How many students graduating in December 2017 had a mentor or someone who helped push them to realize their fullest potential?
In certain underserved communities, that number is probably slim to none. The reason is due to school programming that can sometimes be limited in its reach due to budget cuts or lack of public support to sustain impactful programs to the community. This dulls long-term positive effects as education can already be seen as a tough ecosystem to navigate. Brian Fontenot saw an opportunity to create an out-of-the-box solution to this problem by founding The BLF Foundation.
After spending time in the corporate world, Brian noticed that his peers were not receiving the same opportunities he received after graduation. He realized this was due to the mentorship and specialized training he’s gained, but most importantly, the relationship building skill-set developed outside the walls of a traditional college education. Brian sees this “holistic education” as having the ability to utilize the skills of reasoning such as team collaboration and cross-functional team leadership, emotional intelligence, and soft skills development combined with traditional education to push through obstacles and challenges.
While noticing these struggles from friends and other college students, he decided to do something about it. In July 2016, he asked himself, “What kind of formalized training program could I create to really help address a bigger mass of students?” His answer was The BLF Foundation, which was founded later that month.
The Foundation currently has two components. The first is an annual scholarship program which awards funds each January with applications accepted from August to December 1st. The second component is a year-long mentorship program. The mentorship program focuses on ten interactive sessions covering professional and personal topics with mentors and speakers sharing ideas and concepts. Mentees are also paired with mentors often working in an area of interest the mentee is highly interested in.
One of the proudest moments for Brian and The BLF Foundation has been the story of a young woman whose parents were trying to purchase her an iPad Pro for school after three years of saving in addition to providing for her 13 siblings. The young woman was able to give her computer to her sister after being awarded a BLF scholarship which brought tears of joy to her whole family. After only two months in the program, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis where she was bedridden for three months in the hospital. She later said, “If I didn’t have The BLF Foundation and community of mentors in my life, there was no way I could have completed three months of school work in one month all while adjusting to my new way of life almost being confined to a wheelchair.” Brian exclaims that “This is an example of the BLF Foundation why!”
The Foundation is Brian’s way of contributing back to society and creating a lifelong mission and legacy he hopes his kids and grandkids keep intact. The long-term vision for The BLF Foundation is to become a national and international program affecting millions of high school, college students, and working professionals, and preparing them for their future through mentorship and holistic education through the skillset of reasoning.
Brian is on his way to making The BLF Foundation a well-known organization in Austin, Texas. In October 2017, it was a Social Impact Winner on Austin Inno’s 50 on Fire list.