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S.T.E.P.S. program helps students, encourages success

Jan. 20, 2010

By Neely Guthrie

Renee John was on entirely new ground when she stepped onto Baylor's campus as a junior transfer student. She came from New York City and didn't know a soul. But, when John heard about S.T.E.P.S., or Students Together Encouraging Peer Success program, everything changed.

S.T.E.P.S. is a multicultural program created for the purpose of fostering mentoring relationships between students of color. These relationships help freshmen and transfer students make a smooth transition to and flourish at Baylor.

"I didn't know anyone, so it was an entirely new environment and I didn't know how to plug into Baylor," John said. "It was cool to talk to my mentor, and just get advice about where to get my hair done or where to eat."

The program, in its third year, comprises 12 upperclassmen mentors and 12 mentees and is designed to last for two semesters.

An upperclassman pairs with a freshman or transfer student to provide a helpful relationship and ultimately assists in finding a way for the mentee to get involved in campus life.

Houston senior Jason Bushnell heard about the program from a Campus Living and Learning e-mail and decided to apply to be a mentor.

"A large extent of my interaction with my mentee throughout the semester has been academic, meeting several times a week to go over school work or papers," Bushnell said.

Bushnell plans to go to graduate school for student affairs and said his involvement in this program has solidified his decision.

"It's reawakened me to the various difficulties of a first year college student and reminded me why I'm going into the field I'm going into," Bushnell said.

Each mentor and mentee pair is encouraged to contact one another at least once a week, although it is not mandatory.

"Mentors and mentees are matched based on similarities, such as field of interest and personality. Two quiet people may get along better than people who can't relate as well," Ida Jamshidi, a coordinator for S.T.E.P.S. and a graduate apprentice in the department of multicultural affairs, said.

Jamshidi also said that mentors undergo training before mentoring and that they are equipped with contact information for the Health Center, Tutoring Center, Career Services and Career Counseling so they can refer their mentees to more specified instruction in areas they may need it.

Mentors also have continued training throughout the semester to prepare them for any matter that may arise with their mentee, Jamshidi said.

Throughout each semester, there are a few organized events for mentors and mentees to attend together. The S.T.E.P.S. information packet includes that mentors will receive complimentary tickets to selected events and banquets throughout the year to attend with their mentees.

There is also an event during the spring semester honoring all of the mentees and mentors in the program.

The program is not very large or well-known, Jamshidi said.

"A lot of people don't know about the program because it is relatively new." Jamshidi said. "In the future we hope to have small events in conjunction with Baylor events."