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The Power of Mentorship & Four Nonprofit Organizations You Should Know

Kimberly Cassady

Chief Talent Officer, Cornerstone

Each November, Cornerstars around the world commemorate the founding of Cornerstone OnDemand with a week of training, looking back, dreaming big, volunteering and, of course, lots of celebrating! Having an expanding and increasingly global team, you can imagine our anniversary celebrations look different each year. But three things remain constant: bowling, Mexican food and giving back to local communities. Naturally, since Cornerstone’s first official meeting was held at a bowling alley in Santa Monica and ended with a celebration at El Cholo Mexican restaurant on November 8, 1999. And giving back has been central to our vision since day one – in fact, we were founded with a mission to educate the world through technology.

How Can I Make a Difference?

This year’s community-focused event shed light on the power each one of us has to make a difference in another’s life, empowering our team of more than 900 employees to seek opportunities to mentor others in areas in which they are passionate. Few speak to the power of the individual better than our keynote, John Prendergast, a well-known champion for human rights in Africa, former Director of African Affairs for the National Security Council, best-selling author and co-founder of the Enough Project, which seeks to end genocide and crimes against humanity.

John has also seen the power of mentorship by serving as a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters for over a decade. During his time with us, John shared ten building blocks for making change in the world, supporting each with incredible, inspirational stories from his experiences as a "Big" in Washington D.C. and trips around the globe working to bring change to areas of genocide. These stories from John’s life provided a great reminder for us all – helping others is worth the risk and commitment.

A Focus on Local Mentorship

After John laid the groundwork, our founder and CEO, Adam Miller, led a panel discussion about mentorship and opportunities to get involved with four nonprofit organizations making a difference in our home base of Los Angeles. Here are their stories:

  • SCORE. Now in its 50th year of operation, Score is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground. Mentors deliver free, confidential advice to help startups and existing small businesses achieve their goals. Since 1964, SCORE has helped 10 million people navigate the difficulties entrepreneurs face at all parts of their journey, from crafting a business plan and recruiting and retaining their first employees, to scaling the business and keeping the lights on.

  • Walk With Sally. Founded by a man who lost his mother to breast cancer at a young age, Walk With Sally provides mentoring support programs and services to children of parents or siblings with cancer. All of the mentors have experienced cancer firsthand or through a parent or sibling, and through a year-long mentorship, bring with them understanding and emotional support critical to the child’s wellbeing in the midst of crisis.

  • Vet to Vet. Administered by fellow veterans, Vet to Vet is a peer-counseling program that helps veterans recover and integrate back into society. Through support groups, housing and employment services, medical treatment, and rehabilitation services, Vet to Vet has helped countless veterans nationwide recover while providing opportunities to pay it forward and help fellow veterans along in their rehabilitation process.

  • SPARK. Spark provides apprenticeships to middle-schoolers at high risk for dropping out, seeking to help students see the link between their coursework and their future career. Mentors are paired with students who dream of working in their profession, and together they work on a project related to the student’s career interests for one hour per week, for 8-10 weeks.

Cornerstone is actively involved with Spark Los Angeles, and at 51 mentors this semester, we’re the largest corporate sponsor nationwide. Each week, students visit the Cornerstone offices and meet with their mentors to work on their projects, hang out, eat snacks in our kitchen and play foosball/ping pong. The "play" time is just as important as the project time—for many mentees, it’s the first time they have stepped into an office and seen that work can be interesting, challenging and fun. In Los Angeles, students involved with Spark have a 92 percent graduation rate/likelihood to graduate, versus 62 percent nationwide.

Fun fact: The model of bussing students to their mentors’ company started with Cornerstone. After seeing higher engagement and participation rates among mentors, this has now been implemented by Spark nationwide as "the Cornerstone model."

Each of these four organizations has truly inspirational programs and services, so much so that we wanted to donate resources and time to support the work they’re doing to make an impact on pockets of our community where support is most needed. So we took it to a live vote and let our Cornerstars decide how we would donate— giving each of our Cornerstars $50 to split between these organizations however they desired, for a total donation of $50,000—not including the donations that several employees committed of their time and money to give back to each of these organizations.

This year’s community event was a welcomed reminder to continue to be active participants in helping others for good, both in our backyard and around the globe. I’m reminded again of one of John Prendergast’s simple encouragements: "Any human being, with all their faults and warts, can make a difference in another person’s life. Take a risk, and make a commitment." Challenge accepted.

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