By Jennifer Lubell
Photo by Javier Panate

As a young professional working abroad and getting an advanced degree, Andrea Perez Castro (MBA’11) knew she had opportunities that most young people in El Salvador could only dream about experiencing.

Perez Castro wanted to open doors for other young people from her homeland. In 2008, she and several colleagues established Mentoring International, an online mentorship organization for underprivileged Latin American youth. Drawing from their own personal networks, Perez Castro and her colleagues started asking young professionals to spare some time to mentor high school students in El Salvador.

Mentors counsel students on core skills such as learning English or operating computers. “These are skills that we all need to improve, both professionally and personally,” says Perez Castro, who worked at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., while enrolled in Georgetown McDonough’s Evening MBA program. Currently, she is the general manager of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of El Salvador.

Mentoring International enjoyed a successful launch and has helped more than 500 students identify their skills and prepare for college and beyond. With a growing mentor base, the organization’s online volunteer network includes engineers, economists, doctors of psychology, and other experts from around the world.

Most students who participate in Mentoring International go on to study at universities in El Salvador. Some even pick up new languages. In one instance, a student with a mentor in Germany learned German as well as English during his time in the mentoring program.

“The market here is very fierce. If we want to make progress as a country, we have to look outside our borders.”
—Andrea Perez Castro (MBA’11)

The global mindset Perez Castro adopted at Georgetown McDonough also has served her well at El Salvador’s Chamber of Commerce, which promotes competitiveness among more than 2,300 small, medium, and large enterprises. Perez Castro often travels into remote areas of the country where businesses need aid and connections. It is her job to understand their needs, interests, and motivations, and how to assist them with financing, technical assistance, and innovative ventures.

Some of this work is about business, but it is also about ensuring the social and environmental prosperity of the country, Perez Castro says.

Many of the chamber’s member companies want to branch out beyond Central America and do business in markets in other regions of the world, such as China or India. “The market here is very fierce. If we want to make progress as a country, we have to look outside our borders,” says Perez Castro. Such relationships, however, require some cultural sensibility.

“If we want to get there successfully, we have to be respectful of the culture and the history of these countries and understand the tendencies of those markets,” Perez Castro says.

 

Published in Georgetown Business Magazine, Spring 2018