There’s a new peer mentoring program at the University of Lynchburg, thanks to a $139,000 grant from the Jessie Ball duPont Fund.
CHAMPS, which stands for Collaborative and Holistic Academic Mentoring for Peer Success, is aimed at first-year students who are also first-generation college students, Pell-eligible, or BIPOC, an acronym for Black, Indigenous, and people of color.
Lynchburg’s launch of the program, which originated in the University’s Recruitment and Retention Task Force, is a collaboration between the Offices of Equity and Inclusion and Multicultural Services, and the Academic Achievement Center.
According to the grant proposal, about 30-45% of Lynchburg’s first-year students are eligible to participate in CHAMPS, which focuses on improving retention between the freshman and sophomore years. The first students will start benefiting from the program in Fall 2022.
“CHAMPS will span the students’ entire first year at the University,” the grant proposal states, “providing steady, reliable support whenever needed, allowing time for goals and strategies to be reinforced and practiced, as well as creating stronger interpersonal connections.
“By the end of the first year, mentees should be able to set high expectations [for] themselves and recognize goals, potential obstacles or stressors, and the opportunities or resources that … keep them on track throughout the remainder of their time” at Lynchburg.
Peer mentors for the program will be sophomores, juniors, and seniors from the same underrepresented groups served by CHAMPS. Peer mentors, who will be paid, must retain a GPA of 3.0 or better. They also will receive specialized training, gaining skills in leadership, communication, problem-solving, identifying goals, and building trust.
Students in the CHAMPS program will meet with their assigned peer mentors about 15 times over the course of their first year at Lynchburg. There will also be small- and large-group gatherings; social events, such as going to minor league baseball games or museums; and an end-of-semester banquet.
The Jessie Ball duPont Fund, a charitable organization that awards grants to organizations, has supported the University of Lynchburg for many years. Other Lynchburg programs funded by Jessie Ball duPont grants include, among others, $15,000 for Safe Space Ally Training and $52,000 for the Home for Hornets Equity Project.
“Jessie Ball duPont has been a loyal supporter of the University for decades and we greatly appreciate all they do for us,” Jennifer Williams, associate director of grants management at Lynchburg, said.