Next year, new students arriving in Claremont will have two new mentoring programs to help them adjust to college life.
The Quest Mentoring program is a continuation of an existing mentoring program, which was only open to students involved with QuestBridge. Next year, the program will only be open to all Pomona College first-year students from low-income families and/or first-generation college students. Current mentors plan to extend mentoring to students at all five colleges in subsequent years.
Meanwhile, the Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance (DIDA) is starting a new mentorship program for incoming first-years with disabilities to help ease their transitions into college. This mentoring program will be open to students from all five colleges starting next year.
Muhammad Jalal PO ’16, one of the students involved in the Quest Mentor program, believes that a mentor program for low-income and first-generation students is a needed presence on campus.
“Low income and first generation students face unique problems in a school like Pomona, independent of the issues addressed by other resource centers such as race, gender, and immigration status,” he wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “Low income students often find the academic gap from high school to Pomona larger than other students do, and they can feel discouraged by the accomplishments and grades of their peers initially.”
Ali Goss PO ’16, who was a QuestBridge first-year mentee this year, noted the practical benefits of having a mentor.
“I think the role of having a mentor was extremely important, at least for me,” she said. “When I came here, for example, I knew I had to get a job at Star 47. I went to the job fair, and I e-mailed them, and nothing happened. So then I e-mailed my mentor, and I asked her how to get the job. She happened to be a manager there, so she worked it all out.”
Nicole Ross PO ’14, who is involved in starting next year’s DIDA mentor program, also noted a need for resources for students with disabilities at the 5Cs.
“Personally, I’m really invested in the mentor program because coming in as a freshman with a disability is very different from coming in as a freshman without a disability,” she said. “You have to learn how to handle social stuff with your disability, and you have to learn how to talk to professors, which is very different from high school. There’s a big learning curve, and we can develop a program where everyone doesn’t have to learn the hard way every time.”
Ross said she hopes that the DIDA mentoring program can be part of a bigger push for creating a more inclusive atmosphere for students with disabilities.
“Part of the goal is to create more of a positive community and a more welcoming environment because that’s lacking at the 5Cs,” she said. “I think that almost anything we do at this point can be very helpful because right now there’s nothing.”
According to Jalal, the Quest Mentoring program is planning on building a more comprehensive program than what is already in place. Similar to what already exists for other mentoring programs, next year’s Quest mentors will undergo a mandatory weeklong training session, and they will be provided with more resources to prevent them from becoming lost in the process.
Ross said she also hopes to structure the DIDA mentoring program after existing programs. It will likely be primarily based on one-on-one mentoring, although there will be room for group outings to build a more supportive community.
Vice President and Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum expressed excitement at the expansion of the mentoring programs offered to incoming first-years.
“I think that these are a great reflection of student leadership. Students are thinking about how to support other students, how best to support transitions to college, and how to deal with existing challenges and needs that may not be met by existing programs,” she said.
Feldblum pointed to current mentoring programs, such as the Asian American Mentoring Program and International Student Mentoring Program, as examples of current programs that began from student initiative.
“I think they do a really great job at providing support to first-year students and at providing leadership opportunities for sophomores and upper-class students and also at providing a real engagement on campus,” Feldblum said.
The new mentoring programs have attracted current students interested in mentoring first-years. Out of 32 applicants, the Quest Mentoring program has selected 22 mentors coming from all class years. So far, the DIDA mentor program has received 14 applications, although the application process for new DIDA mentors has not concluded.