A trial run for a new peer mentorship program has been launched at Humber College, aimed at guiding freshmen through their first year.
The First Year Experience program at North campus emerged in light of a similar program’s recent success at the Lakeshore campus, said Amber O’Connor, student life coordinator at Lakeshore.
“We are now in our second year of the program, and the results have blown us away. We have doubled our enrollment of first year students and peer mentors. We’ve had immense success with the program,” she said.
First Year Experience currently has about 400 participants, up from roughly 200 last year.
“We had about 17 mentors our first year, and this year we are up to 40,” she said.
The First Year Experience program offers social programs, events, social connections and regular learning skill workshops.
“We know from a lot of the research that students who get involved on campus do better and students who feel a sense of belonging on campus are more likely to stay,” said O’Connor. “This year we started working with a public relations class, and now, as more faculty learn about us, we’re starting to get closer to faculty who ask about the things we offer.”
The transition to college is not only an academic change, but also a cultural change, said John Stilla, program coordinator for remedial and developmental (ESL) English.
“The extra comfort level is there with peers, and then peers also have the student perspective,” said Stilla, adding peer guidance offers support to new students who may feel bewildered in a new environment.
“I think that peer help is really good because I do think that some students do feel that there is some sort of intimidation and they can’t approach their instructors,” he said.
“Some students are very well prepared because they are self-propelled, they come in and realize very quickly that college is very different,” said Amanda Baker, an English professor at Humber. “I find that it takes a certain type of student to realize things are a lot different than they were in high school.”
Stilla said these programs are important because of the significant differences between different levels of education.
Initiatives like First Year Experience “are something that needs to stay, and something that needs to expand because high school and college are so different from each other now, especially just from my perspective of teaching English courses,” he said.