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PEER MENTORING

Surviving the college battle with a little help from friends

/ 02:14 AM November 14, 2011

OVER a hundred UP freshman examinees who attended a long exam review class by the peer mentors passed.

There is a small but silent revolution of sorts happening a stone’s throw away from the famed Palma Hall of the University of the Philippines Diliman campus in Diliman, Quezon City.

Standing beside the modest Kamia Dormitory is the archetype of a quaint Italian café—quiet, intimate, homey. Dusty chairs are placed around tables for four or five.

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Groups of students huddle together over an obscure equation. Others drop by for a respite from term papers, to catch up on campus buzz, or just hang out.

But for those in the know, behind the nondescript sign DLRC is one of UP’s best-kept secrets. This is the HQ for a diverse, but tight group of ate and kuya—the peer mentors who make other students feel that they do not have to face college alone.

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Formally known as the Diliman Learning Resource Center, it is the student volunteer arm of the UP Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs. It offers academic and psychosocial peer mentoring for UP Diliman students from all walks of life.

A hearty “Hola, amiga!” is heard from a physics major teaching Spanish while a battle-scarred engineering major walks a clearly apprehensive freshman through the intricacies of molecular structures. A nutrition major chats with a junior who shows up, hoping for some kick-ass advice.

“Kuya, I desperately need help in (whatever mode of torture he/she is undergoing). I’m dying! Meet with you Tuesday 3 p.m. at DLRC?” Short text messages like this start the yearlong mentor-mentee relationship.

The peer mentors are not stereotypical geeks. Drop by the DLRC for lunch and find The Script, Steve Jobs, Socrates, Bruno Mars, Warren Buffet and Van Gogh all rolled into one big fat burrito.

What makes the peer mentors so special is that “people are dedicated without having to be,” says Laura Abad, a senior taking up education.  “They are volunteers, unlike in orgs where there is pressure to do something. Everyone does his/her job because they want to help others.”

Jessica Compuesto, a freshman taking up geology, says, “I know a lot of people who gave up on their courses because they couldn’t take the hard classes, especially the ones with a lot of math. Peer mentors are able to show that they should not fear math, but should instead love it and use it.”

The perks for peer mentors are a cozy place to hang out and the occasional congratulatory handshake with UP’s who’s who. But more than this, it is the sense of fulfillment that the peer mentors value most.

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“It is the realization that you are actually making a difference by taking small, concrete, baby steps,” one longtime peer mentor puts it.

At the UP, there are people who want to help and are willing to share part of their time to help other students stay on track.

They will toss those at risk of drowning a salbabida (life preserver) in the ocean that is college.

Sink or swim? Not quite. All it takes is a little reaching out.

Like DLRC at http://facebook.com/dlrctutors.

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TAGS: college, Education, peer mentoring, University of the Philippines
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