New mentoring program focuses on helping students transition to college life

Josh McAuliffe
July 16, 2021

DUNMORE, Pa. — This fall Penn State Scranton will launch another initiative geared to enhancing student success.

The campus is now accepting applicants for the new JumpStart mentoring program. Funded by the University’s Equal Opportunity Planning Committee (EOPC), JumpStart specifically aims to retain and sustain first- and second-year students by connecting them with peer and faculty/staff mentors and other advocates of the campus community who can help them navigate the often-bumpy social transition to college life.

While the program is open to all students, it is primarily geared to those from underrepresented, first-generation, and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, according to Dharti Ray, coordinator of co-curricular programs at the campus.

“The primary goal is to support minority groups such as African American, Native American, Asian and/or Latinx students,” Ray said. “The mission here is to retain them. Often, when minority students or first-generation students come to campus, they don’t feel like they belong. This allows them to establish a relationship with their peers and the faculty and staff. It’s built off this notion of relationship-building and social transition to the campus community.

“A lot of our students did their high school in another country. Or, maybe they speak another language at home. So, for them, it’s not just about being a first-generation student, but the whole idea of acclimating to the American education system in general,” Ray continued. “That adjustment is complex, and hopefully JumpStart can address it.”

Currently, Ray is actively seeking mentees for the program by promoting it at the campus’ New Student Orientation (NSO) sessions. She’s also reached out to faculty and staff to both identify and recommend current students to be mentors and to serve as senior mentors themselves.

“The program is just providing students with more of that one-on-one attention that our campus already does very well. It will really help further promote that welcoming environment we strive for here."

—Dharti Ray, coordinator of co-curricular programs, Penn State Scranton

Ray first pitched the program while still serving in her previous position as coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion. With assistance from Meghan Cruciani, associate director of academic advising, and Jon Tobin, coordinator of career services, she wrote a grant proposal that was submitted to EOPC in March.

“It was interesting to write the proposal and see how the vision for the program all came together,” said Ray, noting the person who succeeds her in the diversity position will eventually take over JumpStart.

Students enrolled in the program will meet regularly with their peer mentors, who will be paid, and at least twice a semester with the faculty/staff senior mentors.

Throughout the year, the mentees will complete various modules designed to connect them with critical campus resources and programs. In addition, they’ll have the opportunity to further develop and enhance their leadership and soft skills, career readiness, and overall academic success. 

“The program is just providing students with more of that one-on-one attention that our campus already does very well. It will really help further promote that welcoming environment we strive for here,” Ray said.

Ray hopes to have about 10 students participate in JumpStart this fall. With any luck, the program will progressively expand, with mentees eventually becoming mentors.

“The ultimate goal is to have students go through the program their first year and get them acquainted with becoming a mentor, so that they can help other students like them,” Ray said. “I think it has the potential to be a really successful program for years to come.”

For more information on the JumpStart mentoring program, contact Ray at 570-963-2685 or djr5630@psu.edu.

 

Last Updated July 19, 2021