ACI Peer Mentoring Program
Chloe Overstreet will begin her junior year this fall at Eureka College, Eureka, Illinois, majoring in history and political science and business administration. A first-generation student from Stillman Valley, Illinois, Overstreet’s path to college was rocky. Her father encouraged her, but her mother didn’t want her to go away to college, and they could not afford her tuition.
When Overstreet’s father was killed in a work accident during her senior year in high school, college seemed impossible. But with the support of friends and teachers, she persevered. She chose Eureka College after an admissions counselor called to ask how she was doing and how he could help. After attending Eureka’s three-day orientation for first-generation students, she knew Eureka was the right decision. “It showed me there were people who were there to support me,” Overstreet says. “It was possible to be a first-generation student with an unconventional support system and still graduate college.”
ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program helped Overstreet navigate freshman year at Eureka. Now, she serves as a mentor in the program “to let other students know that they are not alone, and there is always someone there who wants them to succeed.” And, thanks to the ACI mentor scholarship, Overstreet borrowed less this year and was able to hang on to her savings. “It offered relief from the anxiety of feeling like I will not be able to pay my balance or afford basic necessities,” she says. “The ACI Peer Mentoring Program made a huge difference in my college experience.”
In May 2020, the ACI Board of Trustees elected Overstreet as the board’s first student representative in ACI’s 68-year history. Serving as an ACI board member would provide a student perspective, she says, and help other students access opportunities that ACI provides.
ACI Peer Mentoring Program
Malik Johnson will graduate in 2021 from Rockford University, Rockford, Illinois. A computer science major, the senior says he’s interested in storage management. Along the way, he’s been an intern at Commonwealth Edison — where he says he got good feedback — and a mentee and mentor in the Men of Color Mentorship (MCM) Program at Rockford, part of ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program network.
Johnson, from the Chicago area, says he chose Rockford because of its small classes. Plus, he plays on the university’s football team. “Right now I play a couple of positions. I play a defensive back/linebacker hybrid position, like the nickelback, but now I’m kind of the safety. Football has always been my main sport,” he says.
When he first came to college, Johnson, a first-generation college student, says he found it difficult to find resources, but found success by connecting by networking with others who had been to college. His family has also been helpful. “They let me know that I have their full support. And they always back me up with any decision that I make,” he says.
Johnson first learned of the MCM Program at Rockford when a program mentor suggested he attend a meeting. “So, I attended the discussion, and then afterwards, I met with the administrator, Dr. Karen Walker, and I was motivated by her involvement here on campus,” he says. He credits Walker for being an “amazing administrator.” Johnson is now a mentor to other incoming first-generation students.
The program has been helpful in many ways, Johnson says.”I learned that it’s not always about you. I learned to be less selfish and help others, because if it wasn’t for this program, I wouldn’t have had the help that I needed throughout my journey. I’ve always learned to look back and try to help others climb that ladder with me as well,” he says. Specific skills he learned from program are time management, plus study and business skills.
After college, Johnson expects to put some his experience into practice. “It definitely helped me. I feel like the networking has allowed me to meet important figures in different companies, that give good feedback on my work. I also meet important figures that I can use as references for the future, he says. “When I talk to the young mentees, I tell them to be realistic with their reality, and understand who they are as an individual — who they want to be in the future,” he says. In addition to his major and football experience, Johnson works at the Seaver Physical Education Center, a campus athletic facility, and he works for UPS, loading and unloading aircraft.