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Peer Coaches help freshmen adjust to campus life

For Robbie Chulick and Jocelyn Williams, both sophomore journalism/mass communication majors, peer coaching provided a way to help this year’s freshmen enjoy a smoother start to their college experience.

“I had a couple of friends who were in the program (last year) and spoke highly of it,” Jocelyn said. “It sounded like a great opportunity to give back to the college.”

“I was on the orientation team and it was part of our commitment to be a peer coach,” Robbie said. “But I would have applied anyway. I got very involved last year and wanted to show my peer coaches that you can join organizations and get a leadership position in the next semester and can only grow from there.”

The peer coaching program, in its second year, builds from the idea that “students who are engaged and have strong positive relationships with the University -- people, places, programs -- are happier, more well-adjusted, and more successful,” explained Nancy Casey, director of the First-Year Experience program.

Dr. Casey noted many universities have mentoring/coaching programs.

“The idea,” she added, “is that each of us often needs a helping hand, someone to help us learn the ropes, particularly at points of major life transition.”

Last year, Dr. Casey said, 28 peer coaches worked with 106 freshmen. This year, those numbers have grown to almost 70 coaches and about 200 freshmen.

Coaches are asked to contact “their” freshmen regularly and plan activities with them.

Most recently, Jocelyn said, she and her freshmen went out to dinner.

“They always have something new to talk about,” she said.

Robbie sat with his freshmen to show them how to register. Earlier in the semester, they talked about time management, went to the organization fair together and discussed study tips and Clare College.

For freshman Chaz James, it has helped to have someone simply explaining the twists and turns of the first year.

“My experience with the peer coaching program has been great!” Chaz said. “This program has allowed me to get help from someone who has already gone through the struggles and adversities of being a freshman. It is so nice to know that if I hit a road block that makes me feel as if I could not get past it, I have someone who will help me through it."

Chaz noted he might not have met the other three people in his peer coaching group if he hadn’t decided to be part of the program. Regina C. Penepent also found her group introduced her to people she might otherwise not have met, adding she was “so glad I decided to be a part of the program."

“Peer coaching put me ahead of everyone else. What I mean is there was information my peer coach shared with me that other freshman didn't know about. It was nice to have someone to answer my questions and give me advice on how to survive the first semester of college,” said Daulton Sherwin.

Brandon Newsome said his peer coach encouraged him to have a good relationship with his teachers and advised him to get out of his room for fun. He and Matthew Connelly said they liked their peer coaches.

“We try to match PCs and freshmen by gender and/or major (or at least by school). As the program becomes more mature, we hope to be able to match on interests more,” said Dr. Casey.

Students wishing to become peer coaches must complete an application process, including two letters of recommendation and an interview. Applicants must meet a minimum GPA requirement and have a clear judicial record.

Most students involved last year as freshmen “really loved the program -- as evidenced by the fact that many are back as returning coaches this year. They felt energized and that they were giving back to the University. There was some frustration when freshmen didn't respond to the coach's invitation to talk and get involved, but the peer coaches really felt positive about their impact on many students,” said Dr. Casey.

Jocelyn is hoping to plant those seeds for next year’s freshmen.

“Hopefully,” she said, “I’ll make a good enough impression (on her current freshmen) that they’ll want to do it (coach) next year.”


In case of MERT

When you send your child to St. Bonaventure, you trust them to the University. You hope they stay safe and healthy, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. That’s when MERT steps in.

“MERT, the Medical Emergency Response Team, provides emergency medical services to the St. Bonaventure campus,” said Divya Kurian, the chief of MERT.

Security Services and (MERT) respond to emergencies as warranted. MERT is a volunteer organization staffed by certified students, who are advised by and work with Health Services.

“The group currently has 59 members and is open to all undergrad and grad students on campus,” said Kurian.

Kurian, a junior biology major, joined the MERT team her freshman year.

“I was an EMT (emergency medical technician) at home and I loved it. I wanted to continue so I joined here,” Kurian said.

Brooke Blazius, another junior biology major, also joined as a freshman.

“I want to be a doctor and I thought this would give me a different look at emergency medicine,” said Blazius.

Blazius, the supply officer for MERT, said that a student’s involvement in the group depends on how much time she wants to dedicate to MERT.

“It depends on how involved you want to be,” said Blazius. “Weekends are busier than any other time for us but it’s your choice when you want to be on the schedule to work.”

Involvement in the group requires a lot of commitment and training in the first few months.

“Each student who is interested in joining MERT has to go to seven training sessions, one with each of the officers,” said Kurian. “Members also have to attend monthly meetings and training meetings.

“If you’re looking to become an EMT, you have to go through EMT training and two 24-hour shifts a month with one shift on a weekend. To become a MERT Assistant, you have to also go through training and do one 24-hour shift a month. Officers of MERT have to do five 24-hour shifts a month with two on the weekends,” said Kurian.

Even with a lot of time and dedication required, MERT members still love to be involved.

“I took an EMT class last semester and I wanted a good hands-on experience,” said Vineeph Sankoorikal.

Sankoorikal, a junior biology major, said he enjoys MERT because of the community atmosphere.

“What I like the most about MERT is the community that we make,” said Sankoorikal. “We meet new people and have to work with them so we get to know them and it’s really nice to make new friends.”
Kurian also agrees that MERT is a great program.

“It gives students the opportunity to become medically trained and practice their skills in the field,” said Kurian. “I keep doing it because I want to be a doctor. I love taking biology courses and all, but the reason I want to be a doctor is to actually physically help people and MERT is helping me do that.”

-Maddie Gionet
Class of 2013

Upcoming events on campus include:

Ongoing - Math Lab available for drop-in assistance in mathematics
Friday, 11/12 - Women's Basketball vs. Binghamton
Friday, 11/12 - Calmus Vocal Ensemble at QCA
Saturday, 11/13 - Girls Day in Computer Science
Saturday, 11/13 - Men's and Women's Swimming and Diving vs. Cleveland State
Sunday, 11/14 - Men's Basketball vs. Arkansas-Little Rock
Sunday, 11/14 - Buffalo Bills vs. Detroit Lions

Sunday, 11/14 - SBU Chamber Music Concert
Monday-Tuesday, 11/15-16 - Freshman Registration
Wednesday, 11/17 - Voices presents movie Lajja
Wednesday, 11/17 - Academic Evening Away at Mt. Irenaeus
Thursday, 11/18 - SBU Jazz Band Concert
Saturday, 11/20 - Diwali Celebration
Wednesday-Sunday, 11/24-28 - Thanksgiving Recess
Thursday, 12/2 - UNIV 101 Poster Presentations
Friday, 12/10 - Last Day of Classes
Monday-Friday, 12/13-17 - Final Examinations - Students are required to be out of their residence halls within 24 hours of their last exam or by 10 a.m. Saturday, 12/18, whichever is first


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