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Mentors help ease college transition for new Belles

| Friday, August 25, 2017

Saint Mary’s continued to use peer mentors as an integral part of their Belles Beginnings orientation this year, and according to seniors and current peer mentors Katie Frego and Kristie LeBeau, they will continue to play a large role in the first years’ transition throughout the next semester.

Through the program, each first year works with an academic advisor based on her intended major, and each advisor picks a current student within the department to act as a peer mentor for the first years, Frego said.

“It’s a great way for incoming freshman to meet others within their major and form strong connections,” she said. “These are the girls [they] will be going through classes with for the next four years.”

Peer mentors have played a large role in the Belles Beginnings program for several years, and LeBeau said she appreciated the effort her own peer mentor put into making her transition an easy one. LeBeau first felt nervous when she arrived at the College, she said, but her peer mentor helped ease her nerves.

“My peer mentor was really helpful in reassuring me that all of those feelings wouldn’t last long,” LeBeau said. “Seeing how much she loved Saint Mary’s made me hold onto the fact that I would get there one day, too. Now, I want to be that source of reassurance to this new class of Belles.”

The peer mentors began their job by moving in early for training, Frego said, during which an alumna of the College hosted a workshop with the students.

“She taught us how to facilitate small groups and gave us ice-breaker ideas,” Frego said. “She helped us discover our own passions and how to apply those to our groups. She showed us how to get the girls fired up and excited for the next four years.”

According to Frego and LeBeau, peer mentors were very involved with their first-year groups from the start of orientation. They introduced them to campus resources such as the Belles Against Violence Office and assisted them with their class schedules.

For LeBeau, acting as a peer mentor has been very rewarding.

“I really love getting to know this new class of Belles and doing whatever I can to help them fall in love with Saint Mary’s like I did three years ago,” she said.

Frego echoed LeBeau and said she is eager to share her passion about Saint Mary’s with the first years.

“I’m so passionate about Saint Mary’s,” she said. “I love it, and I want them to feel the same way I do.”

The peer mentors’ roles continues past orientation, Frego said, as they assist with the First-Year Common Course, which all first years are required to take. The class is taught by the academic advisors, and the peer mentors also attend and teach two sessions of the class themselves.

“The classes are really focused on diving deeper into the history of Saint Mary’s and the history of Holy Cross,” Frego said.

There are 10 sessions of the course, and the first years are also required to attend speeches by President Cervelli and Margaret Atwood, an author visiting campus, Frego said. She said the peer mentors are also helping to plan a visit with the first years to Bertrand, Michigan, where the Sisters of the Holy Cross originally lived.

Both Frego and LeBeau believe this class of first years shows great potential for success. Frego said her group of first years are both excited and attentive to their studies, and LeBeau said she believes her first years are ready to handle the stresses of college.

“This group of girls seems to have the confidence to take on the world,” LeBeau said. “I look at some of the girls from this class and think, ‘Wow, you are ready for this.’ I don’t remember being that confident as a first year. I think that they are all very prepared — whether they know it or not — and will make a strong class of Belles.”

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