Have you ever wondered what your freshmen year experience would be like if you had someone that guided you when you stepped onto campus for the first time?
In Fall 2013, Student Support Services (SSS) launched its pilot Peer Mentorship Program, a year-long volunteer program that is designed to provide mentorship and guidance for first-generation freshmen who may not have the support system in other areas of their lives. SSS upperclassman and Peer Mentor, Victor Mensah, approached the office with the idea that, perhaps one’s personal experience would be different if freshmen students had a mentor to steer them away from common “rookie” mistakes such as time and money management, handling stress, taking care of one’s mental and physical health, registration for classes and academic development.
Through the program, peer mentors follow the mission statement, “to increase the retention and graduation rates of first generation college students; to foster a community of scholars who achieve academic excellence and avoid common mistakes by creating a relationship between incoming students and upperclassmen mentors.” With this personal peer connection, new students can “beat the odds” by learning to navigate the university life and study effectively by connecting with upperclassmen who have endowed the same skills that have helped them succeed.
Prior to the beginning of Fall 2013, Mensah and mentor coordinators interviewed, selected and trained 12 SSS upperclassmen to be this year’s Peer Mentors. Welcome Week information sessions provided the opportunity for freshmen to apply to be selected as one of the 12 peer mentees. During the Mentor/Mentee Meet and Greet, all 24 students participated in group activities that were catered to learning about one another and recited a pledge to each other to fulfill the expectations of succeeding in the program. Mentees were assigned a mentor based on their pre-selection of best fit and choice during the event.
Each mentor/mentee pair is to meet for four hours every month of the semester to participate in various activities and events, such as studying with one another, exploring different dining halls and areas around campus, attending recreational events and conversing about each other's academic progress and development. The program also schedules monthly group meetings such as the Thanksgiving Reunion in mid-November for all mentors and mentees to attend. Ultimately, program participants are awarded Grant Aid points for their participation.
Since the program is still fairly in its early stage, it will continue to receive student feedback through end-of-the-semester focus groups and surveys.