First-year students LEAP into Penn State with the help of peer mentors

July 15, 2015

On July 1, nearly 2,300 first-year students stepped into a classroom at University Park for the first time, but many didn't do it alone. Close to two-thirds began their college career alongside an upper class student mentor as part of the Penn State Learning Edge Academic Program, or LEAP.

In its 20th year, LEAP is a summer program that offers first-year students the opportunity to start their Penn State education in a small-college atmosphere within the larger University in hopes of easing the transition from high school to college.

Over the six-week summer session, LEAP mentors will plan study sessions, social activities, and serve as a role model and guide to their “pride” of 24 first-year students. Pride members will take two classes together, live in the same residence hall and, as a group, begin to understand the opportunities and responsibilities that come with being a college student.

Marlee DeBolt, a sophomore mentoring the Microeconomics and  Macroeconomics Prides, is excited for the opportunity to build a sense of community among her pride members. “I really want my LEAPers to get to know everyone in their pride, and for them to connect on an academic level and also on a personal level,” said Marlee.

One way of cultivating this sense of community is through social activities planned by each mentor. For one of their activities, Marlee’s prides will hike Mount Nittany. A new experience for both herself and the majority of her LEAPers, the hike will be an opportunity to form bonds and give LEAPers their first glimpse of what Happy Valley offers beyond Atherton Street and College Avenue.

Mentors also will work to connect new students with the many resources available to them throughout their time at Penn State. Tours of the library, Pollock Testing Center, and University Health Services, as well as rides on the CATA busses and an introduction to the peer tutoring available at Penn State Learning are just a few of the planned activities.

When summer comes to a close, the goal of the LEAP mentors is to have fostered friendships among their LEAPers, helped acquaint them with resources they’ll need to be successful, and facilitated strong academic starts. This foundation will serve LEAPers well in the fall, when the number of students on campus can make University Park feel overwhelming.

Maggie Ledrick, a sophomore Public Relations major mentoring the Photography and Writing Pride, said that she herself participated in the LEAP Program as a first-year student, and hopes her LEAPers finish their first semester with the motivation to reach their goals. “I hope that they will jump into their fall semester ready to accomplish whatever they wish, whether that be involvement in organizations, doing well in their classes, or doing something entirely new. If nothing else, I hope that they know that they always have a support system from me and their fellow LEAPers.”

Last Updated May 12, 2016