Jan. 23, 2019 — After transferring to CSU Channel Islands (CSUCI) from Alan Hancock College in Santa Maria, Business major Bryan Calazan, 29, was struggling. He was overwhelmed attending school full time while also holding down a full-time job.

“When I transferred from junior college, I was not expecting how hard it was for me,” he said. “I didn’t really know how to balance things.”

Had it not been for the guidance he received from a peer mentor who also was the first in her generation to attend college, Calazan wonders if he would have been able to succeed at CSUCI.

When former U.S. Second Lady “Tipper” Gore learned about the profound difference peer mentors can make for CSUCI students, she decided to become the founding donor for “The Tipper Gore Award for Excellence in Peer Mentorship.”

Gore, who splits her time between Virginia and Santa Barbara, is a relatively new friend to CSUCI, but has been such a champion for the University, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the 2018 Commencement ceremony.

“I really fell in love with the University and the people I met there and the student body,”
Gore said. “I asked what the University really needed and I was told about the peer mentorship program.”

As a supporter of education and an advocate for mental health awareness, helping students get academic and emotional support in college seemed like a perfect place for Gore to lend her support.

The award will provide $3,500 a semester for selected peer mentor “ambassadors” who will continue to mentor as well as take on other responsibilities to advocate for the program. Peer mentors and peer ambassadors devote a lot of time to their mentoring and promoting duties, so the stipend ensures they don’t have to work two or three jobs while trying to attend school full time.

Gore believes in the power of peer mentors who can provide students with academic, emotional and practical support for what can be an unfamiliar environment.

 “It’s another person in a closer age bracket so they can identify more,” Gore said. “A teacher or older person might be able to dispense advice and guidance, but when that guidance comes from someone close to their age with some experience under their belts, its more meaningful.”

Peer mentorship was a transformative experience for Calazan, who was the first in his family to attend college. To add to his challenges, he had grown up in the Philippines speaking Tagalog, so English was a second language.

Eventually, the burden was too great and he found himself on academic probation. He was determined to succeed, so he contacted CSUCI’s Peer Education & Equity Program (PEEP), which provides peer mentors to students who need help.

Calazan was paired with Sarah Teniente, 27, who was also a first-generation college student, a Business major, and had also transferred from Alan Hancock College in Santa Maria.

“It was hard for him because he’s the full provider for his family,” she said. “I helped him with his grammar, offered study tips and guided him to other free resources on campus. I’ve gone through what he’s gone through.”

Teniente says the help she gives her mentees is not confined to academics.

“I’m there for my mentees for anything they need,” she said. “Picking professors, roommate problems — I’ll be able to guide them in the right direction.”

Gore hopes others will contribute to the peer mentorship fund so that the peer mentorship ambassador program enjoys strong support and peer mentorship success stories like Calazan’s continue to multiply.

To support the peer mentorship award visit: www.csuci.edu/giving.

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