ACI Peer Mentoring Program
Many students at Blackburn College probably have met Montreal Thomas. He tutors students in math, political science and will also work as a writing assistant this fall, while attending classes at the Carlinville, Illinois, campus. Thomas, a senior from Peoria, is the oldest of five children in his family. This fall, he begins his senior year and expects to graduate in May 2023 with a double major in math and political science, and a minor in English.
Thomas chose Blackburn because it was affordable, close to home, and it had rolling admissions, he said. He likes the community atmosphere, knows other students well and visits professors often. “It’s like having a second home away from my home in Peoria,” he said.
Growing up, Thomas would tell people his favorite subject in school was math. He’d done well in math classes at Richwoods High School in Peoria, and it continued at Blackburn. He became a political science major as a sophomore at Blackburn. “I engage with the news a lot, and just from seeing all of the discourse in our media today and how separated people are, I think it would be something to add on top of my mathematics degree to balance it out and be well oriented. I always liked to read,” he said. After college, Thomas isn’t sure about a career, but he is focused on taking the Law School Admission Test.
When he first came to Blackburn, Thomas, a first-generation student, had a peer mentor, a junior named Rommel. “He would ask me if I needed anything or someone to talk to,” Thomas said. “I didn’t have many one-on-one conversations back in high school or anything, so having someone be there to let you know that everything is going to be OK was kind of refreshing.”
Thomas began as a math tutor in his sophomore year. The following year, he became a tutor in political science, and this fall, he will add writing assistant to his tutoring work. Tutoring has paid off for Thomas personally. “I’ve had a big problem with anxiety, but also like helping people, so this was a way for me to meet and talk to people in not very large spaces,” he said. “It was like a three-on one, or five people in a room having a fluid conversation. That’s really helped me.”
One subject that comes up a lot in his tutoring work is time management, a familiar theme for peer mentoring students. “Blackburn is a work college, so, being able to balance your work and also being able to perform in your classes is a pretty tough thing to do. Having that skill both in academics and outside of school is a good thing to have,” he said.
On campus, Thomas is vice president of the Black Student Union, vice president of Spectrum, a gay/straight alliance club, and he serves in the Blackburn College Student Senate.
ACI Peer Mentoring Program
Khalil Mosley is looking forward this fall to being a mentor to other students of color attending Augustana College. A beneficiary of Augustana’s PACE Multicultural Mentoring Program for first-year students, and ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program, which benefits men of color, Mosley knows how peer mentors can help incoming students, especially students who are underserved, first-generation students. “I want to say I’m capable of guiding a person toward becoming the best version of themselves,” says Mosley. “It’s going to be learning experience for me that I can guide a person toward being their best self everyday, building different connections and building different bonds.”
Mosley, a junior from Chicago, is the oldest of four children in his family, including one sister and two brothers. He attended North Lawndale College Prep in the city, where he was able to take advantage of the school’s Phoenix Pact. That program is a scholarship and alumni support program for students to attend partner colleges, such as Augustana College. While visiting Augustana, Mosley says he met a number of students and North Lawndale College Prep alumni, which helped him decide on Augustana versus other colleges he visited.
At the Rock Island, Illinois college, he is a communication studies and graphic design major. Mosley wants to improve his own communications skills, he said. “With graphic design, I’ve always been an artist since day one, and I’m familiar with a lot of software and technology that involves graphic design,” Mosley said. “I have experience with that type of software and platforms, and different apps on my phone and my iPad.” He’s also a tattoo artist, and hopes to work in a graphic design occupation as a career, he said.
Mosley attributes some of his success in college to Augustana’s first-year PACE Program and ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program. “My freshman year, I was really nervous. It’s hard to explain how nervous I was because it’s my first time. Going to college, and I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, so, it’s lot of pressure built up, and it was just nerve-wracking.” Specifically, Jaylin Strong, a student mentor from Homewood, Illinois, was a great help in the first-year PACE program, and in ACI’s Peer Mentoring Program, Ashley Allen, director, Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity, has been a helpful guide, Mosley said.
“If I did not have a mentor, I honestly don’t think I would have been able to survive on my own, or I would have to find a harder way to meet new people,” he said. “This program really helps diversity. It really helps a lot of students of color come together as one. It helps students get out of their nervousness. It helps students evolve as a person.” If he could talk to potential donors, Mosley said he would emphasize the program’s diversity and the guidance mentors provide to new college students.
In addition to serving as an ACI Mentor, Mosley has been an active member of Augustana College’s Black Student Union and served as its fundraising chair.