Chicago — Starting adult life, navigating college and figuring out a career path for the first time on your own can be incredibly challenging. It’s nice to have a friendly face on campus and a mentor who can help you succeed, which is exactly what the HBCU Near-Peer Mentoring program is all about.
Since 2019, the 10-week program’s focal point has been social-emotional resilience while guiding the college-to-career journey. In addition, the student-led initiative — open to full-time HBCU students — focuses on finding internships, helping freshmen adapt to college, creating networking opportunities and exposing participants to noteworthy companies like 3M and Tiffany and Company.
Near-Peer has 100 pairs of mentors and mentees.
“We're helping young Black youth with professional development,” said Tariyonna Harper, freshman nursing major at Tuskegee University. “Especially with COVID, many people haven't been on campus, so at least they now have that one person on their campus who is their mentor that they could go on, talk to or do things with.”
The 18-year-old is in a unique position for the program. She is a first-year lead who manages and makes decisions, and helps to assign activities and check-ins with mentees.
Harper said that getting to know more about the companies made her reevaluate her nursing decision and think about a possible different path like data analytics and computer science.
Sophomore Jalah Bates, a biology pre-med student at Xavier University of Louisiana, is a first-generation college student and also a lead of Near-Peer Mentoring.
The 19-year-old has been both a mentee and a mentor and now pairs mentors and mentees and creates an activity sheet to help them get to know each other and set healthy boundaries.
Bates said the program taught her a lot and one of the most important lessons was how to present herself as a brand by “mastering the skills that I had, my soft skills and my hard skills to be a better me when I go in front of companies.”
She’s thankful to be in a position to help others whose shoes she was once in.
“Me being a first-year myself and not having anyone to help me apply for colleges, to find scholarships and having to do all of that myself, it felt great being able to come back into that. Now I can do more to help students who don't have those resources to do so themselves,” said Bates.