both groups at the completion of the 9-month program to be able to evaluate the effectiveness, determine areas for improvement, obtain recommendations for program content, and determine the need for future mentoring within the Project OpportunitySM Graduate community.

Mentee input from the focus group included:

  • “Mentor provided direction. He gave me the steps I needed. Provided a roadmap.”
  • “The mentor had me think of things I never would have on my own.”
  • “Had me make milestones Had me make milestones”

As we draw closer to the start of 2024 Project OpportunitySM is in the process of seeking funding to continue the Harford County Mentoring Program and looking at ways to expand to provide this program to other program graduates as well.

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