Disability Resources and Education Services to launch peer mentoring program

CSUN’s Disability Resources and Education Services will be launching a new peer-mentoring program for first year students.

The Thriving and Achieving Program (TAP), is a transitioning program for freshman and transfer students with disabilities into CSUN. It was piloted in spring of 2010 and will fully begin in fall 2010.

“We launched the program in spring to test it out with students and it was effective enough that we will be fully launching the program in the fall,” said Anna Laven, transition specialist for the Center on Disabilities.

The program is strength-based and is geared towards developing students’ with visual and non-visual disabilities skills, talents and strong areas.

“Students coming into college or a four-year university are used to having their weaknesses and failures highlighted in their academic experience,” Laven said. “We want to identify their strengths so their challenges will seek to compliment that.”

Unlike other mentoring programs on campus, TAP was created on a comprehensive basis, Laven said. Students must first register with the Disability Resources office and sign a contract that commits them to a minimum of four meetings per semester.

“Other programs offered on campus are used on a triage basis,” Laven said. “Students seek them as a last minute option and on an immediate basis. This is much more engaged.”

The program is organized with several academic coaches who meet with students on a one-to-one basis for a minimum of one to one and a half hours per meeting. This allows students to be more engaged on a more frequent and longer duration.

The coaches also hold workshops for the students where they are challenged on study strategies, stress management and become familiarized with assessment software.

Graduate student and Academic Coach Jyotsna Sharma said the goals for the students are not necessarily study goals.

“We work on more than just academic goals,” Sharma said. “We set personal goals that can lead to success in their academic careers, things like social phobias.”

Laven hopes that students will get more out from the help they are receiving.

“The workshops allow for greater assistance and participation from the students,” Laven said. “Our graduate intern and academic coaches are trained on the software in order to optimize the students learning experience.”

The Disability Resource Educational Services also hosts a series of events to develop their program, Laven said. They hold transition seminars, large workshops and technology demonstrations for high school students who come and speak directly with academic coaches, she added.

This program currently services up to 900 registered students per semester but the volume of students is expected to increase in the fall after TAP is fully launched Laven said.

Sharma said the program is very rewarding for both the students and coaches.

“I believe we all benefit from this program,” Sharma said. “To be able to see growth and results in students after working with them is most fulfilling.”

Laven said that most students come in with such an “on the cliff” idea of an educational experience.

“The goal of TAP is to build a bridge across the cliff,” Laven said.

Sharma shares a similar sentiment on the program.

“At the end of the day our hope is that we will empower them,” Sharma said. “Give them the skills necessary to establish autonomy and manage their lives.”

For more information you can visit the Disability Resources and Educational Services office in Bayramian Hall 110.

  • Hal Portner

    I write for the Boston Examiner and am preparing a series of articles on mentoring.

    May I have your permission to include sections from your July 7, 2010 article, “Disability Resources and Education Services to launch peer mentoring program” by LaTiere Galvan? I will,of course, cite the source in any way you prefer – just let me know.

    Please contact me if there are any questions or concerns.

    Thank you,

    Hal Portner
    67 Westhampton Road
    Florence MA 01062
    413-584-1285
    http://www.portner.us/Hal
    hportner@comcast.net