Students serving as peer advisors learn life skills while helping other students.
Sometimes the best service a student can receive is from another student in the form of mentorship, according to Dr. Dana Zahorik, counselor at Fox Valley Technical College. She developed the Peer Advisor program as a way to improve student services while helping her student advisors gain real-life skills. “It gives new students the reassurance and personal help they need to stay and succeed in school,” she notes. “It also provides the advisors themselves with personal and professional growth opportunities.”
Jayanni Pech, a 23-year-old Nursing student from Belize, is serving as a peer advisor. “I wanted to help others the same way peer advisors helped me when I first arrived,” she recalls. “They turned this whole opportunity into a pleasant experience.”
Peer advisors gain practice in problem solving and how to work in teams. “We show students how to sign up for classes, access their coursework, and more,” says Mark Offenbecher, a 26-year-old peer advisor from Appleton who is both a Business Management and Accounting student. “If I can’t help, I make sure they get to see a counselor or advisor.”
Peer advisors also share their own experiences. “I showed a young nursing student my method for keeping classwork organized,” says Pech. “She came back and thanked me. The interaction with others really builds your confidence, and you feel part of a team.”
To be a peer advisor, students must have at least a 3.0 GPA, complete a full day of training, and attend monthly meetings. Zahorik believes that students in the program learn skills that will assist them as they pursue their career endeavors.
Peering into the Future
Peer advisors develop a number of skills to prepare students for what today’s employers need:
- Effective Communications
- Critical Thinking
- Knowledge for the Workplace
- Problem Solving
- Adapting to Change
12 new peer advisors are hired by FVTC’s Counseling & Advising Services department each academic year to help serve the needs of students.