Aside from taking classes, some Hancock College students now have the opportunity to work toward their careers in another unique fashion — through forming bonds with various leaders in the community.
The college officially launched a pilot mentor program Wednesday night that pairs 11 students with one college faculty, staff or administration member, as well as with one community volunteer.
Mentors include Hancock’s Vice President of Academic Affairs George Railey, Santa Maria City Manager Rick Haydon and local business owner Jay Hardy of Hardy Diagnostics.
Warren Gabaree, project director of the college’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program and a local dentist, spearheaded the program after doing extensive research on the history of mentor programs at community colleges.
“There has been a significant difference in those that have mentors from those that do not,” Gabaree explained. “There is a difference when students have people who are there caring for them, helping them out, encouraging them and telling them they can do it.”
“I just thought it would be a great thing to bring that to our college.”
After undergoing months of training, the mentors and mentees met for the first time during Wednesday’s festivities.
The main event of the evening was “Saving Humpty Dumpty,” an activity that had the teams create egg catchers out of items such as empty toilet paper rolls and old newspapers.
Once each team was ready, a member of the Santa Maria Fire Department tested the viability of the creations by dropping an egg down from a 21-foot ladder.
“It promotes self-efficacy,” Petra Gomez, project director of College Achievement Now/TRIO program, said of the activity. “The goal is to help them stay motivated and complete educational goals.”
Mentee Katherine Jakulsky, a first-year business major at Hancock, joined the program to help her make the adjustment from a home-schooled high school student to a community college student.
“I’m hoping to become more confident in my decisions as a college student,” Jakulsky said. “I’m looking forward to receiving outside advice and getting friends from it.
Jakulsky’s mentors are Claire McGee and Marian Quaid-Maltagliati. McGee is the intake coordinator at the Legal Aid Foundation of Santa Barbara County, while Quaid-Maltagliati is the director of Admissions and Records at Hancock.
“It’s important that students have others that have been through similar challenges to talk to so we can give them tools to help get them through them or, at least, alleviate them,” Quaid-Maltagliati said.
Students will spend four hours a month with their mentors and have a graduation ceremony in May.
While the program is just a pilot, Gabaree hopes to continue, and expand, the program next year.