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Mentors provide a valuable service

January is National Mentoring Month, an observation led by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, with support from the Highland Street Foundation.

A mentor is defined as a person who serves as a coach, advisor, or trusted counselor to someone with less experience. In college life, a mentor is much more. A mentor recognizes potential, kindles possibilities, and connects students with opportunities. At its most fundamental level, a mentoring relationship provides a personal connection so that mentees know someone cares. They are not alone.

At SVCC, mentoring is an important part of what we do. Formal mentoring programs stand alongside a host of other efforts that provide vital support for student achievement, including tutoring, career counseling, academic advising, and hands-on assistance in areas such as financial aid, disability accommodations, and transfer planning.

Our longest standing mentoring program, Make It Happen, began operating in 1998. This comprehensive effort supports the success of African-American males. In addition to receiving academic help, participants are given the opportunity to attend leadership development events and are encouraged to seek leadership positions in a variety of campus clubs, organizations, and committees. These activities, which promote adjustment to the college environment and encourage the development of a positive self-image, enable participants to consistently meet or exceed anticipated outcomes as measured by grade point average, retention, and persistence toward goals.

The Women in Search of Excellence (WISE) Mentoring Program seeks to address the challenges facing women in higher education by fostering healthy relationships and providing support, guidance, and encouragement. Participants overcome barriers enabling them to achieve personal, professional, and academic growth. With support from their mentors, WISE students set goals, make informed decisions, identify needed resources, discover pathways, cultivate strong relationships with women in business and academia, and develop leadership and self-improvement skills.

Go For It, a pilot program being launched at SVCC’s Center for Information Technology Excellence (CITE) in South Hill, is aligned with the Microsoft Women in Data Centers Pathway Program. Go For It will pair local students with their counterparts in Dublin, Ireland. Microsoft staff will provide personal mentoring.

These programs, and others, help students reach education targets and attain personal success. They are especially valuable for students who are returning to an education pathway after time spent in the workforce. For example, people who find themselves unemployed or underemployed due to COVID-related job changes and wish to train for new career options can find the help they need at SVCC. The Re-Employing Virginians (REV) Grants program, originally instituted at the end of last year, has been extended through 2021. By combining this financial assistance with effective mentoring and student support, our college enables student achievement.

REV grants cover community college tuition for Virginians who meet program requirements and wish to train in REV-eligible programs. These span a wide range of options in areas with high job demand and include associate degree pathways, certificate and career studies programs, and short-term FastForward credentialing opportunities. Fields include nursing and other healthcare-related fields, criminal justice, information technology, and hands-on technical programs such as welding, machining, and automotive repair.

Anyone considering a return to higher education, should contact SVCC. Visit southside.edu or call (434) 736-2046. Ask us about financial assistance, mentoring, and other student support services that can help you reach your goals.

(Dr. Quentin R. Johnson is president of Southside Virginia Community College, an institution of higher learning that provides a wide variety of education opportunities to a diverse student population within a service area that spans ten counties and the City of Emporia. He can be reached via email at quentin.johnson@southside.edu.)