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Mentoring for First-Generation College Students

By Carol Menard-Fulthorp, Partners for Success Coordinator, Office of the Dean of Students

Encouragement, motivation, support, patience and excitement are some of the key words CSULB freshman use to describe their mother and/or father’s influence on their choice to attend college. From a freshman’s decision to attend college and the first semester of transitions and final exams, to selecting a major and, finally, to becoming a graduating senior, it is critical for your student to have a strong support network. The off-campus network can include parents, grandparents, family members and friends. Of equal significance is for the student to have an on-campus professional advisor and mentor who is knowledgeable and resourceful regarding the important programs and services to help them succeed inside and outside of the classroom. The Partners for Success Faculty Mentoring Students Program at CSULB provides students who are “first-generation” (the first in their family to go to college) with a meaningful opportunity to have a formal campus support network.

Since 1988, the Partners Program, which is a collaborative effort between the divisions of Academic Affairs and Student Services, has matched first-generation students with a seasoned faculty member who serves as a formal mentor, advisor and friend. Partners’ primary goal is to assist students in having a well-rounded college experience while they successfully work toward and earn their bachelor’s degree. Although first-generation students may have “support” and “encouragement” of their family, there are common challenges that the student may have to face and overcome. Through academic, personal, social and career advisement, a mentor is a “partner” who helps the student reach his or her goals. Mentoring activities can include lunch meetings, tutoring, leadership and communication skills development, co-presenting at conferences, resume writing, graduate school preparation and networking for internships and jobs.
At the annual Partners recognition celebration each spring, when mentors, administrators and students are recognized, the real impact of the program is learned from the stories of the graduating seniors.

One such success story is that of Maria Mejia Hall, a 2006 graduate who majored in health science. Hall’s early years at CSULB consisted of going to class and heading straight home—missing the sense of on-campus community support that she had with family and friends off-campus. Hall was discouraged with college, but she was determined to get through it. Hall’s “Beach” success story began when she met Health Science Professor Britt Rios-Ellis, a mentor in the Partners for Success program.

“Rios-Ellis took me under her wing. She taught me the skills to pursue my career and she showed me that college is not just about going to class and taking exams. She encouraged me to seek out opportunities and get more involved on campus,” Hall stated. “I will always be grateful for the support, guidance and wonderful opportunities that my mentor gave me, which was a life-changing part of my college experience.”
Like Maria Mejia Hall, there are 380 other Partners students who are being mentored by one of more than 40 dedicated faculty mentors, who are committed to “make a difference” in their students’ lives.

As of 2007, the Partners Program provides free individual tutoring at CSULB’s Learning Assistance Center, a writing specialist, the Van Lent Loan Program and connections to the leadership opportunities and student support programs through the Office of Student Life and Development and the Division of Student Services.
Partners for Success mentors can be viewed as the third members of a dynamic team, along with parents, who intentionally provide comprehensive support for your student to successfully persist to graduation and prepare for his or her future career and life.

You are invited to contact the Partners coordinator for further program information and an application for your student.