Thursday, February 11, 2010
Each one help one, part I
There is an awesome painting hung in an alcove in Marbeck. It is easily my favorite painting on this entire campus. A simple work, it shows just two arms, one reaching down over a ledge toward another arm. It shows such grace, strength, pride. Other than the fact that one arm is reaching down and the other is reaching up, the arms are identical – both well-formed, both capable.
To me it represents the responsibility of those who have “made it” to offer support to others. It also represents the responsibility of those working to achieve to be strong, to be ready to take advantage of opportunities when presented. Like the Habitat for Humanity slogan – the arm reaching up represents those looking for a hand up not a hand out.
Dr. Crystal Sellers joined the Bluffton music department this fall, coming from The Ohio State University where she worked as a graduate assistant in the office of minority affairs as a retention counselor for students of color. For many years OSU has had a program pairing first-year and sophomore students of color with juniors and seniors in mentoring relationships. A similar program had been considered at Bluffton to increase retention. With Crystal’s experience, she became the spark to make it happen.
Bluffton’s version of this mentoring program for students of color was introduced in early February. Current students will soon be able to apply to be a mentor or mentee.
The goal is to help the underclassmen with their transition to college, to answer questions such as “where do I get my hair cut or purchase black hair care products” and “help me find a church.” According to Crystal and Theresa Henry, director of multicultural affairs, oftentimes students of color feel “like an island” when they arrive on campus. The juniors and seniors have been there, have worked through these issues and have knowledge to share.
In addition to providing support and accountability for the underclassmen, the mentors will be part of the Leadership Development Program, the student life division led program developed to provide leadership training for residence life student staff and other campus leaders.
While voluntary this spring, next year’s first-year students of color will be required to participate in this program.
What a great concept. First-year students will have another person they can turn to with questions and have someone watching out for them who can relate to being in the minority, and upperclassmen gain experience as a leader, with the responsibility to guide another to success.
That’s what I call offering a helpful hand up.