Ohio University

OHIO First Scholars Program provides mentors to first-generation students

OHIO First Scholars Program provides mentors to first-generation students
Published: June 21, 2019 Author: Hannah Wintucky

Anna-Kaye Rowe knew she wanted to be a mentor for the OHIO First Scholars Program as soon as she received an email about the program in the summer of 2018.

As a first-generation college student herself, Rowe knew the difficulties of transitioning from high school to college and finding the balance between studies, work and social life.

After receiving dual master’s degrees in communication and development studies and public administration, Rowe worked for the university for a while then decided to pursue her doctorate degree in higher education and student affairs. Her passion for learning and the well-being of students also led her to become involved with the OHIO First Scholars mentor program.

“We’re giving students an opportunity to lead,” Rowe said. “And not to lead in one set way, but to lead in a way that works for them and that allows them to be effective in various fields and disciplines. Students gain transferable skills, network and make meaningful connections with individuals who can speak to the highs and lows of the first-generation experience on a personal level. It is truly a rewarding opportunity to reinforce that the sky really is the limit. Actually there is no limit.”

The program focuses on matching first-generation college students with mentors who provide guidance and support for those students. The role of a mentor includes attending bi-weekly meetings with the mentees, helping mentees overcome any roadblocks they may encounter, assisting mentees in any academic related instances and referring them to any faculty or staff on campus that may help them.

“I think the program benefits students in lots of ways,” said Angela Lash, director of the OHIO First Scholars Program. “The mentor knows the university and can help students learn to navigate processes and expectations as they acclimate to college. They are also, for the most part, first-gen college grads themselves, so that provides the student a connection to someone who has a general understanding of what it’s like to be a first-generation student. Their experiences may not be exactly the same, but there are always some areas of overlap and commonality.”

After taking a survey that asked about aspirations, likes, dislikes and academic backgrounds in the summer of 2018, Rowe was matched with Willow Mattison, an incoming student majoring in biological sciences pre-professional and looking to make her mark on society, much like Rowe. Rowe immediately saw the similarities between herself and Mattison and knew they would be a great fit.

“I saw a little bit of myself in Willow. I also started college thinking I had it all together and figured out. I think in being a first-generation student, you need someone to listen and share that you can have a plan for your college career, but you have to be open to change,” Rowe said. “Your path will not be linear. You will have bumps along the way. You will take a class that will change your perspective and focus. You might sign up for a leadership or service opportunity and change your view of your future career. You might rethink your whole career; that’s the beauty of college.”

Rowe, who is also a graduate assistant for the Global Leadership Center (GLC), saw the potential in Mattison to become a key player and leader in the 2018-19 GLC cohort. Mattison’s enthusiasm and openness to change led her to join the GLC in the fall of 2018. Since joining, she has found a passion in business consulting and plans to work as a medical consultant in her professional career.

“I think in less than a year, she’s broadening her horizons, and she’s seeing that ‘maybe I can integrate two of my passions into a career,’” Rowe said. “That’s what college is meant to be — where you are learning and expanding. Last spring, Willow was accepted into the Ohio Fellows program and I couldn’t be more proud of all her achievements.”

The OHIO First Scholars Program has 75-90 pairs of mentor and mentee pairs each year. Anyone  interested in joining the program or receiving more information can contact Lash at lash@ohio.edu or visit the OHIO First Scholars website.

Anna-Kaye Rowe and Willow Mattison

Photo courtesy of: Anna-Kaye Rowe

Willow Mattison and Anna-Kaye Rowe at Hocking Hills State Park