Minority Mentoring opens doors to all backgrounds

Last year, the newly founded Center for Academic Success (CAS), opened up one of its programs to all students at the College. What was originally the Minority Mentoring Program (MMP) became the Student Mentoring and Leadership Program (SML), welcoming students from any background.

MMP was originally founded to help students adjust to college life socially, academically and emotionally. The program won the Noel-Levitz Prize for the College, in acknowledgment of its excellent minority retention rate.

The change was introduced last year, spurred by the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in the affirmative action case at the University of Michigan Law School, which brought into question whether it is constitutionally sound for an institute of higher education to use race as a formula for or against admission.

The ruling found that it is acceptable to take a student’s background into account, but under very specific guidelines.

In addition to the Supreme Court ruling, two students at the College raised their own concerns about the program.

According to Nadine Stern, chief information officer at the College, a minority female wished to stop being contacted by MMP and a non-minority male wished to use the resources that the program provided.

“These students discussed their concerns with the administrators of the program (MMP) who then discussed it with other college administrators,” Stern said.

The result was a change to include all students in the program. Ivonne Cruz, program specialist of Academic Support Programs, said that all students are welcome to join SML regardless of their ethnic, academic or extracurricular background.

The program has been evolving since its founding in the late ’80s. Cruz, who was also involved in the program during her days as a student at the College between 1990 and 1994, said the program has been steadily moving toward a focus on leadership training, as opposed to serving exclusively as an aid to new students.

Through the program, students who come to the College searching for help in adjusting to school or managing the demands of college life can use their experiences to help new students over the following years.

The program is essentially run by students, and those who come into SML as freshmen and stay with the program emerge as leaders and role models to underclassmen.

When a student first joins SML, he or she is matched with an upperclassman mentor. Cruz said that she tries to place each student with a mentor who she knows has something in common with each first-year student.

The mentors are each responsible for meeting regularly with two or three first-year students, referred to as prot?g?s.

Besides personal attention, SML provides prot?g?s with a small group setting in which they can develop friendships.

“There’s a strong sense of family and community,” Michaela Olsavska, sophomore biology major, said.

When asked about the change from a minority student membership to an all-inclusive membership, the answers from SML members were optimistic.

Elisa Torres, sophomore business major, said that she thinks the change will help SML grow.

“Now the groups are different, and there are groups for everyone,” Janely Jose, senior English secondary education major, said.

She added that the name change was a good idea because she felt that the old name had kept people away in the past.

Cruz says that the program is thriving and membership is extremely high this year. Wanda Anderson, CAS director, said that success comes from people sharing the benefits of experience together.