Peer Mentoring Program Helps New Students

First-Year Students and Transfers Benefit from Friendly Support

Coming into freshman year, incoming students are always welcomed by the friendly faces of upperclassmen. These students help to move their belongings in and get the new students set for their first few days on campus. Some of them help even further, getting freshmen through Orientation Week, and coaxing new students through the start of college life. However, what if a first-year student needed some friendly support for more than the initial week? What about transfer students, who are trying to get to know the Marist campus as Sophomores or Juniors? Who can they turn to for guidance?

Enter the Peer Mentor Program, a relatively new offering in Marist’s lineup of First-Year programs. Drawing from the tradition of the Marist Brothers who founded the college, peer mentors assist first-years and transfers with getting through the start of their college experience, whether that period is a single semester or an entire year.

“The Peer Mentor Program assists with incoming students – and this is both freshman and transfers – to get an immediate connection with someone who already has been through the transition to be successful at Marist College,” explained Samantha Proffitt, a coordinator of First-Year programs and Leadership Development at Marist. She states that the program has several large events throughout the year between all of the students involved with the program, but that the students and mentors also break into smaller groups to get to know each other and other students better.

“These are going to be students that you normally don’t see in the resident halls,” she noted. “It gives them an opportunity to meet more people beyond their little silo in their residence hall.”

Incoming students are first exposed to the Peer Mentor program at the activities fair for accepted students in April. While parents can register their child to be in the program, it is ideal if the incoming student initiates interest in joining the program.

“If you want to be in it, you’re in,” said Casey Trocino, another coordinator of First-Year programs and Leadership Development. “They can do that after orientation, and then they hear from their peer mentors in early August via a letter from Marist College.”

The peer mentors have a large list of qualifications, as listed on the program’s striking black chalkboard-esque flyers. According to the flyer, candidates to be student leaders for the program have to be positive and hard-working individuals who are involved in the campus and are dedicated to helping others. Those who wish to become transfer peer mentors have to have been former transfer students themselves. All peer mentor candidates are required to submit an online application found on the first-year program page of the Marist website by February 19.

“We want to know what you did, and why this is interesting to you,” Proffitt stated. “And we want to know why you want to be a peer mentor.” She added that they frequently get applications from students who were a part of the program, but that student leader positions are open to anyone who submits the application.

The program has only been in place for three years, yet positive results are already noticeable - approximately two hundred first-year students have signed up for peer mentors, more than double the previous year.

“The majority from this past year has been positive, I would say 85-90%,” Proffitt stated. “There are always going to be some experiences where a person did not fit in their group and did not talk to anybody; however, those that may have struggled in the beginning but ask questions do very well.”

“The more mentees that we have in the program, the more successful the program is,” Trocino notes.

One thing the program is hoping for in the future is to give peer mentors more say in organizing group trips and events for program participants to take part in, rather than having Proffitt and Trocino be the principal organizers. For now, however, the two are looking at making modest improvements, especially since the program is growing so quickly.

“We needed twenty Peer Mentors last semester,” Proffitt said. “This year, we hope that it grows, meaning we need more bodies to help us work with these students.”

Written by Gregory Rycharski ‘16

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