Ask Your Peers – Mentoring Program Offers Guidance in College

Providing high-quality education is Broward College’s mission. In order to do so, the College understands the importance of providing a holistic experience, which entails offering tools and resources geared towards personal and academic success. 

The Peer Mentoring and Leadership (PML) program provides students with guidance for them to successfully navigate the College’s resources on the journey to achieving their academic goals. “The main idea is to increase their sense of belonging here at Broward College, which in turn will increase their chance of succeeding academically because they feel comfortable and are aware of the resources we offer them,” explains Farah Pierce, director of Student Achievement Initiatives (SAI). 

 Most of these resources, including the PML program, have successfully transitioned to a remote environment as the College continues to engage in social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.  

Transitioning to Remote Operations 

Even before it was required to transition into fully remote operations, PML was familiar with the concept of remote mentoring. While peer leaders were required to attend physical team meetings and training, they were able to do part of their work remotely.  

“We were already accustomed to communicating with our mentees via text or emails in addition to our face-to-face sessions,” explains Toyesha Simpson, a peer leader. “However, there has been some adjustment. Most of the peer leaders have had to reinvent ourselves to maintain strong communication with our mentees as this situation is new to everyone.” Toyesha has found ways to keep the line of communication open with the students she is helping by sending daily motivational messages and doing a regular check-in.  

Mentoring Coordinator, Marta Bautista is aware that peer leaders are also in need of their support system now more than ever. “If we want our peer leaders to serve their mentees successfully, we must offer strong support. We are providing them with as many resources as we can to make sure they take care of themselves first. We are facilitating material on mental health, time management, E-learning, for their personal use and to share with their students,” she says. 

Connecting with a Mentor 

Students who would like to connect with a peer mentor can do so at any point during the semester or academic year. Prospective mentees must complete a form with their contact information and be willing to engage in constant communication with their mentors. After reviewing the form, the SAI office will contact the student to assess the needs and expectations, and pairing usually takes anytime between two days to two weeks. 

The pairing between mentor and mentee is random unless the mentee has a special requirement. Currently, the College is serving 340 students through PML, although this number may increase in the following weeks. “Our projection is to see an increase in demand because of the nature of the service, and given the current situation, it is understandable that students will need all the support they can get,” explains Pierce. 

“It’s up to all of us to make an extra effort to remain motivated in this situation, but we also want to ensure our students that we are here to help them in any capacity possible, we just need them to communicate  with us so our peer leaders can help you achieve your academic goals,” says Bautista. 

Becoming a Peer Leader 

If you would like to offer support to your peers as a mentor, applications open soon. 

PML is funded through a federal grant provided by AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs that seek to improve lives and foster civic engagement. Students who choose to serve as peer leaders become AmeriCorps members and have access to its benefits, which include student loan deferment, leadership and skills training, and limited health benefit options. 

The College begins recruitment for prospective peer leaders during the summer. Interested students must fill out a form, meet the onboard requirements of the College and AmeriCorps, and complete intensive training. Once selected, peer leaders access the benefits of their own while helping others. 

Part of the requirements to be an AmeriCorps member is that mentors complete a year of service, after which they receive an Education Award they can use towards the educational expense of their choosing. Through their year of service, peer leaders also receive a living allowance. Additionally, leaders are paired with a faculty mentor in their pathway to assist them with their personal goals.   

Peer leaders have access to a support system of College staff in departments, including advising, financial aid, and registration, among others who assist them in their job. Each leader can manage a load of up to 10 mentees and work an average of 27 hours per week. 

To learn more about Peer Mentoring and Leadership, visit broward.edu/mentoring.  

Visit broward.edu/coronavirus for updates, student resources, and more.