Spartanburg, S.C. -
The School of Education at the University of South Carolina Upstate implemented a Peer Mentoring Program during the fall semester to much success. The program was developed by Daphne Dawson, a senior from Campobello who is majoring in middle level education, as part of her teaching portfolio.
“The Peer Mentoring Program is designed to assist freshman students majoring in education with their transition to college by providing them with an early connection to the School of Education through interactions with a peer mentor,” said Dawson.
Dawson is coordinating the program along with Kevin Hand, a senior from Greenville who is majoring in middle grades education, who is serving as the assistant coordinator. The program recently received a grant from the USC Upstate Center for Undergraduate Research for work-related materials. The program is sponsored by the Teaching and Educating All Children (TEACh) student organization and the School of Education.
Upperclassmen mentors were recruited during TEACh meetings, by recommendations of School of Education faculty and via the departmental student newsletter. The mentors, juniors and seniors who have been accepted to the School of Education’s Professional Program, make weekly contact with their assigned freshmen via e-mail, Facebook, telephone, etc.
Andrea Heaton, a senior majoring in middle grades education, is serving as a mentor and is in agreement that the Peer Mentoring Program is a definite advantage for the new students. “There were definitely times when I had questions and problems with which a peer mentor could have definitely helped out. I am excited about the opportunity to be someone for freshmen to come to with questions.”
In addition to weekly communication with their mentors, the freshmen participants also have the opportunity to attend Freshman Mixers once a month, where they can mingle with all the mentors and education faculty members.
Brandon Craig, a freshman majoring in early childhood education, attended the first mixer and was glad to make more personal contact with faculty members. “I learned a lot about how to get help from the teachers and that if you're struggling to go talk to that teacher outside of class.”
University officials are already realizing the benefits of this program in terms of student performing better academically and navigating the new territory of college life successfully, both of which have a greater impact of student retention efforts.
“The School of Education is very excited about the potential of this program,” said Dr. Charles Love, dean of the School of Education at USC Upstate. “By building connections with freshmen during their first semester at USC Upstate, we believe that more students will be successful in their studies, be accepted into the Professional Program, and ultimately join the teaching field.”
The Peer Mentoring Program will expand to include transfer students majoring in education beginning in January 2009. For more details, contact Daphne Dawson or Dr. Tina Herzberg.