Jump Start program fosters student connections and success
Slippery Rock University’s Jump Start program pairs first-year students with upperclassmen and faculty mentors for five days of academic and social programming, workshops and social activities.
August 24, 2016
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Making the transition from attending high school and being at home to the newly found freedoms that come with living on a college campus can be a jarring experience.
Students, often for the first time in their lives, are responsible for managing their own time. That means eating right; getting the appropriate level of sleep; getting to class or work on time; scheduling study time; making connections; and juggling the hundred details of daily life.
It can be a daunting task for some folks who recognize they want just a little more help getting started on the right path to success. For 100 first-year Slippery Rock University students, that path to success began by attending SRU's Jump Start program.
Jump Start, sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Development, pairs first-year students with upper-class students and faculty mentors for five days of academic and social programming, workshops and social activities. This year's theme is "Think Outside the Lines! Make Campus Your Canvass."
"It's a great program to help you get motivated. We need to find that passion, and this program helps you find your way," said Autumn Smith, a first-year theatre major and Jump Start participant from Upper Darby.
The program, which is open to all first-year students, often draws many traditionally underrepresented students. This year's participants, some of whom are the first in their families to attend college, are from Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.
Mentor Taeler Wright, a marketing major from Homewood, said Jump Start helps students of color adjust since SRU is a predominantly white campus.
"It gives you a sense that you're not the only one here," she said. "New students get to move in early and they don't have to be part of the herd of people waiting for a cart to get into their rooms."
"Jump Start is important and makes a difference because it gives first-year students a mentor and it brings new students to campus a week ahead of time," said Michael Rupert, a graduate student in student affairs in college counseling from Indiana, Pennsylvania, who coordinates the mentorship component of Jump Start. "The mentors have the opportunity to work with the students and share resources for academic, social and financial success,"
Rupert said the program improves retention rates and helps students succeed.
"It really does help them get exposed to all that campus offers, and it encourages them to get involved on campus through the variety of students organizations available to them. It gets them thinking about how they can make a difference and what leadership opportunities they can get involved with."
Rupert said the mentors also keep an eye on their students' emotional well-being and whether there are any issues that need to be addressed.
"As far as success, I have personally seen that Jump Start is a good, social foundation for a lot of students," he said. "When I first came to the University, I was brand new. Pretty soon I made friends, and as I would make my way across campus and saw someone I knew, it was special having that Jump Start bond."
The mentorship program also partners students in the same major or with similar interests for the year. Miya Gardner, a first year forensic chemistry major from Pittsburgh, was placed with Taylor Ellis, a forensic chemistry major from Washington, Pennsylvania.
After a morning session, the pair relaxed in front of the Advanced Technology and Science Hall, chatting and checking their phones for texts.
Gardner said the "jump star" to the year is helping her "make friends and establish bonds."
That sentiment was echoed by Ellis. "I want to be able to give (Miya) what my Jump Start mentor gave me last year - friendship. We became more than mentor and mentee."
This year's program includes workshops on academic persistence; study skills and student conduct; a group picture; a panel discussion with current students about getting involved and presentations by student health services. The program began Aug. 23 and concludes Aug. 26 with residence hall meetings prior to the annual Weekend of Welcome pep rally.
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