ServiceWorks ‘Dream Team’ Pair Demonstrates Power of Mentorship

Feb 15, 2017
Christian Illescas and Marc Wolensky are joined by Tia Hodges of Citi Foundation, and Stephanie Armelin and Georgia Gillette of Points of Light, at the MENTOR Conference in Washington, D.C.

At first glance, Jersey Cares Success Coach Marc Wolensky and college student and ServiceWorks alum Christian Illescas don’t seem like two people whose paths would be likely to cross – but looks can be deceiving.

Through Points of Light’s ServiceWorks program, Marc and Christian were paired up as a success coach and mentee in 2015. Working together, they share ideas and find unique ways to help their community. Their successful relationship – Christian calls them “The Dream Team” – led them to be invited to speak at the recent MENTOR conference in Washington, D.C.

We sat down with them to talk about their relationship, how being part of ServiceWorks has affected them, and what they see for the future.

Q: Marc, what made you want to become a success coach?

MW: I wanted to be in a position to positively impact people’s lives. I love working with and helping people, especially college students, become their best selves. From what I’ve seen in my experience as a professional coach, and what I personally experienced being coached, I felt that it would greatly benefit the students in my local community.

Q: Christian, what’s something you have learned from Marc?

CI: Say yes to everything, and then figure out how to do it! Sometimes we reject opportunities because we are afraid or do not believe in ourselves, but Marc taught me how to take action and take these opportunities to a different level.

Q: What are some goals you set at the beginning of success coaching?

CI: In the beginning of coaching, my goals were to buy a car before sophomore year; to take the 2016 entry-level law enforcement examination; to graduate from college with a double major in three years; to get admitted to law school after my undergraduate degree; and to become a politician. Marc helped me figure out how to set time frames and due dates and get a very clean perspective of how to achieve these goals.

Q: How has your relationship grown?

MW: Coming into this program, I never thought that I’d make this kind of relationship with a Service Scholar. From the moment we met, I knew that Christian was special, and he was goal driven. To have been able to help him has been a pleasure. Even though our official coaching relationship ended, Christian and I have become friends and we continue to work together, helping each other to be our best selves.

CI: Marc and I have become really good friends since our official relationship as mentor and mentee ended. Marc has become like an older brother to me, he is always there to help me whenever I need him.

Q: Why do you think the ServiceWorks program is so successful?

CI: ServiceWorks has a solid structure – it’s a family working towards the same goal and people bring desire, performance and perseverance every day. 

MW: It’s a great model, with great teachings, led by great people! Everybody involved with ServiceWorks has something special to add to it, and that’s part of what makes it a successful program. The lessons taught are beneficial to all, especially young people. The model allows growth to occur to everybody involved, including the trainers, coaches, Service Scholars, and the local communities they serve.

ServiceWorks, a national program powered by the Citi Foundation, AmeriCorps and Points of Light, uses structured volunteer service as the primary strategy to help 25,000 low-income youth and young adults in 10 cities develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers.  


Robert Montgomery