Advising taken to a whole new level

Photo of Palo Alto College Peer Adviser assisting student.

By Katherine Menchaca, Pulse staff writer

Palo Alto College has implemented a new breakthrough advising program this semester for first-time college students.

Palo Alto College advisers recognized that students often seek academic advice from other students, which is why the new Peer Advisory Program was put into place this fall to support and encourage new college students.

Sara Passement, a senior adviser for the Undergraduate Advising Center, located in the Palomino Center, Room 114, came across disgruntled students who ended up with unnecessary classes at the end of their two years.

“It’s really sad to see because it’s a waste of time and money. They were really upset,” said Passement.

If new students do not make the effort to visit with their advisers, an advising hold may be placed on the student’s account, which will prevent them from registering for classes next semester.

Christina Franklin, a sophomore Horticulture major, attended high school 25 years ago. The first year she attended PAC, Franklin spoke with an adviser to make sure she wouldn’t pay for a class she didn’t need. It took her a while to catch on to the campus system because advising didn’t have as strong of a presence as it does now. She believes the new Peer Advisory Program will decrease the dropout rate for freshmen.

“I think this Peer Advisory Program is a good idea,” she said. “It’s up to you to get your stuff done in college, and a lot of high school students don’t realize that. It’s a whole different ball of wax!”

Michael L. Ximenez, director of Student Support Services, said, “We just want to let [students] know that we’re here for support and any questions or concerns  ̶  to make sure they’ve met with an academic adviser and that they’re on the right path. If we can make this first semester as smooth as possible for these students, they are more than likely to have successful following semesters.”

Maria Guerrero, a freshman Marine Biology major, recently received an unexpected phone call from a peer adviser.

“She asked how I was doing and how my classes were going. She was so friendly,” said Guerrero.

Peer advisers can easily be spotted around campus wearing a green polo shirt with the official PAC logo. They host events, such as “Popcorn with Peers,” which was held in late September. Another event scheduled this Nov. 13 and 14 is “Destination Registration,” which is geared toward helping students explore different academic departments, search for a career and prepare for next semester.

“Even though it’s specifically focused for FTIC (first-time in college) students, we think it’s going to be helpful for the current students, as well,” said Christina S. Barrera, a senior adviser in the Welcome Advising Center, located in the Palomino Center, Room 103, who oversees the Peer Advising program and its 15 peer advisers.

Peer advisers are located throughout the Undergraduate Advising Center, where student approaching graduation, Disability Support Services, TRIO Student Support Services, Veteran’s Affairs Office and the Welcome Advising Center. The Counseling Department is still hoping to hire additional peer advisers who meet specific requirements.

Salene Bampi, a peer adviser in the Welcome Advising Center, loves helping students to succeed in college. The program is designed to work around a student’s schedule, unlike most traditional jobs.

“If you like helping people, this job is for you,” said Bampi.

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