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Monday, April 15, 2024

Minority mentoring program suffering from too few mentors for demand

Although more than 200 minority students have been assigned mentors through the University Minority Mentor Program, other students might have to make the transition to UF without a guide.

Currently, there is a waiting list of more than 100 students.

The program is designed to help minority students assimilate into the UF culture by matching him or her with a mentor. Currently, 178 faculty and staff members have signed on to mentor 279 students for the 2013-14 academic year, director Jarrod Cruz said.

Cruz said making sure each student is partnered with a mentor has been an ongoing problem. He said he doesn’t know if the remaining students will receive a mentor.

“Our program tries to fill a void on the university campus,” Cruz said. “Unfortunately, we are not able to match every single student to a mentor.”

The number of mentors determines the eligible number of mentees.

Mentor applications are still being accepted until the end of September.

“I think the most important thing is feeling connected to the university community,” Cruz said. “There’s just so many options, they don’t know what best to get involved with.”

Program Manager Laura Weissbaum said she knows firsthand how overwhelming starting college can be to a student who doesn’t have the guidance of college-educated parents.

Weissbaum said she can empathize with the students because of her personal experience as a first-generation student.

“It really took me awhile to get settled and really be able to figure out where I was going and what I was doing,” Weissbaum said. “Mentors are something I really believe in.”

The program offers help from both faculty and staff mentors as well as student transition ambassadors. Receiving help from both areas of expertise allows the mentees to get the best of both worlds, Weissbaum said.

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Ambassadors serve as resources for a group of 10 to 15 mentees and a link between the mentors and the mentees, according to the program’s website.

“We are their guides,” said 20-year-old transition ambassador Carlos Garcia Galindo, a UF microbiology and cell science senior. “They’re looking up to you to know all the answers.”

Ambassadors and mentees are matched up based on similar academic interests.

Because the students he works with are taking classes similar to the ones he took at UF, he said he is able to have a relevant and hands-on approach to the students’ learning.

“I think the most important part is seeing their growth, seeing that they’ve stayed,” Cruz said. “They’ve committed to the University of Florida and receiving that degree.”

A version of this story ran on page 8 on 9/4/2013 under the headline "Mentors in minority for UF program"

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