Connections and Community

Four men at a restaurant. From left to right: Mr. Jim (older man standing), Mikias (young man sitting), Kirubel (younger man sitting), and Mr. Noah (middle aged man standing)
From L to R: Mr. Jim, Mikias, Kirubel, Mr. Noah in 2023

Connections made during mentoring can have a lasting impact. 

For former Higher Achievement mentors Mr. Jim and Mr. Noah, that impact was recently felt at a lunch reunion with two of their former mentees, Mikias and Kirubel. Mr. Jim and Mr. Noah mentored a group of four boys from Hammond Middle School in Alexandria from 2015-2017 and got to know them over weekly mentoring sessions as they progressed together from 5th to 8th grade. 

Mr. Jim first reconnected with Mikias on LinkedIn, learning that he was in his second year of college at Virginia Tech studying civil engineering and starting to look at internships. Their conversation continued throughout the months. During a school break, Mr. Jim coordinated a time for them to meet for lunch alongside Mr. Noah and another member of their mentoring group, Kirubel, who was also in his second year of college studying business information technology at Northern Virginia Community College.  

“We had not seen them since Higher Achievement,” said Mr. Jim. “It was gratifying to be around these two bright and well-adjusted young men.” He noted in particular how much their confidence had grown since 8th grade—a fact echoed by Mr. Noah, who remarked, “They weren’t boys anymore…they were men. They were polished, confident, friendly, and relaxed and I was impressed by their growth and maturity.”  

Four 8th grade boys in green graduation robes
Mr. Jim and Mr. Noah’s mentoring group during their 8th-grade graduation in 2017.

By the time the group met, Mikias had secured an internship at an excellent architecture firm in the area. Mr. Noahan architect at another local firmlooks forward to supporting Mikias’s future career aspirations. “I will actively recruit him his senior year and make sure he gets an interview,” said Mr. Noah.  

Mikias and Kirubel weren’t the only scholars Mr. Noah has been able to catch up with post-graduation. He’s cheered on a former scholar from Ward 1 as he made the game-winning save in a regional championship soccer match and reconnected with another Alexandria alum at the grocery store who is excelling as an undergraduate at Duke University in North Carolina. 

Mr. Noah calls Alexandria home. Higher Achievement’s Alexandria Achievement Center is an integral part of the fabric of the community. “I’m raising my kids here, Hammond is our local middle school, and the scholars are our neighbors. It has a real community feeling and I found it rewarding to give back to my community through mentoring,” said Mr. Noah. “Mentoring is a time commitment, but I always felt really supported. I got to know my scholars and be a significant part of their day. It meant a lot to see them grow up and I’m just so proud of them. 

Mr. Jim also felt a deep sense of community during his seven years as a mentor. “When I think of my time at Higher Achievement I think about the theme song of Cheers, ‘where everyone knows your name.’ Once a week during mentoring it was a place where everyone knows who you are. Scholars got along with each other despite their differences.” 

Higher Achievement is fueled by the power of community. Thousands of current and former mentors and alumni are part of the Higher Achievement community making a positive impact in their neighborhood and beyond and keeping their connections to each other alive.