Students in the County College of Morris (CCM) Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program are taking part in a new mentoring arrangement to help them develop their professional skills and gain real-life experience to better prepare them for the workforce.
Developed by EOF counselor Edith Nelson and CCM EOF Community Advisory Board member Geetha Fernandes, the initial program has matched eight EOF students with eight community professionals who volunteered to assist students in career and employment activities.
"Geetha was the brain child behind this exciting new program,” Nelson said. “She did a lot of research into similar mentorship programs and we developed one using best practices to equip students with improved professional skills while still in college.”
Students who were selected from a pool of applicants to participate in the program have demonstrated impressive academic records, availability and the maturity to appreciate the opportunity, Nelson said. Students were also recommended by their EOF counselor as being reliable and responsible.
The program’s mentors were required to provide a reference or human resources endorsement to participate in the program. The group includes an investment banker, a chamber of commerce member, CCM faculty and a vice president of human resources. Three of the eight have their master’s degrees.
“Some of them have mentored before and two of them have been teaching at CCM for a long time, so they are in touch with students,” Nelson said. “One mentor began a nonprofit to support teen girls.”
All mentors went through CCM human recourses processes, including a background check, to make them official CCM volunteers.
A kickoff dinner was held on CCM’s Randolph campus in November, allowing the students to meet with their mentors. Special speed encounters enabled everyone to meet all of their counterparts. Following the initial dinner, each pair will meet monthly until the end of the Spring Semester. After the end of the program, each pair may decide to continue to meet on an informal basis.
EOF is a statewide academic support program with a financial aid component that helps students succeed academically and beyond. Services include counseling, advising and leadership opportunities.
# # #Photo 1: Barbara Gardner, a retired art teacher and a County College of Morris Educational Opportunity Fund mentor, with student Derek Dalonges, of Ridgefield Park.
Photo 2: Cynthia Burke-Sieber, vice president of human resources at McGraw Hill Credit Union and a County College of Morris Educational Opportunity Fund mentor, with student Shelsey Vazquez, of Dover.