Sharing Success Through Community College Mentorship
August 05, 2021
When Adam Syme was a student at Holyoke Community College (HCC), he bonded with a counselor in the student help center who became a mentor, meeting weekly with him to discuss how he was managing and balancing his life. “Barry kept me accountable and focused on my goals,” says Syme. “He recommended math tutors, HCC’s writing center, and networking events. And he sent me useful articles.”
Since he transferred to UMass Amherst and Isenberg, where he will graduate in December with a major in sport management, Syme has called on that experience to serve as a mentor himself, working through an HCC program called the Champions Mentorship Network. The program, which pairs first-year students with alumni of color, launched last fall with 16 alumni mentors and 21 students; alumni offer weekly advice and serve as successful role models.
“It’s all about how to succeed in college and beyond,” observes Syme, who moved from California to Massachusetts to study at HCC four years ago intending to transfer to UMass for the top-ranked McCormack Department of Sport Management.
It wasn’t his first big move: Born in Liberia, he was one of six boys adopted from West Africa by his mother, Petra; he moved to the Bay Area when he was in grade school.
Planning for College Success
“Going to HCC was strategic,” he says. “Once UMass was my number one option, I found HCC and its wonderful transfer program to Isenberg. Growing up a huge Celtics fan definitely aided my decision to come to Massachusetts.” HCC’s affordability and the ability to transfer automatically to UMass with a high enough grade point average paid off. “HCC prepared and primed me for Isenberg and its nationally acclaimed sport management program—both academically and career-wise,” notes the former high school varsity track and field athlete.
He was excited to pass his experience along to a younger student. “As a mentor, I was paired with another West African—a student from Nigeria,” he says. “She was just sixteen and really into accounting. We talked once or twice a week about schoolwork and other concerns like time management, networking, careers, and transferring to a four-year college.”
Until last May, Syme worked full-time as a sales consultant with Cellular Sales, honing his sales skills and fluency with tech products. The company’s national network of stores sells Verizon products. “I’ve always worked—mostly full time—to pay for my education,” he emphasizes. Before Cellular Sales, he interned with Young Entrepreneurs Across America, a national nonprofit organization that assigns teams of students to entrepreneurial projects. “One of my roles as a branch manager was to evaluate and hire students for entrepreneurial teams. I hired twenty of them and fired a few friends,” he recalls. During his junior year, he excelled as a residential counselor with ServiceNet, which provides clinical, residential, rehabilitative, and other services throughout Western Massachusetts. “I helped residents cultivate daily living skills, and offered motivation and emotional support. My goal was to help them become more independent.
Syme’s concern for others coupled with his business smarts and experience helped make him an exceptional mentor. And at Isenberg, he has acquired two exceptional mentors of his own—Sport Management Professor Matt Katz and Assistant Director of Career Services David Wells. “Matt is a great educator, who helped me with scholarships. David was always there for me. He pointed me to opportunities like networking events, internships, and jobs. And he explained what tools I needed to make the most of them.” Syme feels confident and prepared for his upcoming final semester job search: “I’m a sport management major but retail, wholesale, and entrepreneurship are where I’m headed,” emphasizes the Isenberg Sales Club member.