UW Green Bay mentoring program supports young color students

The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay is employing mentors in the hope that freshman and high school students of color will feel more connected to the campus and the wider community.

UW-Green Bay’s BIPOC RISE program – which stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color Reaching Intersection Strengths Through Engagement – is a volunteer initiative to connect colored students who are about to graduate with those who are just now start their college career.

Christine Smith, Associate Professor of Psychology, is a co-founder of the RISE program. She told WPR the goal is to focus on college students and freshmen in particular, as it’s important to create a sense of belonging early in their college careers.

“We know that freshmen who do well are more likely to come back,” said Smith. “And their first year experience is really a big catalyst for whether or not they will continue college.”

The Green Bay campus is predominantly white, Smith said, but the bigger the community and the regions the campus recruits from, the more diverse. She said that is why creating BIPOC mentors with colored upper classes is vital.

“So first of all we want to bring them together with people who have been through it and also with people who have been successful, who can also help them negotiate this and just realize that you know you are important and we appreciate it that you are here at our university, “said Smith.

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Hanna Beauchamp-Pope is a junior psychology student at UW-Green Bay and leads the RISE mentoring program at Preble High School in Green Bay. Beauchamp-Pope is a high school graduate and a former member of the Diversity Leadership Club. She told WPR that she mentors current club members and sets academic, social, health, and health goals, as well as goals for daily life. Beauchamp-Pope said those students can then mentor other high school students who aren’t sure they are in high school.

“The goal is to encourage and motivate them to see that college is doable and that they have the power to make it happen,” said Beauchamp-Pope.

Beauchamp-Pope says there are nine mentors from UW-Green Bay College in the RISE program. She works with about five high school mentees.

UW-Madison has a similar program, Mentorship Opportunities in Science and Agriculture for Individuals of Color, which brings together Color faculty, researchers, and alumni with students to create a more welcoming environment for them on the predominantly white campus.

A 2012 study of peer mentoring programs found that “a holistic peer mentoring experience is potentially of great value in terms of not only individual academic encouragement but, perhaps more importantly, critical support for social inclusion, cultural capital and personal growth for students from social and economic backgrounds who traditionally had no access to college experience in the United States. “

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