Coming to college can be difficult. First-years have to get accustomed to college classes, a new schedule, new friends, peers and teachers while trying to juggle their social and academic lives and essentially learn to live on their own.
Brian Bohman, an SJU senior, recognizes this struggle, and founded First-Year Mentors program, which matches up first-years with senior mentors.
As a first year, Bohman was dissatisfied with the culture of St. John’s. He felt disconnected from his peers because not a lot of them wanted to get involved in the same ways he did.
“Everyone wanted to drink and smoke and that was the primary focus of people’s lives,” Bohnman said. “I saw something innately wrong with that. Not the behaviors themselves, just the negative aspect of community that was being formed out of those activities that prevented peers from reaching their full potential and finding a sense of belonging.”
It is easy to assume that college means drinking and partying to have fun. We see it all the time in movies, on TV and especially on social media. It is almost as if we have to be influenced in order to have a good time.
While these activities are definitely part of the social atmosphere of college, it should not be the only part. Bohman found that the focus on drinking and partying is not healthy for young people because it draws people apart instead of bringing them together.
Bohman tried to find a sense of belonging in a lot of those communities and couldn’t do it.
“I thought that is what it meant to be a Johnnie (or a ) college student, but it wasn’t fulfilling,” he said. “I started thinking about how I could build community at our school, centered on different things.”
The goal of First-Year Mentors program is getting people involved and engaged and especially helping first years find a sense of belonging while sorting out what is means to be a college student.
The goal of the First-Year Mentors program is to provide formal opportunities for the first years going through the big transition from home life to college. Being thrust into college can be overwhelming and having a mentor can positively influence that change.
The mentors will set up consistent, formal meetings with a first-year similar to themselves. During these meetings the two students can talk about life and struggles, share stories and advice, anything to create community. Creating connection is of primary importance.
“Every single person on campus can be involved if they want to be,” Bohman said.
A mentor must have free-time, flexibility, honesty and willingness to engage with first years. Mentors do not have to be anyone extraordinary, just someone who cares, is compassionate and knows how hard it can be to be a first-year.
Bohman pointed out that sometimes the best mentors are the ones who screwed up at first because we can learn a lot from those experiences and pass on the knowledge. This program is not structured to turn students away from the realities of college or college past times, but instead it should increase awareness of what college has to offer.
Students can get more information and sign up on the First-Year Mentors website under “F” in the A-Z Index. The program is scheduled to start as soon as first-years and mentors are signed up.
“I think people need to take healthy risks and grow in their time here and this is a great place for them to do that,” Bohman said.
Liberal arts education should prepare us for the rest of our lives and Bohman believes that this is a great way to make that happen.