What is a Student Mentor? Get to Know Our College First Year Guides
Going to college can be a difficult transition with lots of unknowns. Will I like my roommate? Will my classes be hard? How soon will I make friends? How will I connect to college life? It can be hard to manage all the changes while trying to do well in classes. If only there was an older student that could be your college first year guide and tell you what to expect in the first year of college.
At Grace, there are such guides — they’re called student mentors. First-year students at Grace College journey through four consecutive required classes collectively called the First-Year Experience (FYE). They journey through these classes with the same group of 30 students. This group then divides into two smaller groups of 15 students called breakout groups. Breakout groups are led by student mentors, upperclassmen devoted to helping college first year students in their transition to college. Many student mentors decide to become mentors because of the impact their student mentor had on them. Their stories show a desire to give back because they know exactly what it’s like to transition to college.
Emily Oden is a second-year psychology student. When the hiring season for student mentors opened up during her first year, she jumped at the chance to apply.
“I realized how useful my student mentor was during the transition to college,” Oden said. “I wanted to do that for someone else.”
Her favorite event was Welcome Weekend. She enjoyed helping the students move in and watching them open up. “My favorite thing was seeing the difference between when they first came on campus compared to now,” Oden said. “My students have become involved and enjoyed campus life.”
Every student mentor group is paired with a faculty mentor for each of the four FYE classes. These faculty and staff lead the classes. Oden liked working with the faculty and being the bridge between them and her students.
Oden had the same faculty mentor for two FYE classes and appreciated the relationship they built. “She was very involved and worked hard to meet with us as student mentors and see how we were feeling,” Oden said. “She relied on us to help her learn more about the students and if they needed help.” Working with a variety of faculty mentors helped Oden see the different perspectives of teaching.
Oden knows that while the job was a big time commitment, it was undoubtedly worthwhile. She hopes she made an impact on her students just as her student mentor did for her.
Nate St. Luise
Nate St. Luise has been a student mentor for two years. He looks to the FYE program’s motto — curiosity, community, and calling — to find his motivation.
“I love the concept of curiosity, community, and calling,” St. Luise said. “I get to help be a part of that process. Along with connecting and supporting the students, I get to work with an amazing team to make that happen!”
St. Luise has been influenced by his fellow student mentors, the previous coordinators, and his bosses, Chastity Lucio and Jacqueline Schram.
“Being in the FYE program has helped me realize what my calling is: to help people find their calling,” St. Luise said. “Not just their career, but who God calls them to be, spiritually, emotionally, and socially — the whole package.”
Next year, he looks forward to being the student mentor coordinator. In this role, he will oversee the team of student mentors and continue providing college first year students with a supportive and connected community.
“I am most excited to help grow and support my team, and then they are able to grow and support others,” St. Luise said. “Future student mentors: know the impact you will make. It is worth it!”
Cassie Schoonbeck, Josh Pettifor, Rachel Perry
Cassie Schoonbeck decided to be a student mentor because she wanted to be more involved with campus life.
“I felt like being a student mentor would be an outlet in which I could grow more in my personal life and help other students get connected with the community,” said Schoonbeck.
She met regularly with a small group of seven other mentors and with her students. The program allowed her to meet her closest friends: Josh Pettifor and Rachel Perry, with whom she still maintains relationships.
Pettifor and Perry worked together on a group project, and Cassie would stay after class to talk with them. A friendship was formed, as they would get dinner together and talk about their lives.
“The student mentor program at Grace was invaluable to me as a college first year student,” said Pettifor. “Coming to college is a really intimidating process, and I was very overwhelmed. My student mentor immediately provided incoming freshmen with a friendly face and a connection to campus — Cassie was that for me.”
Schoonbeck encouraged Pettifor and Perry to apply to be student mentors the following year. Her support motivated them to apply for the position and they both got hired and paired as co-mentors.
Schoonbeck offered insight into the different situations Pettifor and Perry encountered as student mentors and was a constant source of encouragement.
“Cassie helped me in my student mentor experience by sharing about hers,” said Perry. “Her stories helped me not feel so alone, and her reassurance helped a ton. I am so grateful for the friendship we all share and how both Cassie and Joshua helped shape me into the person I am,” said Perry.
The student mentor program is vital to the flourishing of many students at Grace College. Student mentors encourage the whole community through uplifting first year students and one another.
Do you want to know more about your college first year at Grace? Learn about the First-Year Experience.