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PRINT: Goizueta MBA Students Deliver Impact to Mentoring Program for Rural Georgia Teens

Updated: Apr 29

The Goizueta IMPACT program puts theory into practice to build career readiness. In the process, all MBA students are offered the opportunity to affect countless lives by sharing forward-looking expertise and feedback with community organizations, corporations, and nonprofits. To date, this unique MBA experiential learning program has provided action plans for local, national, and international organizations.

About 75 miles east of Goizueta Business School, Dave Thillen began realizing in 2020 that his deeply rooted, effective, volunteer mentoring program could benefit from professional consulting.

For decades he had loved the frontline work of supporting hundreds of rural teenagers to set individualized life goals and begin to achieve them. The students attend the Title 1 Greene County High School with 98% of families reporting low income and 90% of students identifying as minorities, including a seasonal migrant worker population. Thillen matched students with mentors, mostly retirees, living near Lake Oconee. As donors came forward, last year he formed the Thillen Education Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, with a board of directors. “A starter kit,” he called it.

The need for professional consulting grew quickly with the program. This semester, 82 career coaches are working with 350 students. In the fall, 110 coaches have committed to work for years with 450 students until they graduate. Walmart, GMS, Ernst & Young, and other corporate partners are involved along with local government, schools, and community partners.

As an incentive to learn and participate in personal coaching and mentorship, Thillen gives each graduate a minimum $1,000 “Dave Dollars” earned scholarship, so the foundation needs to function as a trustworthy steward of its donations.

“Student mentoring is like a planting a garden,” said Greene College & Ca