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Mentor program recieves nat’l grant

Sarah Mayer | Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Saint Mary’s College was one of two independent Indiana higher education institutions to receive grants from JPMorgan Chase Foundation as part of the “Overcoming Barriers and Challenges to Education in Indiana” initiative over the summer.

The College requested $6,500 and was granted $7,000 to pilot Peer/Team (PT) Mentoring, a mentoring program for College freshmen and local high school students who are from low-income, underrepresented and under served minority backgrounds.

“We were very excited to hear JPMorgan Chase extended this grant to Saint Mary’s College and our office to launch this pilot mentoring program,” said the Saint Mary’s director of multicultural affairs, Larisa Olin Ortiz who will facilitate the program.

While the money was granted to Saint Mary’s during summer break, Ortiz has been discussing plans for the grant for the past year with Ed Ackerley, the director of business and foundations relations.

“Our hope is that this mentoring program will help students develop positive relationship with current students and provide the tools, information and a support system that will help them succeed,” Ortiz said.

She said upperclassmen were chosen as mentors based on their experience mentoring others in the past. As far as choosing the freshman who will be mentored, she explained that other campus departments worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to find freshman that may find the program useful.

Ortiz hopes the program will allow the freshman and upperclassmen to make connections with each other.

“We hope the mentees will be able to build meaningful relationships that will facilitate their transition to college and into adulthood. Our hope is that the exchange that takes place is mutual,” she said.

The program wants to make sure that the mentors instill qualities such as empathy, commitment, authenticity and empowerment to the women they will be mentoring, Ortiz said. These qualities have proven to help overcome self-esteem and isolation issues in the people who are college-aged.

The program will also give freshman someone to lean on when things get overwhelming. “We hope the mentors will listen, understand, and affirm the knowledge and experience

of the first year students and are able to provide guidance to these young women as they navigate an unfamiliar environment,” Ortiz said.

Program participants will engage in a variety of mentoring and personal development activities during the 2008-2009 academic year, including helping to put on the fourth Diverse Students’ Leadership Conference, a three-day conference for the Michiana community that delves into minority and diversity issues.