By Brooke Schultz
Elm Staff Writer
When first settling into college life, freshmen may find themselves facing a little turbulence. Thanks to the Peer Mentor program at Washington College, students have a little guidance.
Peer Mentors are there starting from your first day at WC to help you move into your dorm room, find your way around campus, and offer their advice to help you transition into college life. The program is aided by Director of Wellness and Prevention Lauren Gibson and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm.
Below are just a few of the Peer Mentors who aided in this transition.
Junior Katie Gordon was prompted to join the program because of her own experience with her Peer Mentor, Obella Obbo ‘14, who made the transition to college easier and made Gordon feel like she belonged.
Gordon loved orientation as a freshman, regardless of the “awkward situations,” she said. “I thrive off of awkward situations, which I think really helps in my role as a Peer Mentor. I also try to remember, now as a Peer Mentor, how I felt as a freshman going through orientation. Everything is completely new and confusing, and sometimes scary, but that’s why Peer Mentors exist. It’s our job to make everything easier for the freshmen.”
Gordon has been a mentor for two years, and the opportunity has been incredibly rewarding for her. “Not only do I get to work with and mentor a group of freshmen every year, but I get to go through orientation for all four years of my college career. Additionally, the group of Peer Mentors that I get to work with each year contains some of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.”
Senior and Peer Mentor leader Ian Flinn became a Peer Mentor going into his junior year. He was inspired by his Peer Mentor, who made a really big impact on his freshmen experience, and he wanted to offer that same guidance.
“From the Peer Mentor perspective, you really get to see how what you do effects your group, and it’s more than just being someone to take students to and from activities. It’s a person that aids in all social and academic issues a student may have… It’s almost like we’re Google for students,” he said.
Being a Peer Mentor has helped Flinn grow as a student leader, and he also thanked Feyerherm and Gibson for their roles in the program. “I would just say additionally that a lot of training and time is dedicated to the program. Director of Wellness and Prevention Lauren Gibson and Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Sarah Feyerherm put a lot of effort in making sure the Peer Mentor program is flowing as smooth as possible,” he said.
Sophomore Anna Gjersten wanted to become a Peer Mentor after her freshman year because she felt like the program had given her a lot of support when she was first getting acclimated to WC.
Becoming a Peer Mentor was a whirlwind for Gjersten. “I was very nervous for my first meeting, but the support I got from returning Peer
Mentors really helped, and after that, it just became about trying to share my excitement about WC and the orientation events with my mentees,” she said.
Gjersten said the training for the program and actually experiencing it taught her patience, acceptance, and balance. She understood the hectic experience her mentees were going through and wanted to be supportive and helpful. She said, “It’s our job to introduce the freshmen to the WC campus culture and the expectations of courtesy and organization that their peers and professors will have for them.”
Junior Michael Mann became a Peer Mentor at the end of his freshman year. “I decided that I wanted to become a Peer Mentor during my freshman year orientation because every Peer Mentor always seemed to be having a good time, regardless of the situation. I think what really struck me is that they were all outgoing people and weren’t afraid to make a fool out of themselves to make the freshmen feel more comfortable in very uncomfortable situations – looking at you, Play Fair,” he said.
Francesca DiPaula, Mann’s Peer Mentor, inspired him to join the program after making the transition to WC as smooth as it could possibly be. Mann tries to embody the attributes DiPaula represented friendliness responsibility, and a healthy does of goofiness.
Mann’s experience as a Peer Mentor has been one of the most rewarding of his college career so far, and enjoys being able to help students through a stressful period of their lives. The diversity of the Peer Mentors helps with that. He said, “We all come from different backgrounds, and different countries in some cases, but we all feel like family. One of the things that I have learned from being a Peer Mentor is that you can learn something from another person regardless of how different you may be from them. Everyone on this earth has a story to tell, and sometimes we forget just how interesting other people can be.”
The Peer Mentor program works diligently to help students feel right at home at WC, and their broad range of personalities helps them relate to any of the mentees.