This fall quarter of 2019 marks the beginning of Coyote PLUS’s Peer Mentoring Program: Second-Year Experience. It is part of the Coyote PLUS Programs which include Student Mentoring: First Year Experience, Supplemental Instruction, and Tutoring.
Carolina Meza is the lead coordinator of the program. She along with the University of Redlands graduate students, Angelica Sweeney, Breena Lizaola and Evan Tellez, help to train the six mentors to provide help to the 60 mentees during the upcoming fall quarter.
The Student Mentoring Program at CSUSB is separate by the first-year experience and second-year experience.
The Student Mentors Program is for first-year students or first-year transfer students to receive help from their mentors, while the Peer Mentoring Program is for second-year students or second-year transfer students to receive help from their mentors.
“For the second-year students, we hope to focus more on their career and helping them develop a sense of purpose, sense of belonging among the campus and helping them with their career exploration,” said Meza.
With this program, there is an emphasis on guiding students with not only figuring out their major but figuring out what they want to do with that major.
A way to help the mentees figure out their major and enhance their learning experiences is by placing an emphasis on internships and study abroad opportunities.
Very often programs are created at colleges to help freshmen students adjust to college life, but many students still need help beyond their freshman year.
The second year of college is commonly referred to as the “forgotten year,” writes Althea Sterling in her 2018 scholarly article “Student Experiences in the Second Year: Advancing Strategies for Success Beyond the First Year of College.”
This statement mirrors Meza referring to the second year of college as the “middle child”.
One CSUSB student who felt uncertain about their college career path is Kristen Abellar.
Abellar is currently a third-year student at CSUSB. She has received help through the Student Mentoring Program- First-Year Experience within the last six months.
Earlier this year, during her second year of college, she switched majors which required her to seek help from a Student Mentor because the Peer Mentoring Program was not a program at the time.
“I would have a peer mentor because I still need help navigating my way through new classes and transitioning from current major was a big difference,” said Abellar.
The Peer Mentoring Program was established by CSUSB to help to allow second-year students to not feel as left out and to have some guidance while in college.
“With this program, we’re hoping to really foster that foundation for them to really be able to see why they chose the major that they did and kind of see the different opportunities and different things that they can do within that major. Really expand their resources and using our resources as well. At the same time also being able to provide that support and that sense of belonging,” said Meza.
Angelica Sweeney and Breena Lizaola help Meza train the six mentors to prepare to in order to help students feel this sense of belonging.
Sweeney is currently studying school counseling with a dual-track in k-12 and college counseling.
By working towards receiving her master’s degree, she is able to help the peer mentors learn the skills she’s learned while in school and through experience.
“We teach them the important qualities of a peer mentor and building on that rapport,” said Sweeney.
Some of the training includes daily one-on-one meetings with Carolina Meza, group building activities and mapping out what each college and academic department, (e.g. College of Arts and Letters), can provide for students both academically and socially.
Each activity is designed for the mentors to not only learn how to be role models for their mentees but to really get to know who they are. This way they can really provide their mentees with the assistance they need.
Lizaola is working towards receiving her master’s in school counseling with a dual-track in k-12 and college counseling. She works as a substitute teacher for Colton Unified School District along with training the peer mentors. Before attending graduate school, she worked as a peer mentor.
“It’s all about authenticity. Being 100% authentic and transparent. You can always feel that energy or that vibe from someone who is not being their true self or who’s nervous or comfortable. I think that bring that to the relationship is so important. It’s so vital. How can you establish any type of relationship if you can’t be authentic or transparent with your mentee?” said Lizaola.
Because this program is fairly new, only six students were hired. Meza is hoping that the program will grow so that she can hire more mentors.
One of those six students Meza hired is Jorge Jimenez. Jimenez is currently a second-year student at CSUSB. His experience as a tutor, soccer coach and volunteer work motivated him to become a peer mentor.
“I like the idea of being able to work with students and I am a student myself so just being able to direct other students who may feel lost or uncertain direct them into the right path and just being able to be an example for them. So, I really want to do that,” said Jimenez.
Jimenez’s passion for wanting to help students corresponds with Meza’s statement that one of the purposes of the Peer Mentoring Program is to help students develop a sense of purpose.
“[The overall goal of the program is] making them (mentees) feel that cal state is their home. Leaving their mark and feeling like they can leave their mark somehow. Feeling that it wasn’t just a stop, they made something out of it,” said Meza