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Peers providing support

In Reed’s peer mentor program a first-year student is paired with a returning student (this year from African American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American, and multiracial backgrounds).

Peer mentor participants began their training during this fall’s orientation.
The mentor provides personal social support throughout the year in a relationship that is as unique as each set of students, and as rewarding as they can make it.

Organized activities for mentor program participants start at fall orientation with a kick-off dinner and retreat. During the year students can attend activities such as bowling and pizza dinners downtown, which act both as study breaks and opportunities to meet other community members with whom they can share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings. More formal group discussions center on topics such as going home for the first time, talking to parents about college, and what to expect sophomore year. These get-togethers form a basis for increased knowledge of and comfort with campus resources and networks—allowing students to focus more quickly and adeptly on their education, and on building their lives and learning how to inhabit their adulthood.

In the winter of her junior year, school officials asked Hsue to attend a national conference that addressed strategies to increase minority enrollment at small liberal arts colleges. The trip brought diversity to the forefront of people’s minds and created the conditions in which enduring change was possible. Hsue was given the green light to set her “grand scheme” in motion.

As her peers girded for final exams, Hsue rushed to recruit student mentors. And despite such inclement timing, 15 Reedies tore away from their studies and volunteered.

Since its inception in the fall of 2001, the peer mentor program has paired returning students with incoming freshmen. Orientation week activities, social mixers, and workshops are also meant to allay any alienation freshlings might feel.

Two years after creating the program, Hsue still expresses incredulity at witnessing the institutionalization of her ideas.

Though she modestly underplays her role, insisting she “just happened to be at the right place at the right time,” it’s clear she’s been bitten by the activism bug. She currently works as a legal case assistant in preparation for law school and has set her sights on education reform.

And as always, she continues to ask questions. End of Article

Zoë Nguyen Mézin ’97 worked as a staff reporter for the San Francisco Examiner before taking a hiatus to care for daughter Marie-Alexis, 16 months, and son Pierre, 3 months.