A new peer mentoring program is on campus this fall.
The program, AmeriCorps Retention Project, focuses on student retention. It’s based on the understanding students will be more committed to their academics and personal goals if they use the resources on campus and are engaged in activities outside the classroom.
The program’s development on campus is thanks to the research and grant writing by Dr. Mari Kruger, director of student services and student life.
Briana Watts, program coordinator from the AmeriCorps Retention Project, is a recent graduate of the University of Washington. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and journalism.
Watts said she is excited to be back on a college campus.
As a UW student, Watts served for two years as a peer mentor for an off-campus club.
“This helped me appreciate communities built around whoever walked through the door—a culture I hope to develop in the peer mentoring program at Pierce College,” Watts said.
A peer mentor is someone who provides assistance to those who want it, according to mentor Tessa Arviso.
“After being a homemaker for seven years, returning to school is a challenge,” Arviso said.
She says learning what resources are available to help her succeed is an additional challenge.
Mentors are certainly intended to be helpful, but even more than that, they are really an extra connection on campus, someone to check in with, follow up on previous conversations and a guide to getting involved on campus and in the community.
The program currently has seven paid mentors and Watts is seeking to hire one more, preferably a male who is a returning student.
The goal is to create a diverse group to accommodate a diverse population. Watts says it would be great in the future to have a group for distance learners, a nursing or pre-nursing student group and a group for ABE/I-BEST students.
The peer mentoring team also will do service learning projects throughout the year, which is a large component of the AmeriCorps Retention Project.
These projects will be open for anyone on the campus to join in. Recently, the mentors participated in their first service learning project at Lincoln High School helping to facilitate the Race and Pedagogy Youth Summit Oct. 23.
“In the future, we hope to have a large number of students, faculty and even staff joining in our service learning ventures as well. And further down the road, hopefully faculty and staff will be able to integrate service learning more into their courses,” Watts said.
In the future, the anticipation is to have a large number of students, faculty and staff joining in a variety of service learning ventures. Growth in this project could happen by faculty and staff integrating service learning into their curriculum.
Service learning has been shown to engage students in their course work and communities in a significant way. Another goal of the program is to expand Pierce’s partnerships with K-12 schools and to incorporate mentoring youth in service learning.
At this time, Watts is focusing on attracting more students.
New students seem to be a good target area.
Rentia Hempel, who is in her first quarter at Pierce College, is commuting from Orting and says she doesn’t know many students yet.
Her hope is that building a relationship with peer mentors will help her connect with other students and navigate available resource for her academic venture.
The current target is to have three to five mentees to place with each mentor, Watts said. The eventual goal is to have around 10 mentees per mentor.
“The peer mentors are here to empower fellow students to be creative and accomplish their goals,” mentor Kyle Litzenberger said.
“Mentors and mentees can meet anywhere on campus, sometimes they’ll meet at events on campus or in the community, or they meet at public places like a coffee shop or park,” Watts said.
“Peer mentoring is really just a great way to connect with your peers—people who have similar interests and goals as you, people who are great to talk to about anything and people who will encourage you to excel,” Watt said.
Watts invites students to meet with her to learn how participating in this endeavor can benefit their college experience.
Her office is in the Academic Resource Center in room C170.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost