Johnson & Johnson (J&J) partners with FHI 360’s National Institute for Work and Learning on the Bridge to Employment (BTE) program that works with 14-to-18-year-old students in underserved communities in the United States and across the globe to mentor them about health careers and educational opportunities beyond secondary school. After more than 25 successful years of BTE, J&J launched a pilot initiative called Pathway to Success – a college retention program. As a part of the pilot, FHI 360 and Johnson & Johnson partner in offering continued support through workshops and workplace readiness experiences which are designed to help high school graduates navigate through college.
Marilyn Teutle Cuautle started the BTE program as a sophomore in high school. And through a meet and greet event, Marilyn chose Jean Weir, a Senior Manager in the law department at Johnson & Johnson, to be her mentor. This first meet and greet set the stage for the next seven years as Marilyn and Jean had the added benefit of continuing their mentor/mentee relationship through the Pathway to Success initiative.
“At the first J&J social to pick our mentors, Jean’s personality really attracted me. When Jean sat at my table to talk, I felt like we would get along, so I listed her as my first choice. After we were matched and met for the first time as official mentor/mentee, it was exactly as I had imagined it. She was very open and had so much joy in her that was really contagious. And that was our start.” – – Marilyn Teutle Cuautle
“Thinking back to when I first met Marilyn – that first quick encounter at a table where mentors and mentees had only a few minutes to make an introduction – to where we are right now, Marilyn’s confidence has grown so much. She’s a resilient young woman. And I’m so proud of where she is now. I’ve kept up with her after she graduated out of the BTE program and I’m so proud to see that she is doing so well at Rutgers.” – – Jean Weir
J&J partners with FHI 360, staff at schools and local community volunteers to provide students with real-world experiences about their education and careers. The BTE program provides mentors and mentees a unique experience to build lasting relationships. Building these relationships takes time and effort.
“Establishing a good mentor/mentee relationship can be challenging. The mentors I’ve had in my life occurred organically, whereas the BTE relationship is through a program. At the end of the day, a connection must be established so that you can be comfortable discussing your goals and challenges and everyday life. That comfort level is the foundation and everything else just falls into place from there. – – Jean Weir
“We were both new to this kind of relationship and it could have resulted in nothing. However, Jean shared her experiences with me, and I returned the effort. Reciprocity is essential when creating a strong relationship. Even if it was just talking about our day, it felt good to share with someone who also shared back. BTE mentors give their time by being in this program and you don’t get much out of a relationship if you don’t give back so we should give our best effort.” – – Marilyn Teutle Cuautle
Through BTE, Johnson & Johnson encourages their employees to build personal relationships along with strong community relationships. Giving back to the community is a part of the Credo that is embraced by employees at all levels of the company.
“It’s very rewarding to have the ability to have an impact, even in a small way, on a student’s life. I’m inspired to see how dedicated and enthusiastic these students are, and I want to do what I can to help stoke that enthusiasm. It’s a win-win situation and a reason why I volunteered to help run bi-monthly mentoring sessions. These are informal opportunities to interact with the students and build deeper connections during game nights, or pizza parties or making blankets together to give back to the One Child, One Blanket program.” – – Jean Weir
“I volunteered for two BTE panels [with the Pathway to Success initiative]. One was in Phoenixville, PA and the other was in New Brunswick, NJ. In New Brunswick, I met BTE students from around the world. I was able to share with them my own experiences with BTE. I was also able to help students from Mexico by translating their ideas to other students and the information for their challenge project. It was good for my soul to see that I could have an impact on these students.” – – Marilyn Teutle Cuautle
Through the BTE program, J&J provides employees with formal curricula on being a mentor – traditional conversations about good interviews, writing essays, and how to work with youth – all to help build stronger personal relationships.
“Jean has been there for so many things in my life. When you think of the word mentor, you think of someone who has experience in the field that you’re trying to go into. That they’re going to teach you the ropes and tips and tricks. But it’s also important to have a mentor who will teach you about life and who you can just talk to, and who can be your cheerleader. Jean’s in law and my major is Material Science Engineering, so we’re not the traditional mentor/mentee. But that doesn’t make her any less of a mentor!” – – Marilyn Teutle Cuautle
“Connecting with Marilyn has made me more aware of the challenges that young people face. The media often criticize the younger generation, but I’ve seen first-hand just how challenging things can be for students today. And the challenges the BTE students have made me appreciate how special these students are, how driven they are. What I see with these students has certainly given me hope for the future that I find encouraging, very encouraging. Looking back at the students in that first cohort, Marilyn is such a superstar. I really lucked out. I’m very grateful that she is in my life!” – – Jean Weir
Explore the Bridge to Employment website to learn more about the BTE family and the J&J and FHI 360 partnership.