North Plainfield, NJ
National Mentoring Month
BTE Family Story
The Bridge to Employment (BTE) program 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. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) partners with FHI 360’s National Institute for Work and Learning on the program to provide students with real-world experiences that increase their academic knowledge and awareness of college and careers. After more than 25 successful years of BTE, J&J launched a pilot initiative of 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.
Launched in 1992, BTE has a long history of connecting young high school students with J&J employees. Brenda Uchechi Okereke started the BTE program when she was a sophomore at North Plainfield High School, NJ in 2013. She just knew it was for her.
“I was told the BTE program would help us with personal development and college and career readiness. And when I saw all what it stood for, how they wanted to help us and how we would later on be able to give back to the community after we’ve gone through the program, it was clear to me that it was something that would be really good for me.” – – Brenda Uchechi Okereke
Gloria Candelario Hossri, Director Sales Force Effectiveness Product Line – Americas, Medical Devices Technology at J&J, saw an employee engagement opportunity with BTE and joined up in 2014.
“I saw BTE’s proven model and years of success … and a structure to engage with a group of students over three years. When I met Brenda back in 2014, I was struck by her engagement, energy, curiosity, and appreciation for our time together through BTE.” – – Gloria Candelario Hossri
The mentor and mentee relationship in the BTE program is built on the opportunities provided by J&J and FHI 360 in high school, the community, and at J&J World Headquarters. Even with similar experiences, the mentor/mentee relationship has a different meaning for everyone.
“I think a good mentor is someone who pushes you but is also supportive. They’re always checking in to make sure that you’re operating at your best. And Gloria has fostered a personal relationship with me outside of just strictly BTE. And she had an investment in my growth and in my personal development and I think that’s what makes a good mentor.” – – Brenda Uchechi Okereke
“A good mentor listens, offers support and encouragement, is a positive role model, shares knowledge and professional/life experiences. [Mentors] make connections to other resources, bringing information and insights to the mentee. For both – being consistent and showing up, being open and engaged, investing the time and making the most out of it. – – Gloria Candelario Hossri
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.
“Our Credo highlights our responsibility to our local communities. BTE provided the structure to engage with a group of students over three years. This program enabled me to give back to my community by using my “Talent for Good” serving as a role model to the students and leading the team of volunteers to ensure success.” – Gloria Candelario Hossri
“A BTE speaker asked us ‘you were put on this to make a difference; what are you gonna do?’ and that has always stuck with me. It was a central topic in my college essays. And I always think about how to enact change, to make a difference and make sure I’m leaving places different and better than when I first came in.” – – Brenda Uchechi Okereke
Brenda and Gloria continue their relationship through the Pathway to Success initiative. And in the years to come, they will learn even more together.
“I am confident that Brenda will continue to do great things, not only for her academic and professional career but also by giving back to others and serving as a role model for other young women in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]. Brenda will continue to take on the biggest challenges to help her reach her full potential. I know that she can do anything she puts her mind and energy around and I am so excited to see what is next!” – – Gloria Candelario Hossri
“Having a company like Johnson & Johnson invest in my development and me personally from such a young age really helped me take school more seriously. For instance, I’m pretty sure before BTE I was not thinking of engineering, and now I’m a senior in my biomedical engineering program at Rutgers! Ultimately, I want to receive a PhD in biomedical engineering with a focus on patients and clinical tissue engineering. Then hopefully circle back to Johnson & Johnson.” – – Brenda Uchechi Okereke
Explore the Bridge to Employment website to learn more about the BTE family and the J&J and FHI 360 partnership.