HP Peer Mentor Program Helps First-Gen Students Find Their Strengths

November 8 is the First-Generation College Celebration! This week, we’re highlighting Saint Mary’s High Potential (HP) Program and celebrating our first-generation students.

HP Peer Mentors (from left to right) Ashley Hernandez ’23, Frida Garcia ’22, and Synclaire Lee ’22This summer, High Potential (HP) Program/TRIO Student Support Services Peer Mentors and staff welcomed first-generation students to Saint Mary’s in the Summer Academic Institute for Leaders and Scholars (SAILS) [read that story here]. Each year, incoming HP students are matched with a Peer Mentor, a dedicated student leader who provides academic, personal, and professional support to help first-generation and low-income students achieve their full potential at Saint Mary’s.

Throughout the school year, Peer Mentors meet with mentees twice a month to offer one-on-one support during students’ first year at the College. “We all have a caseload of four to seven [students] based on the amount of first-year and transfer students we have that year,” said Peer Mentor and Sociology and Ethnic Studies double major Synclaire Lee ’22. “In those meetings, we provide social, emotional, and academic support to our students….That’s probably the biggest thing we do, but we also help to facilitate different events throughout the year and help plan those events.” 

Anahi Torres ’22, a Peer Mentor majoring in Business Administration with a double concentration in Finance and Data Analytics and a minor in Economics, participated in SAILS as a first-year student and is now a Peer Mentor for the third year in a row. “I think it was really special that HP Director Jenee Palmer and the staff took the time to call me and reach out to me and motivate me to attend SAILS, and be a part of this program….I still remember that phone call to this day,” said Torres. “I chose to become a Peer Mentor because the program helped me a lot my first year...so, I just wanted to give that back.”

As a first-generation college graduate, Senior Success Coach Sharzad Mozaffar understands how important the HP Peer Mentor Program is at Saint Mary’s. “The Peer Mentor Program has come a long way and with intentional training, curriculum, and team collaboration. This amazing team of leaders really understands what it takes to guide their mentees and fully support them in every way, shape, and form. The HP Peer Mentor team understands their mentees and are so empathetic to each unique experience. The Peer Mentor Program is really that supportive bridge for our first-years and transfer students as they begin their journey with SMC and in my opinion a huge part of why many HP students continue at this institution.” 

The Peer Mentor Program helps students strengthen their communication, public speaking, and time management skills, and prepares them for successful careers; but Torres says her favorite part of being a Peer Mentor is seeing first-generation students thrive. “The most rewarding piece is how appreciative…[students]  are of you and your time and how you’ve helped them their first year. It’s really great to hear at the end of the year or in years to follow how much you’ve impacted their experience at Saint Mary’s.” 

To learn more about High Potential and the Peer Mentor Program, click here