Today we’d like to introduce you to Andrew J. Donaldson, better known as AJ.
Cofounder, Executive Director & STEM Program Director, raised in Miami by a single mother, AJ often leaned on mentors throughout his childhood to help guide him and fill the void left by an absent father. The positive encouragement and guidance from his own mentors sparked a desire to provide the same for students in the community. After years of success, his passion for helping those in need culminated into the establishment of The EPIC Foundation (2014). EPIC as an acronym which stands for Experienced Professionals Impacting Communities. This developing 501(c)(3) public charity is actively organizing the efforts of many corporations, major contributors as well as private donors and volunteers in pursuit of abolishing the effects of systemic racism. EPIC invests into the lives of a diverse group of disadvantaged youth from low-to-moderate income homes who cannot afford the educational supplement necessary to be successful in today’s evolving system.
Donaldson, as known by several of his mentees, earned a Dual Audio-Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Miami in 2003. He was also a recognized student-athlete, playing the fullback position for the Miami Hurricanes’ Division-I football team from 1998 to 2000. Prior to graduating from the University of Miami, AJ provided mentoring services to various private organizations and parents, yielding the establishment of Donaldson Scholar Mentors, LLC in 2005, which was eventually rebranded as United Mentors, LLC in 2012 (www.umentors.com). South Florida native and University of Miami alumnus, AJ Donaldson, now has over two decades of teaching and academic mentoring experience. In his career, he has successfully serviced more than 1,000 students in a variety of subjects, crafting a unique and comprehensive methodology that guarantees student cooperation and success. Per his academic mentoring methodology, each student is guaranteed to increase at least one grade-level or more.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
HA! No way! The #1 struggle for almost everyone coming from a low-to-moderate income household or population is funding but, more importantly, the understanding and/or a true education of how to be funded and retrieve the funds necessary for start-ups. A close second would be the “don’t know that you don’t know” factor. It isn’t that the knowledge isn’t available, but many of “us” are misguided and/or unaware of what we should even be searching for or that we should even be searching for the proverbial “it.”
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
United Mentors redefines tutoring by creating an education-based mentoring environment focused on the needs of all children. We feel the infusion of mentoring into the educational track is a true, long-term solution to the gaps that exist. As an Engineer, my problem-solving skills are utilized within the operations and quality control of our services. Outside of managing the organization, my specific specialty is in Mathematics, to which I personally administer the SAT Preparation Program while our extended list of academic mentors work with the various UMentors clients within their grade school subjects.
The EPIC Foundation is an established group of qualified professionals striving to positively impact underserved South Florida students through scholarships, mentorship, and creating diverse career pathways. Our Mission is to support disadvantaged students and create long-term success. This charity started as a passion project of mine to which I paid my success forward to underserved students in the form of scholarships starting in 2014. Since then and even more recently, my network and skills in mentor programming as well as corporate relationship building has yielded a developing nonprofit organization that will soon stand on its own.
Who else deserves credit in your story?
This may sound cliché to some, but first and foremost, all credit goes to GOD! I can say without any doubt that my life would have no true purpose without Him. A very close second or #1b would be my mother! A very hardworking and gifted woman who chose to raise me on her own due to my birth father depicting a lifestyle she did not want for me. He was not the kind of man to step up and raise the child he participated in creating so for all intents and purposes, I was “bastard” as a child. This is me taking poetic license of my life’s story and using this seemingly negative word as a part of speech to depict the lack of action personified by this individual. I honor my mother for her decision and the tireless work she committed in an effort to provide me with the best life she could.
I could go on and on about my mother and appreciate everything she sacrificed but there were also several MENtors who I sought out for wisdom and insight as I grew and developed during my late adolescent and early adult years as well. One gentleman in particular, Bishop Duane Swilley, played a very significant role in setting the example of a dynamic family man to whom I emulated as I entered into my own marriage and fatherhood.
Both my mother and other mentors of my own, reside on one of our ancillary boards for The EPIC Foundation. Two other board members include my Junior high English teacher turned COO of a large Construction company, Annie Mecias-Murphy of JA&M Developing Corp as well as our attorney, Marlon Bryan, Esq. These two individuals I hold in very HIGH regard towards my success and that of the organizations I’ve founded.
- United Mentors Academic Mentoring Packages hour rate ranges from as high as an $89 pay-as-you-go rate to as low as $49.
- The EPIC Foundation’s STEM E-mentoring Program is FREE to those motivated students from LMI populations who qualify.
- Email: Info@EpicSouthFlorida.org or Corporate@umentors.com
- Website: https://www.EpicSouthFlorida.org or https://www.umentors.com
- Instagram: https://Instagram.com/EpicSouthFlorida & https://Instagram.com/UnitedMentors
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EpicSFL & https://Facebook.com/UnitedMentors
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.
com/Epic_Florida & https:// www.twitter.com/UMentors
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkT7IiKZVvs7OIL6Eb7GX0g and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClnbywB34sPAU39bjwY-r9Q