CJY Peer Mentor: Kayla Warner
A quick look at Governors State University’s website shows the vast resources available to students, no matter what they need. But as junior Kayla Warner can tell you, the sheer volume can be overwhelming, particularly to freshmen. “There are a million people to answer your questions, but you don’t always know who to ask first or where to turn,” she said.
As a Center for Junior Year Peer Mentor, Warner is glad to be the one to help other students find their way and offer a little empathy, too. “As a freshman, you feel lost,” she said. “They’ll ask, ‘How do you register for classes?’ Or ‘Where is C wing?’ “
And while there are plenty of staff and faculty eager to help, Warner said, “It’s easier to relate to another student. Advisors and professors expect you to do well. But we work with what you’re giving us and try to do our best with that.”
Some students come in look for a little academic help but wind up receiving much more. “It’s easier when you start talking about just one thing, but one thing leads to the next and you wind up unloading everything else,” Warner said.
One student concerned about her grades in one class told Warner she’d taken the night shift on a job to help pay her bills. “But it was hard to stay awake in class, and that’s why she was struggling,” she said. “You try your best to be as supportive as possible.”
Warner, who is majoring in communication disorders, was a peer mentor her sophomore year and looks forward to continuing as a junior. “It’s good for leadership skill building,” she said. “And it definitely put me outside my comfort zone. For instance, we have to talk to students taking their junior seminar about peer mentoring to let them know we’re here. And public speaking isn’t something I would have volunteered for before,” she said.
In trying to hunt down answers for students’ questions, Warner said she’s enjoyed learning about all the different majors at GSU and getting more comfortable with all the corners of the campus. And she likes getting to know so many people, from fellow students to faculty and staff.
“You’ve got to like talking to people to be a peer mentor,” she said. “You’ve got to be open to other people, and to genuinely care about their struggles and what they have to say.
“The real success is when they don’t come back.”
Center for Junior Year
An innovative center designed to break down barriers to academic success, the Center for Junior Year (CJY) at Governors State University supports students into their major, to their degree and beyond. “We work with other offices that help students, referring them to the resources they need to succeed,” said Professor David Rhea, Director of the CJY. Help comes from peer mentors — students trained to find answers to questions about careers, academics, finances, even personal challenges in life. Working one-on-one is an approach that makes the difference, Rhea said. “It’s about connectedness.”