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California University peer program eases transition to college

| Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014, 5:57 p.m.

Kaitlyn Strosnider pulled into a parking lot at Cal U and looked at her watch.

It was 15 minutes until the start of the first class of her college career, and she still needed to find a place to print a copy of the syllabus for her first class.

She took out her cell phone and called her peer mentor, who guided her to the closest printer.

“That first day I was nervous all day long,” Strosnider said. “But when it was over, the hardest part was done. The initial shock of my first day was over.

“My first day was a success due to the peer mentoring program.”

Now entering her junior year, the Uniontown secondary education/biology major is entering her second year as a peer mentor.

“The peer mentoring program pairs first year students with upper classmen so they have someone they can call or text or get to in a hurry when have needs – anything from where to print my syllabus to where to catch a bus to Wal-Mart,” said university spokeswoman Christine Kindl.

Members of the peer mentor group member, such as Strosnider, will be volunteering with Move-in Day from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Volunteers will be on hand at the main campus residence halls to greet incoming students and their families, and to offer assistance as they carry their belongings inside.

“It is a great experience,” Strosnider said “It is so helpful for the students.

“It is such a huge transition from high school to college,” Strosnider said. “We can answer a ton of questions and extend a helpful, friendly hand — become a first friend on campus.

“You think, ‘Wow, someone does care. This place is not so scary,'” Strosnider said, adding that approximately seven out of 10 freshmen sign up for the peer mentoring program after learning about it during freshmen orientation.

“Actual research shows students do better and are more likely to stay in school if they have a one-to-one relationship with a student who can just help them get their feet on the ground,” Kindl said.

Move-In Day 2014 will begin the sixth annual Cal U for Life New Student Orientation, a student-focused experience that closes with a core values candlelight ceremony and fireworks on Aug. 24. The three-day program helps freshmen and transfer students meet their classmates and discover the programs and services offered at Cal U.

Returning students will move in to main-campus housing from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 24, just in time for the start of classes.

The first day of classes for the fall semester will be Aug. 25.

Strosnider said she too gets excited about the first day of classes.

“I always get excited because that's what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life,” Strosnider said.

Kindl said helping out is contagious on Move-In Day. She said university President Geraldine Jones been known to carry a box or two from a car to a dorm and to stop in during the welcome luncheon in the Convocation Center to talk one-on-one with parents and students.

It's a very welcoming, from the president on down to our student volunteers, Kindl said. “Everyone lends a hand.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or cbuckley@tribweb.com.

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