It’s nearing the second month of the spring 2017 semester. As the seasons change, the weather gets warmer symbolizing midterms are just around the corner.
For Fresno State freshman and pre-nursing major, Japneet Gill, this is an important time to stay motivated and to have the right resources and people around her, especially those that have familiarity with the University. This is where Speech-Language Pathology senior, Maeghan Pershall, comes into play.
Since August 2016, Pershall has served as Gill’s mentor under the Advising and Career Development Center’s Peer Mentors program in the College of Health and Human Services. The program pairs freshman students, whom are placed in remediation courses after high school, with an upper classman to serve as their peer mentor, from within the same college, to provide support and guidance during their first year.
Having peer-to-peer contact, especially for freshman new to the University is essential. Gill, who graduated from Clovis West High School, said the experience thus far has had a tremendous impact in getting her acclimated to college life.
“It has eased my transition from high school to college,” Gill said of the peer mentors program. “The advantage of having a peer mentor is kind of like having an older sibling that tells you where to go and what classes to take and if you are really on the right path, and what you can do to benefit your entire college experience. Maeghan is someone I can really lean on for advice.”
For Pershall, the opportunity to mentor Gill is mutually beneficial.
“The experience is reciprocal,” Pershall, of Porterville, said. “Not only am I giving Japneet information, but it is helping me a lot, too, in terms developing those skills that I would use in my future career as a Speech-Language Pathologist. It’s about giving and gaining knowledge – and also gaining counseling skills.”
Last semester, Pershall had 35 peer mentees that she actively met with. This semester she mentors 12 to 15 students, meeting twice a month. Much of her previous students have completed their required remediation courses or no longer need the service.
Pershall said that an important task for peer mentors is to guide freshman students into making the right choices academically and also encourage them to get involved on campus.
“It’s about having the knowledge of resources and support system that you would not otherwise have,” Pershall said. “They can ask more simple questions or more complex questions. I had students ask me where a building is. Any bits of information help when students are orienting themselves to the campus.”
Gill said there are many on-campus services she would have never known about had it not been for Pershall’s guidance, such as scholarship opportunities, supplemental instruction and extra-curricular activities.
Applying to the Fresno State nursing program in 2018 is on the horizon for Gill, who hopes to receive her bachelor’s degree in nursing by 2020 and further her education at the university to become a nurse practitioner.
Gill credits her mother, who has fought cancer for the past eight years, with being the inspiration behind her desire to go into the nursing field.
“My sister and I always accompanied her to appointments,” Gill said. “It really exposed me to the medical field. I see nurses, health care providers and how passionate they are, hoping one day to achieve the same standard.”
Even though she is on the right track to succeed and has exceeded the requirements of the Peer Mentors program, Gill still plans to continue with the program until the end of the school year.
“I am glad to have her back even though she finished her remediation course,” Pershall said. “It’s nice to stay with her on her journey a little longer and to keep her momentum going. I always tell her that I know you are accelerating, but don’t let it die off when you hit your sophomore or junior year. It does get harder and your classes can get tougher, but just going forth with that same tenacity that you have shown and keep it at a steady pace.”
Gill said being in the Peer Mentors program inspires her to want to keep progressing and succeeding, especially with Pershall rooting her on from the sidelines.
“A lot of times Maeghan will check up on me and ask how my test went,” Gill said. “Obviously, I don’t want to say I failed! So that just motivates to me to want to study and do well. If I didn’t do well, Maeghan will help me and tell me ways I can do better the next time.”
For Pershall, who will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in May, the experience of being in the Peer Mentors program was a wonderful way to cap off her undergraduate career at Fresno State. She would encourage anyone whose thinking about becoming a peer mentor to just reach out and do it
“If you enjoy helping others, I would say go for it,” Pershall said. “You don’t have to have the title of a peer mentor to be a peer mentor. Just reaching out to someone who you think needs help. If you have the resources to help someone out, you definitely should.”
To learn more about the Peer Mentors Program, contact the College of Health and Human Services Advising and Career Development Center at 559.278.5027 or visit their website.