Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Shuford launches mentorship program with Ravenscroft School

The pilot program linked Ravenscroft high school juniors with students in the Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship this semester; leaders hope to expand the program to other schools.

Shuford mentees on stand on steps.
Shuford mentees from Ravenscroft School pose on the steps of Gardner Hall with Shuford senior Michael Sisson (top right) after completing their five-week mentorship program.

This spring, the launched a pilot Shuford Mentorship Program in partnership with in Raleigh. The Shuford Mentorship Program connected ۰ͼ Shuford students with Ravenscroft Upper School juniors to develop a mentorship relationship, further the students’ entrepreneurial education and share more about the transition to college life.

The program was designed by Shuford senior Michael Sisson and Shuford advisory board member Kathleen Malik. Both Sisson and Malik have a vested interest in the Shuford Program and Ravenscroft School. Aside from their roles at Carolina, Sisson graduated from Ravenscroft in 2019, and Malik currently has two children who attend the school.

The Shuford Program in Entrepreneurship empowers students to turn ideas and inspiration into action by understanding the basic principles of entrepreneurship. Through the minor in entrepreneurship, students also develop self-confidence by practicing soft skills and interacting in team environments, and they gain entrepreneurial experience by engaging with practicing entrepreneurs.

Sisson, a transfer student to Carolina, discovered the Shuford Program when he enrolled in “ECON 125: Introduction to Entrepreneurship” during his first semester in fall 2020, and he quickly discovered how much he would academically, professionally and personally grow by pursuing the entrepreneurship minor.

“Shuford offers a practical curriculum taught by professors of the practice who bring their real-world experience to the classroom. That experience is very valuable to my education, and I knew that it would set me up for success in the future,” Sisson said.

Sisson joined the ECON 125 teaching team as a teaching assistant and the Shuford Ambassadors during his junior year at Carolina. He then was selected as the first student liaison to the Shuford Program Advisory Board during the summer of 2022, where he met Malik, and they quickly discovered their shared connection to Ravenscroft.

Malik proposed the idea of creating a mentorship program with Ravenscroft and Shuford students to help them learn more about entrepreneurship and increase high schoolers’ excitement about attending college.

“We wanted to create a program where Ravenscroft juniors could visit Carolina’s campus a few times and see what it’s like to be a Shuford student by attending Shuford classes, interacting with their mentors, and further developing their entrepreneurial passions,” Sisson said.

Both Shuford and Ravenscroft students applied to participate in the Shuford Mentorship Program. This semester’s cohort consisted of 10 Ravenscroft juniors and nine Shuford students. They were paired based on professional and personal interests and remained in the same pairings throughout the programming.

During the spring semester, Ravenscroft students visited Carolina’s campus three times and attended two virtual meetings with their mentors. The mentors and mentees participated in a networking workshop hosted by Shuford Program Executive Director Bernard Bell, and they also attended the ECON 125 and ECON 393 “Entrepreneurship Capstone” classes.

Throughout the program, Ravenscroft students worked on a capstone project to create a personal brand and website. Sisson explained the idea behind this project: “We wanted the students to have a tangible takeaway from the program — something to complement the soft skills they would develop over the five weeks.”

Sisson continued, “One of the most useful projects I completed during my time in Shuford was the personal branding project in Chris Mumford’s ‘Principles of Entrepreneurship’ course. It was the first time I looked at myself, figured out who I am and how I wanted to portray myself to anyone I meet.”

The mentorship capstone project entailed creating a personal logo, website, résumé and LinkedIn page. Ravenscroft students also filmed an “origin story” video, where they spoke about who they are and what they hope to accomplish in the future. The capstone projects were presented on the final day of the program to Shuford faculty, mentors, advisory board members and Ravenscroft School administration and faculty members.

“I would have loved an opportunity before applying to colleges where I could look at everything I was involved with and figure out what message I wanted to portray in my application essays and résumé,” Sisson noted. “We wanted to set our mentees up for success in their future endeavors, just as the Shuford Program has done for its students.”

With a successful pilot semester completed, Sisson, Malik and Shuford leaders hope to grow the Shuford Mentorship Program in the coming semesters.

“We would love to continue our relationship with Ravenscroft, while expanding to underserved schools in the Triangle area,” Sisson said. “There is so much possibility to develop bright high schoolers’ entrepreneurial passions, and Shuford wants to provide them with that opportunity.”