The New York Times | January 21, 2012

I  WAS born in Lowell, Mass., where my father, a child of Armenian immigrants, was a dentist. He went to dental school on the G.I. Bill and later met my mother when she was working as a dental hygienist.

Starting at around age 13, I had a series of weekend and summer jobs — everything from scooping ice cream, making doughnuts and pumping gas to working at the local golf course, where I had to line up carts for the players by 5 a.m.

One of my high school teachers recruited my older brother, then me, to attend his alma mater, Bowdoin College, in Maine. I volunteered for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and was matched with a local student. The experience opened my eyes to the joys of mentoring.

After I graduated with an economics degree in 1987, I moved to New York as a trainee at Chemical Bank. I signed up again as a Big Brother, and was matched with David Heredia, a 10-year-old Dominican who lived with his mother and brothers on the Lower East Side.

I spent every Saturday with David, who had a gift for drawing, and I saw how hard it was for him to realize his dreams without outside support. That experience planted the idea that I wanted to create a program to equip talented and motivated youth with support, training and job opportunities. I remain close to this day with David, who now has a career in animation.

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