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Through the Lens: CHASS F1RST Peer Mentors Reflect on the Program


By Sumeera Jattala, Dean's Office Student Intern
January 31, 2017

CHASS F1RST aims gear freshman towards success upon arriving to college through their peer mentorship program. Freshmen in the program are given peer mentors whom they meet in a classroom setting on a weekly basis. With that the program exposes them to the opportunities offered through College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. This program aims to serve as a resource for freshman through social enrichment and academic success, helping them think critically in this new experience.

The program itself would not be so successful and beneficial for the freshman classes without the dedication, and devotion of the peer mentors. These mentors play a role to create a bridge for freshman to comfortably integrate over during their transition into college. The fruit of the program is not only blossomed through the growth of the freshmen, but the growth of the peer mentors themselves.

Laila Rashid is currently studying at the University of California, Irvine School of Law. She worked as a peer mentor for three years, and graduated UC Riverside in 2015. Her experience as a mentor was eye opening and rewarding every step of the way. In an over-the-phone interview Rashid emphasises, “I think mentoring is really important. I realized that especially by the end of my college experience. I wanted to gain the skills that my mentors seem to have and give back to the freshmen the same way they had given back to me.”

Another previous mentor in the program is Dr. Ismael Diaz. Diaz served as a peer mentor from 2004-2005 and graduated from UC Riverside in 2008. Today, he is an Assistant Professor at Cal State San Bernardino. For Diaz he began working in CHASS Connect at the time of the establishment of the program. In an interview, Diaz became a mentor after his own positive experience as a freshman in the program. Diaz reflects, “I realized after about a year in the program, that the mentor's advice was the most valuable thing that I have learned at UCR. So I wanted to be a part of that, and pass that forward.”

There are many valuable outcomes from being a mentor. Rashid emphasizes the exposure to the different people one will come across through being a mentor. She states, “I definitely learned how to collaborate with different kinds of people on every level. Just working with a peer undergraduate student was just one part of it. You had to work with graduate students, you had to work with the freshmen, and you had to work with the  professors as well. So I was able to learn a lot of really important collaboration skills and team building skills.” Other helpful things from the program that Rashid touched upon were the campus resources, and helping freshmen navigate through it. She shed light onto an important outlook in regards to that, “every student is different and every student struggles and no struggle was more valid than any other.” For a peer mentor to be able to help someone in that struggle is an act that can stick to freshmen.

Another role of a peer mentor is to help students who do not feel the confidence to ask for help. Something both Diaz and Rashid heavily reflected upon. Rashid believes, “For them being able to come to me and say, ‘Hey I am having this problem’, and to be able to consider all the options with them” was something that she saw as extremely rewarding. Diaz raises awareness in regards to the fact that, “a lot of students don’t know how to be vulnerable, or they don’t know how to be in front of authority figures”. With that in mind, the role as a mentor as a resource to talk to, was important to him. He says, “I think by sharing with them with them that it’s okay to be anxious, it’s okay to not know what to say it drew some of them out of their shells. I think that was a big thing for me. That’s the cool thing about being a peer mentor.” This helped build skills set that helped them both after college.

The program also helped the two of them in their respected fields. For Diaz the program was a perfect entryway into being an educator. He highlights, “Being able to actually have the experience of being in front of a classroom, presenting my material, and having the chance to do one-on-ones really helped me develop the kind of skill set that I have now with teaching and mentoring.” He furthers into the topic of how these two intertwined for him. “For me it was a perfect entry into the world of education. It was very easy to go from there into a job like this.”  Looking at what Rashid is currently pursuing, which is law, CHASS F1RST made a strong impact in the growth of her skill set and also drive in the field.  She compares the roles of the two. Rashid argues, “The advocacy role is a huge thing, the mentorship aspect of it. People come to an attorney often because they’re problem solvers. People have a problem and often they need to navigate the legal system and it takes a certain education, experience, and expertise to do that. So just like an attorney is doing that with the law, as a peer mentor you did that just through the campus resources.” The two are examples as to how in the long run the program made a valuable and enriching impact towards their respective fields.

Peer mentors serves as a different type of advocate. An advocate for freshman to be vulnerable enough to cross the bridge built by the mentor and ask questions, seek information, and get educated. This is not only in the academic sense, but all around success and well-roundedness. Although it is important to understand that journeys are not linear, utilizing a resource such as a Peer Mentor can be the route needed to flourish. 


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