Student mentor helps high school student attend Texas A&M through TAMU MU
First-generation student Cristy Duran always dreamed of attending Texas A&M University, but the road to college can be confusing without the guidance of a parent who has done it before. With the help of a mentor, she took her college entrance exams, won seven scholarships and earned admission to Texas A&M for fall 2019.
Duran was mentored by Dr. Vicki Mokuria, a former doctoral student in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Culture. The two met through the Mentoring UP program in the College of Education and Human Development. TAMU MU is a program that pairs college faculty and students with high school students at Rudder High School in Bryan.
The program was founded six years ago by Dr. Beverly Irby, professor and associate dean for academic affairs. It helps students advance their education beyond high school by teaching them to navigate financial aid forms, college essays, interviews and other materials for two- or four-year colleges. The program also engages the students in TAMU MU informational sessions related to college life and coordinates field visits to Texas A&M and other institutions.
“Mentoring UP, or TAMU MU, exemplifies the spirit of Aggieland,” Irby said. “We called the program TAMU MU as MU is the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet. The number 12 is significant to Aggies as the 12th man symbolizes we are ‘standing ready’ to help. That is what we are about in TAMU MU — we, as Aggie faculty and graduate students stand ready to mentor students who are primarily first-generation high school students.”
Putting theory into practice
Mokuria was a high school teacher for more than 20 years in Dallas before she decided to pursue a doctoral degree. She said learning about ideas in her classes fascinated her, but she was yearning to connect them to the lived experience of students today.
A professor recommended Mokuria for TAMU MU, and through it she was able to put theory into practice.
“Through the Mentoring UP program, I was given the opportunity to walk into a high school that I had never been in, and meet a young person who had real problems today — not ideas and theory,” Mokuria said. “I could apply some of the ideas I have learned about in a real-life situation.”
Mokuria and Duran met during Duran’s junior year of high school. At the time, she was preparing to apply for college. Mokuria helped her set goals that would enable her to stay on track with studying for the SAT’s while balancing school work.
“I had no idea about the process of the college application,” Duran said. “I am a first-generation student, so I could not really go to my parents and ask them, ‘Hey, how do I get this done?’”
Duran said Mokuria made her feel comfortable asking questions and raising concerns without making her feel less than for not knowing.
“Vicki explained certain concepts about college that were really new to me,” Duran said. “I know how busy she was working on her doctoral degree, yet she still was able to help me out anytime I had a question.”
Mokuria remained committed to Duran’s success. She said even when they could not meet in person, they would use technology, like Google Docs, to work together.
“I was certain I wanted to support her to be successful. For me, that is what mentoring is about. It is a work of the heart. It is a commitment to the other person to ensure that they have someone who has their back, and who will be there to support them,” Mokuria said.
Duran starts her journey in our college this fall, with plans to become a bilingual education teacher.
The Mentoring UP program is part of Good Neighbor Partnerships, which was created to address the college’s mission to positively engage local school districts in the state of Texas. This program is funded by a TAMU Diversity Seed Grant, through the efforts of Dr. Valerie Hill-Jackson, co-leader and assistant dean of educator preparation and school partnerships. Additionally, TAMU MU has one undergraduate student who works on the project as mentor and who is a RISE Fellow.
The partnership would not be possible without the support of Rudder High School and Bryan Independent School District
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