Mentor director talks about program

Photo contributed

Photo contributed

Alexis Arenas-Andrade

Q&A: Anita Samson

Anita Samson works as the counselor for the CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) program at the Neosho campus. Along with those duties she helps with the mentor program within CAMP.

How did the CAMP (College Assistance Migrant Program) get the mentor program started?

Alisha Irsik, our CAMP director, created it when she was in my position as the CAMP academic advisor/counselor. We have been making small changes throughout the year.

What is the importance of having a mentor when you are a freshman?

It’s important because the current CAMP staff does do a good job of trying to educate, teach, mentor and advise the incoming CAMPers, but we aren’t their peers, so whenever we say is important, and I think they most part they for listen to us, but when they listen to their peers who have just gone through the CAMP experience, it seems like they are more likely to retain the information, so that’s why it’s important.

How does having past CAMPers as mentors benefit the new CAMPers?

They can relate way more to them in the sense that they have gone through the program and know what to expect. They have the knowledge that these new CAMPers might not have.

Who’s in charge of the program?

I am in charge of the mentor program, but I do report it back to Alisha Irsik, so If I did run into a problem with the program that I couldn’t solve or needed help, then I would defer to her.

How long has this program been running?

I am going to say 10 years; that could be a little off, but it’s been going on for awhile

What are the criteria you have when selecting a mentor?

The mentors have to apply. I try to advertise to CAMPers and former CAMPers that have graduated. They turn in the application and review it with the rest of the CAMP staff.

What is the success rate with the program?

Luckily, we have had overall a real positive response from both the mentors and the mentees. We collect data to run statistics. We have an end year survey for the mentor and mentees in which they write down what they thought of each other. The mentees also fill out a survey that rates the mentor program, which allows us to see what worked and didn’t work.

What changes have you done to the program?

Last year we made one. Last year we used to have individual end of the year surveys for the mentors, mentees, and the mentors to fill out on the mentor program. Now we have instituted a new change where we do surveys midway through the mentor program at week six. It gives us feedback quickly about what is going on.

For the mentors, what are their responsibilities?

The mentors are there to advice the mentees on what it’s like to adjust to college life and that includes talking about living away from home especially if they are home sick. How to navigate the school and to enforce different sources in the school such as Student Support Services, Student Success Center and Information Technology. They are a helping guide to the CAMPers and to reinforce what they are feeling.

Who can participate in the mentor program?

We open it up to former CAMPers that are on campus, also CAMPers that are in the CAMP program. We do the application process in the spring semester so we can have fresh faces from the recent CAMP program that graduated from it.

What is the ratio per mentor to mentee?

We have about 48 students, and it’s one mentor per six students.

What’s the selection process when putting mentors and mentees together?

There is a process; it’s a hard process. What we try to do is match with mentees and mentors with experience level, personalities, dislikes and likes. We monitor the new CAMPers when they first get to meet us prior to them being in the CAMP program. We get a sense of their personalities and the way they carry themselves. Also during CAMP ROCs we find out a lot about the mentees: what their views are about college and if they are motivated to come to college.

How do you handle CAMPers that don’t live on campus?

In the program we do have commuters, and with them, if they can meet with their mentors face to face, then they will arrange their meetings in the sense, but if they can’t meet in person, the mentor has to have a talk with them over the phone discussing the same things they would if they were meeting in person.

How can you make the mentees and mentors relate?

What we try to do is combine them with people that are similar and in a sense different than them. If a mentor is really outgoing, and we paired them with a shy mentee maybe the mentor can help get the mentee, out of his or her shell.  Most of them are around the same age and can relate to a lot of things.

How do the mentors benefit from this program?

They get the sense of helping someone out that was once in their shoes. It also looks good on the resume because people in the work force want to see things like that. Overall the mentors will learn a lot about themselves throughout being in the program. There is so much responsibility with the title of “mentor” that hopefully they can get out of the comfort zone and help others out.

How long does this program last?

This program lasts for the first semester. We do it early for students to focus on finals and the events that happen towards the end of their first semester.

Was there a training process for the mentors?

Yes. The mentors went through some training prior to getting the role. We meet and talk about the purpose of this program. In that meeting we discussed about privacy and different situations that could occur.

How do the meetings go?

They will usually find out about how they are doing in their classes, life, etc. They want to make it conversational and not boring. They do have to meet for 15 minutes per mentee they have. We recommend that they meet as a group, but if that is not possible, then they meet individually.

Why is this program important? 

It is important since these CAMPers are in their first semester and are like lost puppies that need help with everything. The mentors are the ones leading, pushing and encouraging them. We hope that the mentors build a good friendship with the mentees so that they open up and allow the mentors to help them out in any situation.

When do you start seeing results from the program?

Honestly, we start seeing results in the first three weeks. The mentors try their best to contact their mentees and build a good relationship with them, and so far, it’s been successful.