For freshman pre-nursing major, Mariah Avellana, choosing to be mentored under the Advising and Career Development Center (ACDC) was one of the best decisions she made during her first year at Fresno State.

It’s how she met her mentor, Debbie Vang, a senior Community Health major. The two forged a professional relationship that quickly turned into a mutual friendship.

“I met Debbie and we had an actual conversation,” Avellena said of their first meeting. “It was really nice to talk to staff and have someone talk to me about how I am doing in both my academic and personal life. It was not what I expected, but it was awesome.”

Vang, a peer mentor with the ACDC, has met with 45 students during her time in the peer mentors program. She said the  impact has been just as strong for her. She’s especially proud of the fact that 25 students that she mentored last semester were able to exceed their remedial requirements and therefore, no longer needed her mentorship.

“I want to be able to help students learn how to navigate and use the university system so that it’s easier for them to do well academically,” Vang said. “I’ve met some great mentees and I know that I am to learn from them as well.”

Vang and Avellana, who have been meeting every two weeks since February regularly discuss campus resources, important deadlines, general academic advising, but also delve beyond academics. Vang said it’s important that she be available to talk to the students about any issues they may have.

“There were a couple of days when I would have a bad day, but knowing that I was meeting with Debbie to talk to, about my feelings, was really nice,” said Avellana.  “I definitely shared a lot more than I thought that I would because she is easy to talk to. You wouldn’t think that someone you have to meet with is going to become someone you actually want to talk to. That is not what I expected at all.”

Avellana, a native of Oakhurst, hopes to receive a bachelor’s degree in nursing, with the ultimate goal of becoming a nurse practitioner. However, she knows that in order to get into the competitive nursing program, her grades must take top priority, which is why she’s made it her short-term goal to get her G.P.A. high enough to get into the nursing program.

Avellana said that being a mentee has helped her get better grades, while also positively shaping her freshmen experience. Vang said so far, having Avellana meet with her, has been beneficial for the first-year student.

“We follow up with students on remediation courses and we make sure that they pass,” Vang said. “Mariah she is doing a really good job, so I really don’t have to touch basis with her, but I just meet with her to maintain that connection and in case she had any questions.”

Vang hopes to become a health educator in the future and notes that being a peer mentor helps her to develop the skills that she would use in her future career.

“It helps me in the aspect of communicating,” Vang said. “By interacting with the mentees it prepares me. I don’t like public speaking, but it forces me to get out of my comfort zone. It puts me on my feet because I am always thinking what I am going to talk about with the mentees. It challenges me to think outside of the box.”

To learn more about the Peer Mentors Program, contact the College of Health and Human Services Advising and Career Development Center at 559.278.5027 or visit their website.