A new program at Western Technical College is not only helping students inside the classroom, but it's also pairing them with staff members to create life-long friendships.
Every student at Western Technical College has the opportunity to get a counselor or adviser to help with campus life, but two staff members thought more needed to be done for students outside of the classroom. That's why they created a mentoring program last August to help answer questions that can't be found in a textbook.
Sixty-three-year-old Siew from Malaysia and 52-year-old Minh from Vietnam have been part of the mentoring program for a couple months.
"I think the mentoring program is very good for all those students who need to know something else besides book, daily life,” said Siew.
"If I don't know something, I can ask a mentor and they will explain how to do it,” said Minh.
The goal of the mentoring program is to help students be successful in school and life in general.
"It's those students who don't get their questions answered, their life questions or their navigating-the-system questions, those who don't get those answers are the ones that drop,” said Cynthia Gran, co-creator of the mentor program and an instructor at Western Technical College.
It's a program that breaks down the wall between the classroom and outside world.
"They've done things we never expected them to do. One mentor taught her mentored person how to ride the bus, went with her and taught her how to ride the city bus,” said Gran.
The mentor and mentored are paired up based on similar interests, hoping to build a strong relationship where it's okay to talk about anything.
"I talk about my escaping from Vietnam to freedom countries,” said Minh.
"I am looking for a job, so I ask the mentor how to apply for a job or whatever and I need housing and then the mentor will advise me where to apply for the housing program,” said Siew.
A first time mentor said it's not about knowing all the answers, it's about helping them find the answers.
"I can help him get to the right people when he has questions for example about a program or financial aid or things like that, that's kind of my role, I am his go-to person,” said Brenda Parmentor, a mentor at Western Technical College.
But most importantly, it's about showing someone that you care.
"Some of our mentors don't really answer that many questions but it's someone to talk to the student,” said Gran. “We've had mentors say, 'Oh gosh, I'm not doing anything for her.' Yeah you are, you're listening."
The mentors who take part in the program are volunteer staff members who work at Western Technical College.
The program has currently paired 16 students with mentors, but program coordinators are hoping to expand in the future.
If you would like to participate in the program, call 608-785-9562.