SPARK Program Offers Peer Mentoring

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Jonathan Caballeros, El Vaquero Staff Writer
May 8, 2012
Filed under Features

According to the Policy Analysis for California Education, more than half of all new students enrolling into a community college will drop out by the first semester, many with complex reasons, but GCC has a program to keep new students enrolled and thriving in classes, and current Vaqueros can help.

Students Providing Assistance Resources and Knowledge, or SPARK, is a student-run faculty- assisted program to help new students with counseling, emotional and other support to keep them from dropping out, while making bonds with second-year students, who already know the resources the school has to offer.

“Our mentors are trained before the new semester,” said Armineh Gourgian, Financial Aid Coordinator, Student Outreach Services faculty and founder of the SPARK program, “with their training, [they] should be able to help their mentees by providing the correct resources.”

Mentors, as well as mentees, also gain great experience towards the SPARK program.
“Mentors get the knowledge and tools for them to be resourceful,” said Cristal Montes, program assistant for the Center for Student Involvement, “They get personal training skills from [the faculty] such as studying to better learn.”

“I personally learned how to better juggle my time,” said Jackie Gonzalez, a mentor with SPARK, “remembering my first days I was so nervous and you feel like you don’t know anyone. I feel that being a mentor helps.”

The mentors and mentees have a personal Facebook page where the mentees can ask questions for other mentors and mentees to answer help and gain bonds.

“Students can ask where the cafeteria is, and they will get answers by other SPARK members,” said Montes.

Many of the on-campus functions that are run are “shadow days,” days where incoming freshmen students come and sit down in campus classrooms to gain a sense of the life of a Vaquero. Other events also include “camp days,” an event for all new mentees and mentors to break the ice and exchange information in a fun a friendly manner.

Aside from in-school functions, SPARK holds fundraisers which better help the bond of the students in SPARK and also help bring funds for the program and supplement the scholarships that SPARK provides.

“The fundraisers do help supplement the scholarships,” said Montes, “so the more that gets raised, the better for the mentors.”

“Not everyone who mentors gets the scholarship though,” said Gourgian, “Only the best mentors that show the most commitment and prove themselves get a scholarship.”

Those who participate in the program are also given the opportunity to give back to the community.
“Our latest community service event was in a homeless shelter called Asencia,” said Montes, “mentors and mentees helped feed the homeless and had fun doing it.”

Other community services SPARK has done is “The Great Los Angeles River Clean Up,” in partnership with Friends of the Los Angeles River, also known as FOLAR.

Many mentees, after being in the SPARK program, tend to want to apply to become mentors themselves.

“Without [SPARK,] I would feel lost or scared,” said Melissa Oros, a mentee in SPARK, “I would definitely consider becoming a mentor next year.”

SPARK will have a fundraiser on Thursday at Shakey’s Pizza in Glendale from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Shakey’s Pizza is located at 1133 S. Glendale Ave.

For a promotional flyer, visit SM266 or SM267.

For more information on the SPARK program and how to become a mentor, visit the the SOS (Student Outreach Services) room, SM266, or visit SM267 to get an application to become an assistant.

You can also visit the online page for SPARK by going to www.glendale.edu/index.aspx?page=5411 for more information.

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