Today, 17-year old Mi Young is looking forward to her weekly mentoring session with In Kyoo, a Deloitte Korea partner who has been visiting Jungsim Girls Middle and High School in Anyang, South Korea, for a few months.
It is fair to say that Mi Young and her fellow students have had a difficult journey so far. Because Jungsim is no ordinary school: it’s a detention centre. You don’t graduate from Jungsim; you get released.
The girls at Jungsim have poor social skills and low self-esteem. They have not had a formal education and need help in building their confidence.
This is why In Kyoo’s visit means the world to Mi Young.
Today, In Kyoo may talk about keeping a budget, securing a loan or other basic financial concepts – skills that will help Mi Young when she goes back out into the world. But beyond this practical education, what Mi Young really needs is someone to listen, spend time with her and show her that there is hope in life after Jungsim.
Confidence is elusive. It is hard to define and impossible to measure. But when it is found after a tough start in life, it’s a superpower. For Mi Young, it had been an almost unknown quality. But not anymore. You can see it in the way she holds herself now, in how she stands taller.
Getting support from Deloitte Korea professionals has been a transformative experience for her and for more than 5,500 girls at Jungsim since 2013. Group sessions lead to one-on- one conversations on what ”real life” is like, with the girls asking endless questions after classes. And soon, connections are made that impact mentors and mentees far beyond the tightly monitored environment of Jungsim.
Long after the sessions, the girls send tokens of their gratitude to those who took the time to visit them: long heart-felt notes peppered with hand-drawn funny faces, or parcels with cakes made in their last baking class. Without fail, mentors write back with words of hope and encouragement.
One letter from a student reads:
“For the longest time I thought only people with good university education or raised in a good family could join a company like yours. I’ve always looked down on my life and set low goals for myself. But you have given me confidence to study hard to get a chance to work at a company like Deloitte.”
In Kyoo recalls one of his mentees writing that she had never before felt so respected or encouraged. That, because society had not abandoned her, she was in turn inspired to help the less fortunate after she leaves Jungsim.
Countless letters have been received by Deloitte Korea mentors, with one mentor proudly keeping more than 80 in his office. Each is a powerful reminder that spending time, showing kindness, and giving a second chance can truly change someone’s path.