by Grace Hatton, Reverb Editor
This semester at Wilson sees the start of a new mentoring program for students of color, spearheaded by campus groups and Intercultural Initiatives director Lorrie Jayne. The pilot program was brought about last spring when two groups, Community Circle of Students of Color and W.H.O.L.A. (Wilson’s Herman@s Orgullos@s en Las Americas) expressed interest in having a peer mentoring program for students of color. The possibility of the program was also discussed after a community meeting on race last year. Additionally the possibility of a mentoring program was discussed through the Diversity Practices Committee.
“In those meetings we asked ‘What would it take for students of color to feel like they could flourish here at Wilson?’” says Jayne. “So in these discussions we talked about having a mentoring program. In the discussions several students of color said mentoring would have been useful to them during their early years at Wilson. Additionally research has shown that it is very valuable for students to have older mentors who know how to make the most out of the college experience”.
After the initial interest and discussion meetings, Jayne asked for upperclassmen to sign up as mentors for this year. Eight upperclassmen agreed to become mentors and Jayne added three mentors at the beginning of the semester thanks to the interest in the program.
The upperclassmen mentors enroll in a two credit course instructed by Jayne that gives them insights into being effective peer mentors. “It also works well because many of the mentors are leaders in other areas of the colleges such as RAs and RDs” says Jayne.
During orientation, students who had identified themselves by their race in their applications for Wilson were given information about the currently unnamed peer mentoring program. According to the handout given to freshman and transfers before orientation “the aim of the program is to support incoming students who have identified as students of color as they transition and become part of the community”. According to the same handout, participants of the pilot program have the opportunity “to learn the ins and outs of navigation for success in academics, work, community and student life, be a part of a network of peers from a similar racial and/or ethnic background, build lasting connections, enjoy programming with mentors and have fun with fellow students”.
When first year and transferring students sign up for the program they are making a commitment for their first semester but can participate in the program throughout their first year at Wilson. Mentees and Mentors meet one-on-one every two weeks and all of the mentees and mentors meet as a large group once a month for a social activity. Jayne meets with the mentors once a month to train the mentors and develop the program as a group. A program like this has not been implemented in the fifteen years Lorrie Jayne has served as a director for Intercultural Initiatives and Diversity for Wilson.
“We started in a limited state this year,” Jayne said. “But my hope is it will grow tremendously. By second term we will have applications available for mentors for next fall. We also hope to have a web page up in the near future where students can apply to be part of the program and the application will be accessible to everyone”.
Even though the program is still new and kinks are being worked out it is showing great promise for future Wilson freshman and transfers. As well as providing mentorship and support for incoming students of color Jayne hopes it will allow students of color to flourish in the larger Wilson community and facilitate a healthy transition for incoming students this year and hopefully for years to come.
“Students of color are a small percentage of the Wilson population and that can add a special intensity to the transition for new students,” Jayne said. “So a peer mentor, who has already maneuvered the culture of Wilson and found their way to flourish here, can be especially helpful. I hope this program allows incoming students to flourish here and bring their full selves to this place. One analogy that I like to use to help describe the project is that we all want Wilson to be a harmony of many voices but sometimes it’s easier to bring your own voice out if you’ve got a choir behind you.”