Student Support launched the First Year Mentor and Heber J. Grant Mentor programs this past fall with the hope that both students and mentors would develop relationships that went beyond simply being an assignment. Freshman participant Megan Linton says her mentor experience did just that.
"It was good that I was able to make friends so quickly through this, because I don't think I would be having the same experience I'm having right now if I didn't," Linton said. "I've made so many friends through my mentor. And I hang out with them every single day."
Program Coordinator Kimball Benson says in many situations the mentors assigned were the exact friends these new students needed. In many cases it made a difference in the lives of the volunteer mentors most of all.
"A lot of mentors were also blessed to find purpose in their lives," Benson said. "And many of them found more of a desire to look outward."
Kendall Barrett, a First Year Mentor volunteer, said she not only learned from the students she mentored, but gained a greater appreciation for BYU-Idaho as well.
"Even though I'm older and have been here longer than these students, I've learned so much from them," Barrett said. "Being able to serve and talk about how great BYU-Idaho is, along with trying to be an example, just makes me realize how blessed I am."
The First Year Mentor program begins with Get Connected. Each volunteer-partnership is then assigned an average of 40 students to oversee throughout the semester.
The Heber J. Grant Mentor program targets students who come from backgrounds that put them at a higher risk of not graduating. These students receive more one-on-one mentoring than students in the First Year Mentor program, with a ratio of one mentor to three students. Starting Winter Semester 2017, all first semester students will receive a first-year mentor. Those who qualify for the Heber J. Grant Mentor program may continue to receive mentoring in their second semester. This will involve all students who meet the criteria and will also take into effect how each student performs academically during their first semester.
The experience gained during this semester provided insight to how improvements could be made in the future. "We learned a lot of lessons this semester," Benson said. "There are good things happening, but we definitely want to increase the amount of people who are reached by these programs."
As the mentorships continue to develop, program coordinators hope that those who enjoyed their experience will return with a desire to serve in Student Support in the future.
Barrett said a handful of new students from her mentor group have already signed up to participate as volunteers in Student Support next semester, achieving the vision that the program has been designed to fulfill.
"I was really excited to come here in the first place, but my mentors made me even more excited," Linton said. "And that's why I wanted to get more involved myself. Because I feel how blessed I am to be at this school now."
Looking back on her positive experience, Barrett believes the creation of these mentor programs truly allows the university to better accomplish its mission.
"The fact that the mentors are with the new students for the entire semester now is so inspired," Barrett said. "We're not only here to welcome them to BYU-Idaho. We're here to be their friend."