Video: Mentoring Drives Student Success

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USA Funds Consulting Services

See how students at San Diego City College are benefiting from a peer mentoring program for first-year students. Lessons learned from the USA Funds Symposium and through consulting with USA Funds staff helped the school develop and expand its First Year Experience program.


One student gained confidence that transformed him into a campus leader. Another seized the opportunity to share his hard-earned college wisdom with first-time students.


Both say they owe their achievements to a first-year experience and mentoring program that USA Funds helped San Diego City College develop and expand.


“Without FYE, I don’t know where I’d be,” says Ricky Flahive, a student now preparing to wrap up his studies at the school.

“It’s been life changing.”


San Diego City College’s First Year Experience program offers comprehensive student services to the school’s 2,000 students who are attending college for the first time. One component of the college’s FYE program is peer mentoring, which serves more than 800 students.


Flahive’s first involvement with FYE was as a new student who had an assigned mentor. Now he’s a mentor himself, meeting regularly with first-year students to offer college guidance. The 20-year-old San Diego-area resident plans to transfer to a four-year school in 2014, pursuing a career as a professor of history or English literature.


He currently is active in student government and in a San Diego City College club for future leaders. By his second year on campus, Flahive boasted a 4.0 grade point average. But he says he started his college career as a student too shy to actively seek out the assistance he needed to be successful.


Help for that first-time college student who is unsure where to find it is what San Diego City College has in mind with the FYE program. “One of my favorite quotes is that a new student in college is like a stranger in a strange land,” says Bonnie Peters, the school’s chair of counseling/online counseling coordinator. “If a student wants assistance, we’ll make it possible for that student to get it.”


Ryan McKinzie is one of the 30 FYE mentors who provide assistance to new students. The 28-year-old Tucson, Ariz., native calls on eight years of previous, unsuccessful attempts to complete college at other schools to help students in the San Diego City College FYE program.


“I made just about every mistake one can make in college,” McKinzie says. “I not only empathize with the first-year students, but I also can look back at the 10 years I spent after high school and show that college is a much better option. I’ve lived some of the other options.”


Student success lessons that campus representatives have learned by attending the annual USA Funds Symposium have helped to shape the FYE program, as have USA Funds’ expertise and financial support.


Carole Ann Simpson first met San Diego City College representatives at a USA Funds Symposium a decade ago. As a USA Funds consultant, she regularly worked with FYE program staff to develop financial literacy and student success plans. She conducted regular seminars for FYE student-mentors to show them how to provide lessons in money management using USA Funds Life Skills.


USA Funds has awarded San Diego City College grants totaling more than $180,000 to fine-tune and expand the FYE program.


The latest figures for first-year students who took part in the FYE program at San Diego City College show that success rates are 16 percent higher for those at that campus when compared with first-time students from the rest of the community college district. The success rates indicate the percentage of students who maintain a GPA of 2.0 or higher through spring of their first year.


“We’re a success if we’re beating the average student success rates,” says McKinzie, who is studying epidemiology and hopes one day to further study infectious disease in pursuit of a doctoral degree.


“It’s a matter of helping students navigate the school experience and find the resources they need,” he says, “so that by the end of their first year in school they not only are doing well in their courses — but also are taking charge of their education and their future.”



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