Diversity-focused peer mentoring group offers new students support, networking

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The BLUEprint Peer Mentoring Program brings together new students from diverse backgrounds to help ease their transition to Penn State.

“I see other people struggle with getting accustomed to the campus and I just haven't had that issue. I am grateful to BLUEprint for helping me with that,” freshman Jesica Garcia said. She was paired with her mentor when she arrived on campus in the fall.

The program’s mission is to promote the well-being of first-year and change-or-campus students, focusing on students of color, in order to encourage retention and successful persistence toward earning their Penn State degree.

BLUEprint’s adviser, Kristen Wong, has been with the program since it began in 2011. The program was adapted from a health education program known as S-Plan, which was sponsored by University Health Services before it moved to the Paul Robeson Cultural Center (PRCC), a unit of Student Affairs, and rebranded as BLUEprint.

BLUEprint was established with the goal of providing academic, cultural and social support to its members, Wong said, who is also the assistant director of the PRCC.

“We try really hard to provide students who are in BLUEprint with a lot of opportunities to grow, to learn about themselves, to support each other, and to find that sense of family in whatever that means for them here,” Wong said.

BLUEprint puts out an application for new mentees every fall and for new mentors every spring. The 110-member program is divided into an equal number of mentors and mentees.

All members fill out a similar application before being paired with their mentor or mentee in the program. The applications include questions such as "share five interesting things about yourself," "what are your professional goals," and "what are you interested in on/off campus."

Wong said they match mentors and mentees based on those applications, as well as similar hometowns, majors and minors.

BLUEprint focuses on making sure mentees are paired with individuals who can help them through their first year, and ensuring mentors feel prepared and trained to provide support to their peers.

“A fundamental part of what BLUEprint is all about is making sure that people feel like they are there for others and others are there for them, as well as that they are growing and learning and contributing in that process,” Wong said.

The program is internationally certified by the College Reading and Learning Association, which means its mentors have the opportunity to earn certification by being a part of the program.

“That gives them not only an accomplishment they can put on their resume but also something they can feel really proud about earning,” Wong said. “It reflects their efforts, energies and passions about peer mentoring, and that's definitely an accolade we are really honored to offer.”

Porche Maloney joined BLUEprint five years ago during the program’s first year. She has been involved as a mentee, mentor, and executive board member.

“Our slogan is ‘Designing Your Future’ and I think that's exactly what the program does in the sense that it kind of helps you throughout all aspects of your Penn State transition,” Maloney said.

The support offered by BLUEprint does not stop after the mentee’s first year ends, Wong said.

“It is a lifelong investment,” Wong said. “We want individuals to understand that mentoring does not have to happen in this specific structured way, but to also seek out mentors in their lives in other ways or to be a mentor to somebody with or without BLUEprint.”

Maloney said as you grow through the program you learn and bond with different people while becoming comfortable with yourself in college.

“You get to learn from each other, invest in each other, and grow and learn and progress together,” she said. 

Maloney made it her goal to invest in her mentee the same way her mentor invested in her.

“Penn State is obviously a huge university, so it's very easy to kind of get lost in all that it has to offer,” she said. “Just being there as their guiding source is definitely important to me.”

In addition to the mentor and mentee pairs, BLUEprint is also divided into families, which each include approximately 25 members. Families within the organization are another way for members to get more social and personal involvement, said Janee Roberts, one of the family leaders.

“Getting comfortable with my mentor and family made me open up better, so then I was able to get comfortable with BLUEprint as a whole,” Roberts said.

In addition to attending BLUEprint workshops, meetings and socials, each family hosts an event once a month.

“Not only do we do these socials and different events, but because we have our family time where we can get to know each other better, it is a way for us to get comfortable with each other,” Roberts said.

Along with being a peer-mentoring group, BLUEprint also hosts events on campus throughout the academic year. Each semester, BLUEprint sponsors one open-program event, Wong said.

“The open-program events are educational programs for the campus that anyone can come to,” Wong said. BLUEprint hosted College Code in the fall, which provided students with the do’s and don'ts of being a successful college student. This semester, the open-ended program “Passing the Torch” focused on how college students can empower youth to pursue higher education.

In its fifth programmatic year, BLUEprint was voted the best organization on campus by Penn State’s Black Caucus this fall. The program has been nominated before, but Maloney attributes BLUEprint’s increased exposure in the community to their victory this year.

“We definitely deserve that award,” Garcia said. “Thanks to BLUEprint I have joined other organizations, and I opened up to a part of campus that I would not have known without BLUEprint, it would have taken me more time to figure it out.”

With the help of BLUEprint and the PRCC, Roberts said she has a cultural understanding of who she is as a person, where she fits in on this big campus, and how she can make a difference.

“Everyone who joins BLUEprint is very open minded,” Roberts said. “We are all willing to have conversations, willing to get to know each other better, and have a safe space and no judgment zone. Just having that makes it free and open to have this family bonding and this supportive nature.”

To stay up to date with BLUEprint, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter

Last Updated April 19, 2017