Peer Mentors guide students to academic success

August 29, 2011

Peer Mentorship Program

In Spring 2011, 16 highly skilled and trained junior and senior level students served as Peer Mentors to guide more than 200 students in the Freshman Connection courses. Each Peer Mentor worked with up to 10 students from courses KIN 200, 201 and CADV 250 to provide them support and guidance to help the students reach their academic and career goals.

“The students began the program with one goal in mind and that was to help their fellow peers,” said Peer Mentorship Program Coordinator Adriana Garcia Marin. “Little did they know this experience would be filled with rewarding encounters, many smiles, hugs and friendships.”

The program required Peer Mentors to engage in various interactions with students throughout the spring semester, including one-on-one meetings, academic resource activities and cultural events. After learning each students’ individual academic goals, the Peer Mentors identified and assigned an academic resource activity, such as forming study groups, conducting library research and attending various career exploration events. Through this program, students built strong connections and gained confidence knowing they had a fellow peer’s support in their collegiate endeavors.

“In many ways I feel that having a peer mentor was like having a guiding hand,” said Garcia Marin. “When a question was asked and the mentor did not know the answer, both the mentor and mentee would research the answer together.”

Student success also extended well beyond the classroom. In addition to providing academic support to our students, our Peer Mentorship program strives to develop community conscious individuals who engage in diverse campus events and organizations. The Peer Mentors and their students attended more than 30 extra-curricular CSUN events, exposing students to the various clubs, sports, programs and organizations CSUN has to offer. Some of these events and activities include JADE’s eating disorders awareness week, Women’s Basketball games, the Career Center’s “Re-connect” event and Unified We Serve’s “The Unified 4 Autism” Carnival Celebration.

“I’ve had a rewarding experience watching the students build their confidence and strengthen their communication skills,” said Ashley McCort, Peer Mentor for CADV 250. “They would all sit together in class and I thought it was nice that through this experience they built connections in the classroom.”

To prepare for the process, our faculty-selected Peer Mentors underwent intensive training prior to the spring semester administered by the Mentorship Program Coordinator, Adriana Garcia Marin and Professor Glenn Omatsu. In addition to training, Peer Mentors attended monthly debriefing sessions throughout the semester and were evaluated by Garcia Marin based on written activity reports and in-class observations.

Since the inception of the course, more than 260 interactions between the Peer Mentors and their students took place, and these connections proved mutually beneficial. Those students who built these relationships with an experienced student received a peer support system, invaluable lessons in attendance and time management, knowledge of resources on campus and plans for academic success. Peer Mentors also learned lessons in leadership development and communication. “All the Peer Mentors grew in one way or another—they improved their public speaking skills, became involved on campus and strengthened their networking skills,” said Garcia Marin.

Our goal is to continue expanding this program to more than 30 Peer Mentors for fall 2011. Additionally, the Peer Mentorship Program is developing an outreach strategy to serve an increasing number of freshmen scheduled to participate in the Peer Mentorship Program in the fall. Through this expansion, we hope to introduce new students to the Freshman Connection Program and the Peer Mentorship Program while providing them with a support system and opportunities to build key life skills to ease the new students’ transition into college life.