New program created for freshmen mentoring

Isabella Spisok, Contributing Writer

New opportunities are rising on campus for sophomores, juniors and seniors to become mentors for Eastern’s new program, Freshman Connection, run by Heidi Larson, a professor of counseling and student development and her graduate assistants. 

Freshman Connection is a new pilot program beginning next semester that will provide incoming freshmen with a mentor.

Mentors will serve as a helping hand for incoming freshmen to provide support and advice as they make the transition to Eastern.

The only requirement within the program is that each mentor will be meeting with its group of five freshmen once a week for a meal.

This could be breakfast, lunch or dinner, Larson said, as Eastern will be giving one free meal swipe to both mentors and freshmen for their weekly meetings. 

Neither freshmen nor mentors need to worry about being put in a group of people that could potentially have nothing in common, Larson said.

On applications, both freshmen and mentors add their interests and will be matched so each group will be able to connect better.

Larson said Freshman Connection is looking for student leaders who would enjoy being a first-hand resource for freshman as well as mentors to be friends.

The overall goal is for freshmen to have more people they can lean on when they have questions or when they need someone to listen.

“People, I guess, who are genuinely interested in helping incoming freshman have a positive experience their first year,” Max Smith said, a graduate assistant studying counseling.

Smith is also working on the program and said students that are chosen to be mentors will experience one full day of training the Saturday before finals this semester. 

“We’ll be having a bunch of presentations and activities to help them learn about certain qualities that a leader should have, so we’re doing a lot of communication skills, leadership skills, interpersonal skills (and) how they can effectively help their mentees,” Smith said. 

Their training will also include relearning all of the resources that Eastern has to offer.

This includes a look at financial aid, counseling, the writing center and how to get involved in groups on campus. 

Larson said she originally came up with the program “Believe It or Not I Care” at the Mattoon High School. Now, she’s here at Eastern trying to make Freshman Connection happen. 

“Most individuals need a mentor at some point in their life, especially when there’s big transitions like coming to college,” Larson said. 

Larson said she will be looking over the graduate assistants, the graduate assistants will be looking over the mentors and the mentors will be looking over the freshmen.

The idea of the program is keeping a safe haven so everybody has someone to turn to. 

As of now, Larson and her team are still developing their resource guide for the program, and they are still accepting applications for mentors and freshman.

Anyone that is interested can send an application in at

Larson and her team are accepting 35 mentor applications and 150 freshman applications.

The deadline to apply is March 1.

Isabella Spisok can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]