A typical job in college often consists of bagging groceries, fetching balls at a soccer game or maybe tutoring students at the Academic Support Center, but rarely does a job in college help change people’s lives.
That’s what sets the mentors in the College STEPS Program apart.
The STEPS program started at Castleton in 2012 and it gives students with disabilities an opportunity to attend and experience all that college has to offer, program Coordinator Patricia Moore said. To make sure each of the STEPS students have a great experience, each are assigned peer mentors who work closely with them.
“We do a range of things between helping them find resources, helping them use the library, helping them in class, and helping them with their homework,” senior Shayna Chaloux said.
But being a mentor in the STEPS Program is more than just a job. The students and the mentors often forge a strong bond that makes going to work feel less like work and more like hanging out with a friend. Junior Mentor Molly Smith works with Kate Wilch.
“When I am walking somewhere, she will scream out my name and being able to have someone scream out your name all the time is just fun,” Smith said. “She is so excited for everything and it makes going to work so much better.”
The mentors have various reasons for joining the program. For some, it relates to their major and what they want to do after college. Others do it for more personal reasons. Senior Elizabeth Young became a mentor because at a young age, she suffered multiple ear infections causing her to need extra assistance with her education.
“All my life, I had assistance and help with my education, so going through that struggle, and the fact that a lot of these students this is their first time being in a full class room, so I wanted to be there to support them,” Young said.
The mentors say they are rewarded with many great moments working with their students. Smith recalls one particular moment with her student in a basketball class.
“I went to basketball with Kate for one of her classes and every time she would get a basket, the whole class would cheer for her and she got so excited and it was so great seeing everyone encourage her,” Smith said.
Being a mentor for the STEPS Program is an extremely rewarding experience and has a huge impact on the Steps student’s lives, they say.
“My favorite moment so far has been seeing the first class of college STEPS to graduate two years ago,” Chaloux said.
Students in the program like Korey Melen, who is mentored by Chaloux, benefited greatly form the program and have built a strong relationship with their peer mentors.
“I like working with Shayna because she is one of my favorite peer mentors,” Melen said. “Me and her do fun stuff together!”
Not only do the mentors have a positive effect on the students of the program, but the students have a positive effect on the mentors.
“I would do this for the rest of my life, it is so much fun,” Smith said.