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College Mentors: Helping Scholars Succeed

by Meleseini Lotoaniu, MVLA Scholar majoring in English at UC Davis; January 2022

More than 95% of Scholars in the MVLA Scholar program are the first generation in their family to attend college. They need help navigating the complexities of college. As a result, a cornerstone of the MVLA Scholars program is the college mentor. Every Scholar is paired with a mentor they work with throughout their college career on whatever issues they need help with, including academics, finances, and internships. Additionally, Scholars can depend on their mentors for friendly advice about their personal lives. This year, MVLA Scholars has 95 college mentors supporting 140 Scholars.  

Local community members become mentors because they want to help students navigate college and enjoy working with young adults. Jeannie Richter, a former MVLA Adult-Education teacher, was one year into her retirement when she decided to become a mentor in 2012.  Jeannie cited a longing to work with young adults again.  

“I really like young people,” Jeannie says. “I really like watching them grow, learn, and take charge of things. It’s been very rewarding because they’ve all been successful in their own right and in their own way.”  

Mentors are on call for their Scholars for whatever issues they have. Scholars can rely on someone for help they cannot always get at home.  

“Having a mentor has totally made an easier impact in my college experience,” says Elaine Sanchez, a third-year at San Jose State University. “As a first-generation student, I don’t have other resources. It’s not that easy for me to ask the people around me about college because it’s not something they know about.”  

Mentors also play an important role in preparing Scholars for their post-graduation careers.  They help with resumes and cover letters, searching for internships, and learning how to interview. This has contributed to 84% of this year’s college graduates landing full-time professional jobs or enrolling in graduate school.  

While helping their Scholars navigate through college, mentors typically develop a close relationship with their Scholars. They get to know them and can better help them because they can cater to their specific needs. They become a voice of encouragement when their Scholars encounter roadblocks.  

“I’m just kind of trying to be a cheerleader,” says Stephanie Spaid, Elaine’s mentor. Stephanie entered the Mentorship Program by first becoming Elaine’s mentor while she was a high school senior in AVID. When Elaine was accepted into the MVLA Scholars Program, Stephanie was offered the chance to continue being Elaine’s mentor. She currently mentors two Scholars. “I’m just here to put the safety rails up. I know them well at this point. I remind them of what they have said are their hopes, dreams, and goals.”  

MVLA Scholars has a graduation rate of over 90%. The college mentoring program is key to this level of success. Scholars receive exclusive one-on-one support that has been beneficial to their college education and beyond.  

“We are all here to support our Scholars in whatever way we can,” says Dee Gibson, co-chair of  the MVLA Scholars program. Dee was a mentor herself before becoming co-chair of the program. “Our support goes beyond just academic advising and includes career guidance, help with finding summer internships, finding legal, medical, and mental health resources. As we always say to Scholars: ‘Once an MVLA Scholar, always an MVLA Scholar.’ We are there for our students well beyond graduation.” 

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