Senior Mentor Series – Meet Bill Zaccardelli & Rachel (Lopez) Brannon

Bill & Rachel
Bill Zaccardelli, Associate at Western Reserve Partners LLC
Rachel (Lopez) Brannon, Technical Project Manager at Rosetta Marketing Group
Where are you from?
Bill: I’m from Cleveland!


Rachel: I’m from upstate New York, my job brought me here.


How did you learn about Minds Matter Cleveland?
Bill: I learned about Minds Matter from work. Western Reserve Partners LLC is a corporate supporter of Minds Matter Cleveland.


Rachel: I also knew of Minds Matter from work back in 2012. Rosetta Marketing Group used to be very involved with the organization.


Why did you decide to become volunteers?
Bill: I was fortunate enough with my background and got to attend Saint Ignatius High School. However, I knew that not every student in Cleveland had the same type of opportunity. I came across Minds Matter and realized that there was something special about this group. Minds Matter students actually want to be here [Saturday sessions] instead of being forced to do so. They want to better themselves. And for that, I wanted to help.


Rachel: I had some informal tutoring experience before moving to Cleveland and previously worked with many other students. Minds Matter students are so different! They are super motivated to work harder and to become better. Plus I wanted to be involved with the growing Cleveland community in some way. So I became a volunteer mentor.


What do you like most about Minds Matter Cleveland?
Bill: I like how Minds Matter teaches students about everything and has so much resources to offer them. I also admire the students’ attitude and motivation to get up early on Saturdays to be at sessions. I thought it would be challenging to get my mentee focused, but he surprised me every time.
Rachel: I love the genuine mentoring relationship that we can create with our mentee rather than a “pushing” one. Initially I thought that Minds Matter would be more of a tutoring program. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the organization could provide a full program, from tutoring to mentoring. The fact that our students actually invest a lot of time into their Minds Matter’s involvement is so cool too!


Who is your mentee? Tell us more about him.
Bill & Rachel: We have Tomislav as our mentee. He is currently attending St. Martin de Porres High School. Tomislav is interested in photography (he actually helped us taking the pictures you see in this post). Among his 8 college options at the time this interview took place, he plans on majoring in computer science.
Rachel: Of course, I’m super happy and very excited to hear that!


What is the most rewarding part of your mentoring experience?
Bill & Rachel: It has to be seeing Tomislav go somewhere in life. The idea of him having to choose among many different college options is mind blowing since he is the first generation in the family to go to college. It’s certainly a good dilemma to have!
Bill: Every single week, I can see Tomislav maturing and growing and the changes he has made to his own life. At first he was shy. Now he’s excited to share with us his life stories, thinking about going away for college and moving away from his family.


Rachel: The students keep me motivated. My mom is an immigrant, I saw all the hard work she did to get to where she is today. At Minds Matter, I see the same dedication in these students, all the obstacles they go through to gain college access and earn higher education. Bill and I did not have that kind experience that so it’s amazing being able to see it.


What does the future look like for your mentorship with the student and your involvement with Minds Matter Cleveland after graduation?
Bill: I look forward to see his journey, you know the whole college experience, future internships, and all.


Rachel: I cannot wait to ask Tomislav about his algorithms *laugh*!
Bill, Rachel, Tomislav - 2 Bill, Rachel, Tomislav