Peer Mentorship Program Continues to Grow

December 4, 2014

Peer Mentorship Coordinator, Adriana Garcia, is currently working to expand the Peer Lead program within the Peer Mentorship program. She began with the Building Connections for Success program, which is funded through a generous five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, at its start in 2010, after being referred by her previous supervisor. Garcia, no stranger to assisting students, began her professional career as an academic advisor.

 

BCFS, specifically the high school outreach aspect, immediately caught her attention. In addition to Peer Mentorship, she also serves as the High School Outreach Coordinator.

 

“I noticed that my own high school, San Fernando High, was on the list of schools, and I saw this as the perfect way to give back to my community,” said Garcia.

 

Garcia says her high school never promoted higher education. She recalls how she tried to avoid her school’s push for technical careers by joining a teaching academy. The academy gave her unique access to AP courses and specific teachers in high school.

 

“After taking many race and critical thinking classes in college, I realize my high school was gearing us toward technical careers as opposed to higher learning in four-year universities.”

 

Upon graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in finance, Garcia longed to share her success with students.

 

“At the time, I felt so accomplished because I was able to get my degree within four years. I wanted to share with students the resources that I was able to utilize.”

 

It was not until later that Garcia realized her devotion to the Peer Mentorship program. Initially her main goal was to build relationships with high schools, but she later realized the full potential of both the Peer Mentorship program and High School Outreach with the proper attention.

 

“As the years have progressed, the Mentorship program requires more attention, and that is where my main focus is now.”

 

Garcia decided to delegate two other people to be entirely dedicated to high school outreach. At one point she remembers she was conducting both simultaneously. Now, she serves as more of an advisory role to the High School Outreach program. She feels that now both programs have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential.

 

“It’s interesting how I started with my main interest in high school outreach, but my attention shifted. I now have this profound love to mentor and I want to ensure that freshman are having the most positive experience they can.”

 

Now, it is the Peer Lead program, within Peer Mentorship, that has Garcia’s attention. She started the Peer Lead program in 2012. Typically, the peer mentors in the program want to serve for more than one semester. Garcia says that some returning students want to do something even more than just peer mentoring, and that is why peer leads were developed.

 

With each incoming freshman class changing so much, Garcia feels she wants to make the peer lead group even stronger. The peer lead position gives mentors motivation to progress within the program.

 

Garcia explains, “Peer leads build a better infrastructure for the entire program. First you receive the services, then you become a mentor, and then you become a peer lead.”

 

Peer lead, Haidi Quintanilla followed this path in BCFS. She was part of the BCFS discipline-based freshmen connection program during her first semester in 2011. She learned about the program through her older sister who also served as a peer mentor in the program.

 

“To go from being a student in the program, to a peer mentor myself, BCFS has certainly been a large part of my college experience. I’ve learned how big of an impact having a mentor can make on a student’s academic career,” said Quintanilla.

Quintanilla started as a peer mentor, moved on to high school outreach, and then moved up to be a peer lead. She feels the program is beneficial in multiple ways.  Not only did she gain mentors, but she feels she has made lifelong friendships.

“The most rewarding part of the mentoring program has been the confidence and friends I have gained. The program helped me become so acquainted with the university that I felt comfortable here. It felt more like a home than just a school.”

Quintanilla, a child and adolescent development major, says she has learned a great deal from Adriana Garcia.

“She’s become one of my mentors and one of my best friends. I’ve learned so much from working with her both as a peer mentor and as her student assistant. She’s dedicated to giving a great mentoring experience to the first-time freshmen,” said Quintanilla.

Each peer lead is responsible for a U100 class and a group of mentors. Garcia is interested in knowing what the leads learn during their time as mentors. Each semester she asks each of them to create presentations about what they think their mentors should know. From this experience, they develop their own training.

Garcia feels this type of training is incredibly effective. “Training was much more cohesive and inclusive of different aspects of mentorship, like communication. Peer leads have helped evolve the whole program.”

 

The uniqueness of this program is that rather than students seeing their mentors as only academic tutors, they see them as students who can share their own experiences. Often, the students befriend each other at the end of each semester.