BUCKHANNON — Most high school and college students share the struggle of wondering, “What’s next?” Mountaineer Connect, a newly founded mentorship program, is aimed at helping West Virginia students figure out that next step, by providing education and career guidance through mentorship. Founder Daniel Mason explained, “The network is comprised of West Virginians largely, some of whom live all over the world, that want to give back to students in West Virginia by sharing their experiences and helping them directly – helping them with career and education goals.” The program matches students in West Virginia with mentors that will help them learn more about college, majors and careers that are the match of their dreams.
The program is completely free and flexible upon the student’s request. Students or parents sign up through a form on their website, mountaineerconnect.com. Mountaineer Connect will then schedule a time to talk with the student and/or parent, and from that conversation and the form, a primary mentor will be assigned. Mason explained that the mentor will align with the student’s interests and strengths. “They’ll have conversation on a regular basis and the mentor will be responsible for introducing the student to everyone in the network,” Mason explained. If students feel their initial mentor was not a good match, Mason said, “We work closely with the students and have ways for them to provide feedback. Right now, the feedback will come to directly to me. But there will be ways to receive feedback and adjust, as necessary.”
The program has been mostly active in Buckhannon, since this is where Mason grew up. However, Mountaineer Connect is actively working with any interested students in West Virginia. The program is intended for high school students, up through college seniors. The goal is to help high schoolers discover their best college and major fit, and also assist them with career opportunities upon graduation from college. Everything is virtual for the time being, but Mountaineer Connect will have physical locations in West Virginia in the future, starting with Buckhannon.
Mason said he had been envisioning Mountaineer Connect for approximately a year and a half. During that time, he focused on building a network of people, mentors and resources to ensure that students had access to the best opportunities. The mentors are comprised from a broad host of industries, mix of careers and backgrounds that will hopefully be useful to students. These mentors vary from bankers on Wall Street, engineers and entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley, to doctors, lawyers, architects and scientists. “A broad mix of careers that I thought would be really helpful to students,” he explained.
When asked why he started Mountaineer Connect, Mason expressed, “I grew up in Buckhannon. I went to Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School and Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Since then, I have learned a lot about careers and the business world. I’ve founded four separate companies, and most recently co-founded a company out of California. We’ve hired 50 employees, raised $30 million, and really grown the business a lot. I think getting that experience on the business side and learning what careers are out there and how many people out there are willing to help, it just really inspired me to go back and give back to students like I was growing up in West Virginia, who are smart, hardworking, have everything they need but the one ingredient missing – access and exposure to all these different careers. Students don’t always know where to start… They are good at math, but they don’t know what to do with that, or they’re good at music and they don’t know how to build a career with that. I wanted to use the successes and exposure I’ve had to give back and help students find that path of what they really want to do in life.”
Mason has big hopes for the program. His dream is to eventually serve students in other areas aside from West Virginia. He added, “I would love to have students from every high school in the state utilizing the program.” Mason wants to create a robust network involving after school programs and a variety of other services, making education and career resources more accessible to thousands of students in West Virginia. For example, in the future, Mountaineer Connect will offer direct internship opportunities for students. He explained the long-term goal is that these students eventually bring their expertise back to West Virginia.
Mountaineer Connect also intends to work with schools directly in the future. “They’re interested in working with us, but their hands are full right now,” Mason explained. The Record Delta asked Mason why students should utilize the program and he explained, “This program stands out because of the quality of mentors. The access to amazing mentorship is unprecedented. It is how hands-on the work is. You can read stuff online, and you should, but there is no substitute to talking with someone who went to ‘that’ College or worked ‘that’ job. People should utilize this program because of that ability and accessibility to work with quality people who are really looking to help students out.”
Mason is a proud West Virginian and Buccaneer. He graduated from Wake Forest University with a double major in math and business. Upon graduation, he has mostly been an entrepreneur and lived in a bunch of different cities around the United States. However, his goal has always been to come back where he’s from – whether its building businesses or providing services.
Mason has been overwhelmed by the positive support regarding the program. To find out more information or get started with the program, follow the link https://www.mountaineerconnect.com/ or visit their Facebook page at “Mountaineer Connect.”