New Mentoring Program to Help New Students

March 25, 2016

Lucy Tirk knows the power of mentoring to change a person’s life. That’s why she asked GCC’s Executive Director of Resource Development & GCC Foundation, Alumni Association President Regina Curtis in summer 2015 if GCC has a mentoring program.

Judy Raper, GCC’s Director of Student Development, knows the power of mentoring to keep a student in college. That’s why she asked Regina in December 2015 for help starting a community mentoring program for new GCC students.

Just a few months ago, Lucy and Judy didn’t know each other or that their great minds were thinking alike. Now, they’re working together with Regina’s office to create a community mentoring program.

What does Lucy know?

Lucy knows firsthand the impact mentoring can have for someone starting out. Lucy, who moved to western Massachusetts after living in Asheville, NC, has served as a Big Sister for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program and as a Guardian Ad Litem for the court system. Guardian Ad Litems are trained, court-appointed people who represented abused and neglected children in the court system. For years, she worked with kids who were “aging out” of the state social service system at age 18. Lucy has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, has worked in the public and private sectors, and currently volunteers with young children at a school in Northampton.

Lucy said, “Mentoring is a concrete way to help out. A mentor can help with obstacles to staying in school, and help figure out ways to deal with them. A mentor is not a Mom or Dad, you’re more like an Auntie or Uncle, a friend. I tend to be very practically oriented. I’ve seen how getting special attention from someone, having someone help you at a strategic time is really important. And, it matters that a mentor is someone who wants to do it, isn’t being paid to do it. You can make a difference in someone’s life just by being their friend a couple of times a month. You can help them change their life.”

What does Judy know?

Judy knows that research indicates the first semester in a student’s life at college is the most critical. If a student persists from the first to second semester, they are far more likely to complete a degree. This is particularly true at community colleges. While many exceptional resources are in place at GCC, GCC students often juggle varied responsibilities as opposed to college being their only focus.

Judy said, “A mentoring program gives our students one more resource to help them be academically and personally successful. While Orientation is now mandatory, we have to fit in a lot of academic information. I wanted a way to also emphasize relationships as a key to academic and social success. I have long believed that Student Development should partner more with our alumni and the community and this seems a natural fit. Who better to advise students on how to succeed in the face of competing responsibilities than those who have done it themselves? Relationships with each other and faculty and staff are a cornerstone of our students’ success. A community mentoring programming adds another possibility for relationship building.”

What does a mentor do?

First, a mentor completes an application, is selected, and attends a training session. Then, they will be paired with a mentee based on commonalities in their backgrounds and interests. While Judy, Lucy, Regina, and GCC faculty and staff are still working on the program details, they expect that mentors and mentees will gather in group events at the beginning and end of the semester and they will communicate at least twice a month. The participating pair can communicate via in-person meetings, email, phone calls, and Skype.

What does a mentor get from mentoring?

Lucy said, “I get tremendous pleasure from mentoring. I like meeting people I might never have met. I’m fascinated with how young people develop and how they look at the world. It is a great privilege to have a person talk to me, trust me and want to share themselves with me. It’s changed me a lot, led me to questioning my own life and perspective. I hope people give it a try and find that it is a rewarding thing to do that feels really good. It is a great opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life just by being their friend a couple of times a month.”

Want to be a Mentor and learn more?

Contact Judy Raper at raperj@gcc.mass.edu or 413-775-1819.

By Mary McClintock, ‘82