OCCC students now have an even greater potential to succeed with the help of a new mentor program being offered by the college. The program, Students Connecting with Mentors for Success, was created this semester to help solidify OCCC’s mission to ensure success for every student, both in their educational and professional careers.
The program’s main purpose is to allow students to connect with a professional who has already established a career in the student’s desired field, and to help the student stay on track with their classwork.
Network for Student Services Director Bryon Dickens said it is imperative that colleges provide an environment where students can thrive.
“I believe, as an institution, we should provide an infrastructure for our students to support them in as many ways as we can,” said Dickens. “One great way to support our students is providing a mentor.”
“Studies have shown that mentors have improved educational outcomes for students,” Dickens said.
Other colleges have similar programs, but they’re often student-to-student. OCCC’s new mentor program is student-to-professional. Professionals off campus are also allowed to participate in the program.
“Our roster of mentors really are just executives from various companies here locally,” Dickens said. “We’ve got attorneys, entrepreneurs, doctors, just a wide variety really, of industries and professions.
“Along with providing that support of a one-on-one relationship, these professionals can introduce our students to their areas of professional interest, and also enable our students to be more engaged in the communities,” Dickens said.
Dickens said, as of now, about 100 students are enrolled to be mentees, and he expects that number to continue to grow.
“What I try to do is match students with mentors who are in their area of professional interest,” Dickens said. “Rather than just hurriedly placing a student with a mentor, I want to take the time and provide the best match possible.”
Macedonian psychology major Julijana Bozhinovska said she has had a great experience working with her mentor.
“We had a meet and greet with all of the mentors and mentees,” Bozhinovska said. “It was a great network opportunity. I found a lady I really liked and from the minute we saw each other we just started talking to each other. So Bryon set her as my mentor.”
Bozhinovska’s mentor is an educator that works off campus.
“I know what I want to do, but I never met anyone who has done that before,” Bozhinovska said.
She said that her mentor is well placed to give her advice on how to become a psychologist.
“I don’t want to go through all these years studying for something and then not be educated enough about it beforehand,” she said.
Bozhinovska said students who are skeptical or don’t think the program is for them should give it a try.
“It’s a great, great program. It’s always nice to have someone in your life that you can look up to and ask for advice,” she said.
Diversified Studies major Brandon Ghoram said having a mentor has truly helped him in his education. His mentor is a manager at BlueBell.
“I was one of the first people to be introduced to Bryon and to the program,” Ghoram said. “It really just started from a conversation that we had.”
“We have conversations a lot of times just about life, he gives me a lot of advice on the mindset that I need to have when I transition from school to having a job,” he said.
Ghoram said the experience is molded to fit students individually, for their needs.
“It’s not like a one size fits all mentality, each individual gets their own tailored response,” Ghoram said. “There’s no pressure, there’s no trying to fit you into categories.”
OCCC Learning Support Specialist Alta Price is a mentor in SCMS and says the program is rewarding for both her and her mentee.
“When I was a student, I was lucky enough to have people who served as a mentor in some capacity and really touched my life and my educational direction that I went on to pursue higher education,” said Price. “So I think part of it is to give back. The other part is getting to interact and engage with a student differently than you get to in your professional role.”
“Being able to be a mentor means you learn more about them personally, learn about their struggles and their successes,” Price said.
She said it’s important for students to try new things and branch out in their education.
“I think college is all about trying new things, pushing the boundaries you have for yourself and for others,” Price said.
“Try it. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work,” Price said. “But what you may find out is its one of the best things you chose to do for yourself.”
TRIO Student Support Service Adviser Jermaine Peterson is also a mentor on campus.
“I try to meet with my students at least twice a month,” Peterson said. “Just to catch up on how their week is going, if they need any assistance. I think the hardest part of college is navigating it, and I think that’s where this program would be helpful.”
“I really believe in the mission of SCMS,” Peterson said. “Before this program was implemented, I’ve been telling students for some time now that it’s not all about what you know, its really about who you know, and who knows you, most importantly.
“This is what this program is all about, helping connect students to a professional in their field,” he said.
According to a report by Harvard-based sociologist Mark Gronowetter, 75 percent of all professional positions are filled primarily through networking.
“The majority of jobs that are passed along, that person knows someone who’s already there,” Peterson said. “If you can network with someone who’s already doing what you’d like to be doing, I think it opens up your eyes to see the field a different way, and it now allows you to have a contact.
“Your mentor may even be your future employer,” Peterson said.
For information on how students and mentors can be involved in SCMS, contact Dickens at 405-682-1611 ext. 7753. To contact Price, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org To contact Peterson, email him at email@example.com.