Incoming IU freshmen, who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, haven't always found out about the services available to them at IU.
Senior Noah Shore, co-coordinator of the LGBTQ+ Center’s brand new mentorship program, is working hard to change that.
Shore said he first thought about a new mentorship program for incoming freshmen while bored during a school project. He said his mind started working on other projects, and he thought about his own roller coaster of a freshman year and how long it took him to build a community of friends and come out about his own sexuality.
"This is a program I wanted to have that wasn't available when I was a freshman," Shore said.
The program is set to start up in the fall, when around 20 mentors will be matched with as many as 50 students to try and help provide advice and guidance to relate with incoming students who might not be comfortable with themselves and their own sexual orientation.
Shore said the program is being set up along a three-pronged approach. First, to alleviate any anxiety or worries the incoming student might have. Second, to do the same for parents and guardians. Third, to provide a sense of support that can help orient new students.
The program stands out by allowing freshman students to choose their level of involvement with their mentor. Shore explained how some students need more advice, while others come into university with a lot more figured out. By allowing students that additional freedom to customize and define their mentor relationships, he hopes the program will be more appealing.
Doug Bauder, director of the LGBTQ+ Culture Center, said while there were some logistical issues to be worked out — such as long-term feasibility and background checks for mentors — the program shows a lot of promise.
Twenty students have applied to be mentors.
Many of them are also orientation leaders, which gives them an added incentive to help freshmen.
"They know the lay of the land, and they can speak from personal experiences," Bauder said.
Some students in their time at IU never find the center, but many more have a need for it and yet don't hear about it. The peer mentorship pilot program is meant to help alleviate that and work with freshmen to connect them with needed resources.
"It's an additional way of helping people know what a rich community this is," Bauder said.
At first, Bauder was worried there weren't going to be many students applying, but he said he was amazed around 20 young people were willing to help. The current plan caps the amount of students to be mentored at 50. Bauder explained this was because the Center was still gauging interest during a pilot year.
"We don't want to overwhelm the mentors," Bauder said. "If we need more, we can open up the applications for that again."
Staff at the Center will be working this summer to create a set of guidelines for peer mentors to follow to ensure the program goes smoothly.
One big concern for Bauder and the staff was for students to not think this type of pilot program was a dating service, and if sparks start to fly between mentors and mentees, then students need to know how to handle that responsibly.
While he's not sure exactly where the program will be after he leaves, Shore said he plans to work with his fellow coordiantor, Thomas Sweeney, an IU junior, to help sustain the program and even spread it to the other cultural centers. The idea, Shore said, is to offer a framework that can work for the La Casa Latino Cultural Center or Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center.
"It's a way to provide a sense of community and a sense of support and belonging," Shore said.
Those interested can follow this link here to apply.
In a previous version of this story, the term transsexual was used, which might be considered inappropriate or offensive. The Indiana Daily Student regrets this error.
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