Student Support: Curriculum
Matching students with mentors is nothing new for Howard Community College (HCC), as for years, the career services office has worked together with the James W. Rouse Scholars program to connect students with mentors. However, the initiative has expanded over the years to support students in groups such as Howard P.R.I.D.E., a Black male success program, Ambiciones, a program for Hispanic/Latinx students, and the noncredit Skilled Immigrant Program with the goal of matching students with mentors who have shared experiences or backgrounds.
“Representation makes all the difference, and the effect is an impactful and powerful connection when you are paired with someone who is in the same sociodemographic as you,” said Rev. Rickey Harvey, youth pastor at St John Baptist Church, whose members mentor HCC students, while the church provides an annual scholarship for a Howard P.R.I.D.E. student.
Rev. Harvey said that the church’s involvement reflects its priority to “focus on people’s wholeness beyond their spiritualty, especially students trying to discover life’s purpose and secure an identity. We have a deep care and concern for students.” He added that his church has a college ministry group where mentors make themselves readily available to HCC students. “With the pandemic, sometimes they just need someone to talk to outside of their family,” he said.
To start the mentorship process, HCC students are sent a survey to inquire whether a student would like a mentor and if they prefer to be matched with someone who shares their career choice or other similarities such as race or ethnicity, explained Anne Johnson, director of resource development at HCC. Once a mentor has been identified, a student intern in the counseling and career services office reaches out to the student to initiate the connection, and then the onus is on the student to contact the mentor, according to Paul Martin, career counselor at HCC.
“The student and mentor will have a series of three or four meetings. We only ask mentors to give us a minimum of two hours of their time, which is not a big ask. Many of them, however, meet with students more than that,” said Johnson.
Mentors guide students on their career path and introduce them to a myriad of possibilities within their field. “In health care, for example, there are non-clinical jobs such as those in public relations, accounting, and human resources,” said Johnson.
Kelly Orozco (’20) credited her rapport with Sandy Cos, program director for Ambiciones, for helping her earn her associate degree in business administration and successfully transfer to the University of Maryland, College Park, where she is a double major in accounting and management.
“I credit her for helping me graduate on time. I struggled with the transfer process, and I was nervous about allowing some credits to not transfer, but it was a seamless process,” Orozco said.
Orozco added that Cos helped her obtain the Frederick Douglass Scholarship at Maryland, a scholarship for academically talented community college students. Orozco emphasized that her connection to Cos was deepened by the fact that they are both Latina. “She understood, for example, how in Latino culture, kids are expected to help out with chores in the home, but I needed to focus on my schoolwork. Sandy could relate to this and gave me advice on how to talk to my parents,” she said. Kelly is returning to HCC this spring as a volunteer and mentor for another Ambiciones student.
“It’s important to have a mentor who has shared experiences, barriers and cultural background, and it accelerates the connection between mentors and mentees,” added Rev. Harvey.