As midterm tests and projects approach their deadlines, students find it difficult to stay organized and prepared for classes. For one group of students on campus, this time of year isn’t spent working alone but with their mentor.
Nearly 170 students at Murray State are enrolled in the student mentoring program operated by Student Disability Services. Helping those students stay on track are other students who want to do more than get paid.
“Part of my job is to make sure they study but also I want to be a part of their support system,” said senior Ashley Moss. “When they know I’m not there for the money, they can feel it and they work harder.”
Moss is an elementary education major and has worked with the program for two years. During that time, Moss has mentored nearly 20 students, including seven this semester. While Moss was hesitant when she started, she is glad to be getting real experience that will translate after her time at Murray State.
“Even though it is a completely different age group than I plan on teaching, it has given me the experience I need for my future,” Moss said. “I have dealt with so many individuals that when I have my own classroom, I can focus my attention on helping students.”
To Moss, being a part of the mentoring program is much more than just being someone to help with their homework. She also feels excitement when a student she teaches succeeds.
“I get really excited when they get their papers back and they got an A or they did well on a speech,” Moss said. “I know they put forth as much effort as I put forth in order for them to succeed and their success feels like mine as well.”
While sharing in the success of her students provides Moss the motivation to keep going, when a student comes up short, it can be difficult.
“I am really hard on myself because I feel that if they do poorly that it is my fault,” Moss said. “Staci reassured me that I can’t do it all and that there will be times like this and you can’t blame yourself as long as you do all you can do for the student.”
Staci Collins is the Project Mentor supervisor and makes sure that her nearly 60 mentors understand their roles.
“I tell my mentors that there are a lot of reasons why we don’t do well,” Collins said. “Sometimes the student didn’t study long enough or that we didn’t study the right material. There is only so much a mentor can do during those hours here and there is no guarantee that a student will pass a class just because they have a mentor.”
However, the program has certainly helped students succeed. Lucas Prather is a sophomore and is on both sides of the mentoring program. After receiving help from a mentor, this year he decided to become a mentor and pay it forward.
“I really felt like I wanted to help and give back to students,” Prather said. “My time is limited because of my schedule but it feels great to give back what I was given.”
One of the most common thoughts of the program is that mentors are tutors for the students. Prather said it is much more than that.
“You are helping a student who has a disability and are helping them succeed in certain classes and in life,” Prather said. “Upperclassmen know all the tricks in college and can really help freshmen out.”
To Collins and her mentors in the program, they are doing more than simply helping a student in class.
Said Collins: “A mentor talks to the student and tries to figure out problems whether it be with class or other things in life and is just there for the student to be a friend.”
Story by Tom Via, Staff writer