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LC launches mentoring program for African-American students

Reach One, Teach One (ROTO) is a new mentorship program for African-American students in their first year at Landmark College.

Co-created by alumnus Marc Thurman ’17, coordinator of LC’s Centers for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), and Fabio Arnaldo Ayala, resident dean of Alumni Hall, ROTO aims to boost academic success and leadership opportunities for African-American students during their first two semesters at LC.

“When you look at the data and see what’s happening in the classroom, we’re not seeing enough success for African-American students,” says Thurman. “Fabio Arnaldo and I felt the mentoring piece was missing.”

In addition to Thurman and Ayala, student Shoshana Conley is also a mentor. Nine students are currently mentored under ROTO, which organizes gatherings and activities like homework nights and study hall opportunities to support the students. Homework nights are held both in the library and online (for students who aren’t comfortable meeting in person). Mentors stay connected to students’ academic advisors so they’re aware of areas where the students need additional help. The mentoring team also identifies allies among LC faculty and staff with whom students of color can network, which also connects the students to potential resources and leadership opportunities.

“We’re building leaders by getting students involved in residential life, so maybe they can become resident assistants (RAs) down the line,” says Thurman. “We also have students working in the CDI. We get them acquainted with possibilities at the College so they can discover what kind of leaders they want to become.”

Thurman’s own experience as an LC student – first earning his associate degree and then his bachelor’s degree in 2017 – informed his desire to help African-American students find leaders on campus who “look like them to mentor and guide them through their first and second semesters.”

Thurman remembers visiting LC with his mother in 2013. “When she saw a student who looked like me giving me a tour of campus, she was open to every possibility that was coming my way,” he says. As he settled in as a student, Thurman found a mentor and confidante in a person of color who was on the residential life staff.

“She’s the one who said to me, ‘Have you ever thought about being an RA?’ That’s what sparked me to take on that role, and then other leadership roles.” While he was still a student, Thurman helped establish the Rise-Up Center, which would become one of the three centers under the CDI. (The others are the Stonewall Center and the Center for Women and Gender.) And as he connected to other students of color, they were all motivated to continue their own studies and eventually earn degrees at LC.

“Seeing them walk that stage and graduate is a great statement for other students of color, allowing them to understand that success is for them as well, no matter if the world paints a different picture,” he says. “We’re telling them, ‘You have a chance, too.’ That’s the point of this great program.”

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