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Strategic Enrollment Management and Student Success

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Meet the mentors

VCU You First mentors are sophomore, junior, and senior first-generation college students who serve as guides to new VCU students who are also first-gen. Having learned to navigate college life, these students are excited to share their hard-earned “college knowledge” with others to help ease the transition into this new world. They know what it feels like to be brand new and they welcome questions and conversation of all sorts.

If you would like to be connected with a You First mentor, complete the matching survey. If you would like to become a mentor, read over the program description and requirements. Applications for 2021 mentoring are due by January 31, 2021. The application will be available in November. 

Papa Beye [View Image]
Papa Beye
Computer Engineering, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I really enjoy talking to my mentees and helping them arrive to solutions. I love seeing their success.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value my identity as a first-generation student because it empowers me to pursue the unlikely.

Yessica Flores [View Image]
Yessica Flores
Psychology and sociology, class of 2021

On being a mentor: I love the rewarding feeling of being able to guide others through challenging situations. I love the experience of being a resource for others.

On the Summer Scholars program: If you have the opportunity to become a Summer Scholar, take advantage of it. Do it and make the best of it. This program will benefit you in ways you would never expect it to. If you take advantage of all the information, resources, and networking opportunities provided, then you should have a head start on figuring out how college works. This program will will give you an unforgettable and very valuable experience.

Nana Afriyie [View Image]
Nana Afriyie
Social Work, class of 2020

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
One thing I enjoy about being a mentor is getting to meet new people with different backgrounds.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value being the first in my family to attend college. 

Barjaa Brown [View Image]
Barjaa Brown
Psychology, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I enjoy helping fellow first-gen students succeed by being a resource to them. Also, I enjoy being part of their support system and sharing knowledge about things that might not necessarily be apparent. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value the opportunity to provide advice and guidance that I myself had and would have benefitted from.

Savannah Cook [View Image]
Savannah Cook
Nursing and Psychology, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I think back to when I was just coming into VCU, and all the mentors I had myself. I never could have made the transition to college comfortably without all the help I had along the way. As a mentor I enjoy helping other first generation students get accustomed to university life in any way I can.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value that I am the first of my family to pursue a higher education, and I hope that I can light the way for my younger siblings. I have found a population of students that feel the same way as I do, and I am so happy that we all can learn from each other.

Faith Crawford [View Image]
Faith Crawford
Chemistry, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I take comfort in the fact that we, as mentors, help guide our mentees to make their first year go a lot more smoothly.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
Even though I was a bit scared when I first came to VCU, I love that, by being a first-gen student, I feel like I'm part of a family. We look out for each other. It's an experience that I don't think students who aren't first-gen get as quickly, because we have this niche.

Jalaya Davis [View Image]
Jalaya Davis
Psychology, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I enjoy seeing my mentee grow during my time with them. Not just in skills that will help them in school, but also in skills that will help them beyond school.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I am trying to do something that no one else in my family has done and that’s graduate from college. College is tough, but being able to come out saying, “I did it!” will make it all be worthwhile in the end.

Kali Delay [View Image]
Kali Delay
Interdisciplinary Studies: Crisis Intervention Specialist, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?

The best part about being a mentor is being an available resource for someone who needs it, no matter the circumstances. Whether it be for something extremely complex and confusing or something simple and straightforward, I find comfort in knowing that we don't have to solve our problems alone. There are so many great opportunities at VCU, and I'd hate for a new student to be turned away from experiences because they didn't know about them or how to approach it.

Marielle Hankerson [View Image]
Marielle Hankerson
Spanish and Urban and Regional Studies, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
My favorite aspect of being a mentor is being able to help other people when they need it most. I love being able to share my experiences in order to help someone else become more successful in their life and achieve more of their personal goals.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
One of the most valuable aspects of being a first-gen student for me is having the desire and persistence to achieve goals and to succeed in my education and future career. It can be challenging at times, but I know at VCU I have a large group of supporters behind me who want me to succeed just as much as I want to.

Patrice Branch [View Image]
Patrice Branch
Political Science and Homeland Security and Emergency Planning, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I love being a mentor for a variety of reason, however the most important is the connection and relationships I gain from helping others. I also enjoy the feeling I get when I know I have made an impact on someone's life. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value being a first-gen college student because my experiences may be more vast than those who came before me. By graduating college, I will be setting the precedent for future generations to follow, thus ensuring their continued advancement.

Jon Mirador [View Image]
Jon Mirador
Interdisciplinary Studies, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I most enjoy helping to guide the process of self-improvement by creating a meaningful relationship, which can impact both the mentor and the mentee. It is greatly rewarding to be that person who I once needed. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value the sense of fulfillment that comes with every achievement. This is because as a first-gen student, it can be difficult to see the progress we make as we keep working towards our goals. It’s important to step back and see how just how hard we’re working, and that makes everything worthwhile.

Avani Hariprashad [View Image]
Avani Hariprashad
Medical Biology and Interpersonal Psychology, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I enjoy the opportunity to meet new people and share with them the things I have learned. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student? 
While being first-gen has been a struggle, we are a part of a strong community who is always willing to help.

Tori Huynh [View Image]
Tori Huynh
Art Education, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I love being a mentor because I am able to be a guide for others on this journey and even learn a few things along the way!

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
Being a first-generation student has allowed me to appreciate the little things beyond academics.

Mya Jeter [View Image]
Mya Jeter
Criminal Justice, class of 2020

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
To me, the most important part about being a mentor is being a resource and helping shape future generations of college students. I also enjoy that there is an opportunity for my mentee(s) and me to share information and knowledge with one another.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
Being a first-gen student is hard but it is also an honor. We have the opportunity to create a legacy based on our decision to stop the cycle. It gives us the opportunity to create our own story based on what we have have accomplished, and not what our elders have done. 

Yelini Lopez [View Image]
Yeleni Lopez
History, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
What really excites me about being a mentor is being the help that I needed when I first started here at VCU. I enjoy teaching people who are just starting out my little tricks for thriving in the college setting. Seeing your peers' progress is such a great thing, especially when you are part of a support system they can rely on.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I think it's important to recognize that you're always going to be a first-gen student. The experience is unique yet there are so many of us! The nuances that come with being a first-gen student foster a great sense of community when you meet others with a similar story. You also continue to meet people that make you go, "Hey! I'm actually not in this alone."

Ivan Parada [View Image]
Ivan Parada
Computer Engineering, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I enjoy being a mentor because it allows for me to serve as an outlet for advice in making any life choice easier. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I take pride in being a first-gen student because I’m setting a prime example for my family. I want to prove to them that I’m capable of performing more than their expectations.

Brutaja Ruffin [View Image]
Brutaja Ruffin
Social Work, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor? 
I love having the opportunity to meet new first-gen students like myself, getting to apply my leadership skills, and, most importantly, getting to be there for my mentees through their first year of college!

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value the collaboration that the first-gen students and mentors put forth to becoming successful. I value the integrity we hold in becoming our true self and being honest with the life decisions we take upon. Being a first-gen student is not easy but we work hard to have better opportunities for our future.

Jerica Thompson [View Image]
Jerica Thompson
Social Work, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I would say the best part about being a mentor is meeting and experiencing new people while having the opportunity to learn new things through them. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
It is really important to me to take the knowledge that I get from school back to my family who did not got to college. I enjoy being the person to give everyone else insight.

Jesscina Tower [View Image]
Jesscina Tower
Criminal Justice, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
The one thing I enjoy most about being a mentor is watching people live and learn and grow from past decisions, both good and bad. Having the privilege of guiding someone through decisions and watching them reflect on those experiences is fulfilling.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I would say that I value the expectations placed upon me. I come from a military family, where honor, diligence, and commitment are core values that are instilled into every aspect of my life: personally, professionally, and academically. Knowing that I am setting an example for my younger siblings and setting the stage for my career are reminders of why I am doing what I am doing. It is a great motivating factor knowing that I am making my family proud while I am exceeding and still taking responsibility for the expectations placed upon me.

Xuela Robinson [View Image]
Xuela Robinson
Psychology, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
We were once in their shoes so we can provide them with tips to make their lives easier while adjusting at college. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
Here at VCU, there are many resources specifically for first generation students, along with low income students. The community of first gen students are amazing also. We are always willing to help someone because we know what it’s like to not know certain things about campus that would make campus life much easier.

Rosa Vasquez [View Image]
Rosa Vasquez
Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I most enjoy being able to not only connect with my mentee but also to aid them in all their strides for success.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
Being a first-gen student has an intimidating factor to it; however, without that intimidation we wouldn't push harder and listen more to ensure we are on track with the rest of the herd. I value this responsibility and accountability. First-gen students may not start with all the extra advice and prior knowledge, but we will finish with all of that and more!

Raymond Velez [View Image]
Raymond Velez
Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
Knowing that I am helping others grow and progress throughout their first year of college is something that brings a smile to my face! I strive to help others, and to me that is what being a mentor is all about.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I'm grateful that I will be able to show my family that we can get degrees and that college can be achievable. While I may be the first to go to college I know that I definitely won't be the last. I hope that by being the first of many I can inspire a generation of college graduates in my family.

Ashley Williams [View Image]
Ashley Williams
Health, Physical Education and Exercise Science, Pre-Med, class of 2022

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I enjoy helping those students who may feel lost or confused or have no idea what they are doing. I am excited to be there for my mentees. I can't wait to use what I have learned to make their experience a little less stressful.

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value knowing that I am not alone no matter how confused or lost I feel. I like the challenge of not knowing what to expect because I know that I will be able to figure it out and get where I want to be--which is graduation.

Jasmine Witt [View Image]
Jasmine Witt
Chemistry, class of 2021

What do you enjoy about being a mentor?
I most enjoy being able to connect to other first generation students and guide them so we can help each other be successful. 

What do you value about being a first-gen student?
I value the power that we have to give hope to future generations of minorities to succeed.

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