Apr 112005
Authors: Clarke Reader

Moving into a new home, starting at a new school and meeting new friends are some of the biggest and most intimidating challenges students may face when starting college.

However, there are several resources to help students adjust to this new lifestyle, and CSU's advocacy offices host some of the most beneficial.

Peer mentoring programs are an important part of many of CSU's advocacy offices, with the goal to make the adjustment to college life easier.

"We help facilitate the transition for first years," said Sarah Jakel, assistant director for Asian/Pacific American Student Services.

Peer mentoring programs, which go by different names in different offices, match upperclassmen with new students to help them discover the opportunities available to them.

"We have five upperclassmen assigned to freshmen and transfer students," said Seraphina Wall, program coordinator for Native American Student Services and a senior sociology major. "They help with financial aid and scholarships."

Many of these programs offer academic tutoring for any students who may need it, regardless of race or ethnicity.

"You don't have to be a Latino to be a recipient of our services," said Rich Salas, assistant director for El Centro Student Services. "There's a lot of collaboration our staff does with the larger campus community."

Community outreach is also a large part of peer mentoring programs, as well as cultural programs.

"We also have volunteer opportunities for people to make a difference and give back," Salas said. "The students we work with mentor younger students in the community, so it's kind of a trickle effect."

Mentors contact students in a variety of ways. Some offices call students, while others send newsletters or e-mails. Despite the form of contact, the offices constantly alert students about various events happening on campus.

"We send out e-mails weekly, sometimes daily and send out letters to residence halls," Salas said. "We've just started to do some outreach in residence halls. It's important to be visible and let students know we're here to help them succeed."

Making new students feel welcome is one of the principal goals of the mentoring programs.

"It's a second home and family," said Anna Soules, a junior environmental geology major and peer contact for A/PASS. "Make them (new students) feel like they have a place on campus."

If an advocacy office does not have a mentoring program, there are still other resources students can use to their benefit.

"We're starting an alumni mentoring program next year," said R.C. Cali, a senior math major and program coordinator for Gay, Lesbian Bisexual Transgender Student Services. "We also have free tutoring and five community groups."

Some of these groups include a Gathering of Women Group, an Outdoor Adventure Group and a Movie Club.

The peer mentors enjoy the program as much as the students with whom they work.

"There's a lot of programming at El Centro," said Nathan Castillo, a senior psychology major and coordinator for Resource Leader Program. "The office acts as a home base for them where they can come and get help in any area of their life, not just school."

A positive college experience is one of the main focuses at CSU, and the advocacy offices play a powerful role in this.

"CSU certainly values its diverse population of students and we try to fulfill our part and do the best we can to reach all students," Salas said. "We provide a positive experience for all students."

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