Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mentoring program gives students a boost

Jaylin, her husband, John, and their daughter, Kylee-Cathreen.
Did you know we have peer mentoring program? Here's an article from last December that explains how it works:

    Last winter, Jaylin Richman contacted a Distance Degree Programs mentor for advice about a course. She got a lot more.
    When Kendra Hayward wrote back, Jaylin ended up telling her everything. How her fiancĂ©, Army Sgt. First Class John Johnson, was serving his fourth tour in Iraq. How she was staying in West Richland, Washington, with her parents and her 3-year-old daughter, Kylee-Cathreen, until John returns to their home near Fort Hood, Texas. How she struggled to handle parenting duties while taking 20 credits a semester for a double major in criminal justice and psychology.
    “Kendra and I e-mail each other usually twice a week,” she said. “Kendra makes me feel like I’m doing everything necessary to succeed. She has been such an inspiration.” More...        A few months later, life got a lot better for Jaylin. In May, John returned from Iraq. Jaylin joined him in Texas, they got married on July 11, and have just purchased a house.
    But Jaylin still leans on Kendra. “She's been helping me get started with the fall semester,” Jaylin said. “I'm taking seven classes, instead of my usual six, and I've been a little overwhelmed. Kendra is helping me to cope.”
    Kendra’s empathy is based on experience. She graduated from DDP in 2005 with a social sciences degree. Now she’s helping about 20 students. “Basically, I give encouragement and tips on time management and handling stress,” she said. Kendra is also brushing up on her own time management skills: She’s earning a master’s at the University of Washington School of Nursing.
    Faculty/Student Services Coordinator Cheri Curtis, who runs the mentor program, said Kendra is the only mentor, but that could change if more students take advantage of the program. “The University motto is ‘World-Class, Face to Face,’” she said. “Maybe we can’t be face to face, but, through our mentors, we can be voice to voice.”
    The mentoring program is funded through the DDP’s student government. “Mentors share their insight on how to study effectively, where to get information, pitfalls to watch for,” said Debby Poris, president of the ASWSU-DDP. “And they give us reassurance that we are on the right track.”
    Janet Kendall, DDP’s director of academic programs, pointed out that the mentoring program is only one part of the online support network. “They say it takes a village,” she said. “We’re creating a virtual village with this mentoring program, the Virtual Mentors in the course space, academic advisors, student support services, and 24-hour technical help. We all care about the students and want to help them succeed.”
    Kendra, who lives near Mill Creek, Washington, uses e-mail and the telephone to reach out to students. She may soon get the chance, however, to meet one of her biggest fans in person.
    “Kendra doesn’t know it yet,” Jaylin said, “but she’ll be receiving a graduation invitation next spring!”
    For more information about the DDP’s mentoring program, go to aswsu-ddp.wsu.edu/mentor/mentee.asp.

-- Richard H. Miller/Center for Distance and Professional Education

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