By Lexus Yamashiro | Staff Writer
Typically when students enter ‘Iliahi, it’s because they want lunch from Subway. But as they walk through those doors, have they ever wondered what those stairs to their right lead up to?
Right above Subway is not only the office of the First-Year Experience Program but also home to the Ho‘okele Peer Mentors. Keith Kashiwada, a professor of Speech and Communication, had come up with the idea of peer mentors back in 2009.
The Ho‘okele Peer Mentors were funded under a federal grant that paid for about five years for the program. When the funding came to an end, the program began to fall apart and lose peer mentors since there was no money to fund them.
From this point Robert Yamashita, the Ho‘okele Student Success Peer Mentor Coordinator, had retained four peer mentors with his FYE budget and asked them if they wanted to let the program die out or if they wanted to restructure it. The four peer mentors chose to restructure their program.
Since their restructuring, the Ho‘okele Peer Mentors were able to regain more mentors and have thrived.
“They (the Ho‘okele Peer Mentors) are there to bridge the gap between students at KCC, faculty to students, and faculty to staff,” Yamashita said.
There are many things that Ho‘okele Peer Mentors are trained to help students with. Here are some of the tasks that students can get help with or ask questions about:
- General inquiries (questions about KCC)
- Knowing where campus resources are located
- Financial Aid
- Kuilei and Lunalilo Program
- Host campus tours and student events
- Star workshops
- International students (Honda International Center)
Over the past seven years, Ho‘okele Peer Mentors has been able to accomplish a lot not only for themselves but also for the people of KCC.
“They’re very pivotal for helping our first-year cohort because they run all the orientations for 1,500 students in the fall, so around 2,000 students a year that are incoming,” Yamashita said.
The Ho‘okele Peer Mentors hosted a dodgeball event last year that Yamashita recalls was very successful since the turnout filled the entire Great Lawn with students and faculty. Many programs come out that day to play as teams such as STEM, Student Congress, BOSA, faculty and staff, and many more.
For Yamashita, it was the first time in a long time that he had seen so people show up to an on-campus event. The Ho‘okele Peer Mentors continue to host events and use them to connect with the students, faculty, and staff who attend.
“There’s so many things to enjoy,” said Shyanne Humel, a fifth-year student attending KCC. “My favorite thing is watching my fellow peers grow and become stronger in their peer mentoring skills.”
Humel has been working as a Ho‘okele Peer Mentor for 3½ years and is in her final year for a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English with a focus in Hawaiian Studies while also minoring in Art Sculpture.
Many students have stated that speaking to a peer mentor is much easier than trying to communicate with an authoritative figure. Having the mentors running registration days have helped students to easily discuss what classes they want to take and what major they are possibly looking into.
The Ho‘okele Peer Mentors are always looking for new recruits to join the team. For those that are interested, there are two requirements that need to be met:
- Complete one year at KCC
- Be accountable (show up when asked to)
Yamashita explained that there are three levels that students will need to work their way up to as a peer mentor.
The first level that every mentor starts off at is strictly for volunteer. From there they will learn how to work their way up to the second level, where they can receive a tuition waiver up to $1,500 per semester. Once the student has made it past the first and second level, they will then be able to reach the third to get paid hourly.
The Ho‘okele Peer Mentors isn’t only about helping others on campus but to also learn for themselves. For 4½ years, peer mentor Geneva Costales was able to find a personal benefit along with those listed.
“[Being a peer mentor] made me a more confident person,” Costales said. “In high school I was kind of a shy person … but this program really gave me the backbone and support to become a more confident person.”
Costales is a third-year student majoring in Family Resources at UH Mānoa and Liberal Arts here in KCC.
Yamashita had stated that many students are not aware of all the campus resources that there are available. He encourages everyone to be on the lookout for them so that students get the support that they need.
“It’s very important for them to take that first step,” Yamashita said. “Don’t be scared, you just have to ask someone and there’s most likely a resource for them.”
For more information, contact the Ho‘okele Peer Mentors at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (808) 734-9245.
Visit ‘Iliahi 231 (above Subway) and look for someone in a blue shirt.