Horizons student finds purpose, community through peer mentor program

Last updated: February 22nd, 2022

When Anthony Sinclair joined Horizons Student Support Services his freshman year at Purdue, he was simply looking for ways to become more involved on campus. He started out as a mentee within the Horizons peer mentor program, which includes a first-year seminar course.

“When I first showed up, I didn’t really have a good sense of what Horizons was all about,” Sinclair says. “Then I got matched with my peer mentor early on in my first semester, and it was amazing. She pointed me to a lot of good resources, and she’s actually the reason I got my first part-time job here, because she’s the one who sent me the link to apply.”

By the end of his first semester, Sinclair was noticing how that early, foundational support was shaping his educational experience, and he wanted to give back.

Sinclair applied and was accepted to be a peer mentor the following spring. Together with other previous mentees, his peers, Sinclair went through a rigorous 3-credit hour training course before taking on the mentor role the following semester. The goal of the course is to prepare mentors with skills and information they need to guide new students during their first year and ease their transition into college.

Purdue senior and Horizons tutor Anthony Sinclair stands in Krach Leadership Center

“We all took out different experiences and grew in different ways,” Sinclair says. “The class is facilitated very professionally, and everyone became super close. You really start to feel a purpose for it as you end the school year and prepare to take on your mentees.”

Being together with the same group of students for three consecutive semesters also contributed to Sinclair’s sense of community on campus. In fact, he recently celebrated “Friendsgiving” with his peers in the program, who he says remain some of his closest friends on campus.

“Inherently, Horizons first-year students are some of the most responsible and independent I’ve met across campus,” Sinclair says. “They’re first-generation; they may not have that parent or uncle to tell them what paths to take through college. It’s just that they’re in unfamiliar environments, and we need to help them navigate that.”

Sinclair says that’s the beauty of the peer mentor program – it’s less about “advice-giving,” and more about pointing students in the right direction and encouraging healthy behaviors.

“We’re not supposed to be the arbiters of their future,” Sinclair says. “Our job is to make them aware and let them know what options they have, rather than give them solutions to their problems.”

Sinclair noted that former Horizons staff member Sarah Johnson was instrumental in fostering community among program participants. Johnson served as the Horizons career counseling coordinator before leaving Horizons this year for a TRIO opportunity at another university.

“It’s the program and the people – the relationships, and the community – that make Horizons what it is,” Sinclair says. “If Horizons didn’t exist, there would be a core population of students who would not be finishing college in four years. I say that with confidence. There would be a lot of people hurting.”

Writer: Andrea Mattingly, Communications Director for Student Success Programs, andrea@purdue.edu

Source: Anthony Sinclair, Purdue sophomore studying political science

Last updated: Feb. 22, 2022

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