ACI Peer Mentoring Program
Dayshon Moore visited Rockford University, Rockford, Illinois, at the suggestion of a university football coach who visited his high school. “It just felt like home,” says the Moore, a junior this year at Rockford, majoring in exercise science. He also plays left tackle on the Rockford football team, which will play its season in spring 2021 due to pandemic restrictions this fall.
In high school, Moore says he worked often with the school’s athletic trainer and developed an interest in exercise science. “I plan on becoming a physical therapist as well as a personal trainer,” says Moore, who is from Bolingbrook, Illinois. Moore says his mother earned a college degree when he was in middle school, and other siblings have attended college. When Moore graduates, he will be the first of the four siblings to graduate.
Moore joined the Men of Color Mentorship (MCM) Program at Rockford, a part of ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program network, to help ensure success in college. He first joined as a mentee at the suggestion of Dr. Karen Walker, MCM program coordinator and dean of academic support, Center for Learning Strategies, and is now a mentor to first-generation students in their early years in college. “The Peer Mentoring Program has done so much for me,” Moore says. “It is one of the reasons I’m still at this school. My freshman year, I was having trouble with finances. It was almost to the point where I wouldn’t be able to return. Dr. Walker helped connect me to the right people that I needed to talk to, to get that figured out.” Along the way, he says the program has taught him things such as study skills and instilled in him a drive “to succeed for myself,” Moore says.
For donors who make peer mentoring possible, Moore says he would tell them about the program’s impact for students like him. “The whole point of this program is to help people like me make it through college. Without this program I would have been one of those people that dropped out and never came back,” he says.
Away from the classroom, Moore is a peer tutor for athletics, working with football team members. He is a “Reggie,” a Regent Experience Guide, which help guide freshmen and serve as orientation leaders. You’ll also find him working at the front desk in the student center, renting equipment to students and answering questions. Finally, Moore is an active participant in SAGA, the university’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance that advocates for equality and respect for all.
A. Montgomery Ward Foundation Scholarship
Morgan Mendiola, Romeoville, Illinois, set her sights on becoming a teacher and possibly, a college professor. She chose to attend nearby Lewis University, with a dual major in secondary education and psychology. Now a sophomore, Mendiola made it through her freshman year, the pandemic year of 2020-2021. She says she made many friends and worked with great instructors.
“I thought Lewis was perfect for me because not only is it really close to my home, but it also had the majors that I wanted,” she says. Plus, Mendiola wanted to attend a college that was different from the school her older brother and sister attend, Joliet Junior College. Both work in a hospital, she says. Her father is an engineer, and her mother is a nurse.
Her decision to become a teacher goes back to her high school days. “Once I got to high school, especially during my junior and senior years, I really had a passion for it, for teaching. I realized that I wanted my focus to be specifically on high schoolers because I had some really rough times when I was in high school. I know that my teachers were my backbone. I want to repay that kindness,” she says. She’d like to teach psychology or sociology, or other subjects in the social sciences. Mendiola also hopes to teach at the college level one day. “I feel like college professors have such a passion for what they do, and they really are incredible people,” she said.
A financial aid counselor at Lewis University helped connect Mendiola with the A. Montgomery Ward Foundation Scholarship through ACI. Like many students, Mendiola finances much of her education through grants, loans and scholarships, with some help from her parents. “The last semester, spring of 2021, I definitely was struggling a lot financially. I did a bit of math with it. I realized the only way for me to stay afloat with all of my bills as well as paying for tuition, I would not only have to be a full-time student, but I would have to be a full-time employee.”
The A. Montgomery Ward Foundation scholarship made a significant difference. “I don’t think I would have been able to finish off this semester as strong as I did without the help of this scholarship,” she says. “It really saved me. Those who helped fund the scholarship, really did help me a lot.”
The pandemic limited Mendiola’s chances to join clubs or participate in extracurricular activities at Lewis University, but she hopes to change that this coming year. Away from school, she works on the wait staff at an independent- and assisted-living facility for older adults, a job Mendiola says “is fascinating and fun.”
Mendiola is grateful for her college experience made possible in part by her scholarship through ACI. “Scholarships and donors can really have an impact on students,” she adds.