Friday, October 31, 2014

When Students Mentor Fellow Students, Everyone Benefits-Emily Sellers

The Student Success Mentor program is a collaborative effort between Indiana Campus Compact (ICC) and the Indiana Youth Institute. The program is a peer mentoring initiative that engages college student leaders in a year-long commitment to peer mentoring, service engagement, leadership development, and student retention and success.

As Program Director for Student Development, I have the privilege of getting to know the amazing students in our mentoring program.  I had the chance to interview Catherine Carver, a junior at the University of Southern Indiana majoring in History and earning a minor in Anthropology.

Emily Sellers: Could you tell me a little about your role as an SSM Mentor?

catherine carver ssmCatherine Carver: As an SSM Mentor, I meet with 3 freshmen students each week. During the 4 hours I spend with each student, I provide academic advisement, answers to questions about campus resources, and I also provide plenty of moral support, both as an encouragement to them, and also for those times throughout the semester when they find themselves overwhelmed. USI’s SSS Program provides the aforementioned services and they do an excellent job. The SSS Program is designed for 1st Generation, low income, and/or academically struggling students, who need a little bit more help than most. For first generation students, it can often be difficult for them to navigate through financial aid, signing up for classes, college life in general, and being on their own because their parents aren’t able to draw on their own experiences to help them.  SSS provides help with all of those aspects of being a college student through workshops, activities, events, etc. For low income students, SSS can be a great resource for locating and utilizing financial aid, and they definitely do their best to make sure that all of their students can continue their education. For academically struggling students, SSS provides individualized tutoring services, so that students can get one on one help with any classes they are struggling with.

ES: What inspired you to become an SSM Mentor?

CC: My desire to pursue a career as a college professor. I love working with students and sharing any and all knowledge I have, as well providing support, and letting them know that oftentimes, I have been in their shoes and I understand what they are going through. Being an SSM Mentor seemed like the perfect way to fulfill my love of working with students now, as well an excellent way to gain further experience working with and learning how to talk to students and help them with any issues they may have.

ES: What is your favorite aspect of being a mentor?

CC: Those times when I get to see exactly how much I’ve helped my students. It’s extremely rewarding to know how much I am able to help, even though I am just a student myself.

ES: What has been the most valuable or rewarding experience/aspect of your SSM participation?

CC: There have been several, but my favorite has to be from Fall 2012, when one of my mentees came into the program, both pregnant and married at 18. At first, her attitude toward having been kind of coaxed into the program was rather negative. When I would meet with her, there was a general feeling that she didn’t really care to be there and would rather be anywhere else. One day, I had a conversation with her about why she was in school, and what she hoped to achieve by being here. I asked about her professional goals, and why she had decided upon those specific goals. At the end of the conversation, there was a noticeable change in her air/attitude. From then on, she showed up to every meeting and was more than happy to share her grades, assignments, etc. with me. She went from being so far behind in one class that she was close to failing, and doing not so well in the rest of her classes, to a 3.0+ GPA by the end of the semester. I was extremely proud of her, for not only catching up and getting back on track, but also for doing all of this whilst pregnant and married.

ES: Anything else you would like to share.

CC: I truly enjoy working as an SSM Mentor, and my students really enjoy meeting with me and having me there to talk to any time they need to. I so appreciate this opportunity and I hope this continues to be something I can do in the coming year.

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Indiana Campus Compact is grateful to Lilly Endowment Inc. for significant funding in support of programs, training,and resources for our member campuses that allow them to deepen their commitment to community engagement and service-learning.