Signing up for the REACH Peer Mentoring program at Ball State University was one of the best decisions Joshua Bumphus made his freshman year.
“I got really involved in the class,” Bumphus said. “You take the work and you personalize it toward yourself and your education. It’s not about just getting a grade and moving on.”
REACH (Retain, Engage, Aspire, Connect and Help) is a one-credit-hour course (EDHI 402) that counts toward a minor in leadership studies. Now in its fourth year at Ball State, it helps first-year students transition to the academic, social, personal, and professional challenges of college, with a focus on the experiences of students of color and first-generation college students.
Bobby Steele, director of the University’s Multicultural Center, teaches the course. He points to statistics showing how REACH is supporting students in their Ball State journey.
About 90 percent of University students who participated in REACH last Fall are returning for their sophomore year. Nationally, the freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is about 74 percent. REACH students also tend to have higher GPAs at the end of the first semester than peers who do not participate in the program, Steele noted.
In addition to learning from Steele, freshman in the program are also paired with upper-class student mentors who have already completed the course.
“Mentoring programs are common in higher education, but the REACH program is unique as it is a peer mentoring course tied to a leadership minor,” Steele said.
Steele said REACH is all about connecting students with existing resources to help them succeed. Students learn how to write resumes, meet student leaders, attend panel discussions, and more.
REACH is one of two mentorship programs offered through the Multicultural Center. The other, EXCEL, takes place in summer and introduces incoming freshman to mentors during a three-day workshop.
Bumphus said the typical REACH class is involved and engaging. Learning revolves around meaningful discussions and projects instead of lectures.
“I learned so much,” said Bumphus, who hopes to eventually become a mentor himself.