The basis of a mentor/mentee relationship is simple and beneficial. Ill intentions and failed attempts at popularity redefine this relationship at Florida A&M University.
FAMU has several peer mentoring and leadership development initiatives. These points of contact are often student run clubs, organizations or a part of a university program. Mentors who volunteer their time get an opportunity help another student transition into the university. However, mentors sometimes use this opportunity as a chance to live vicariously through mentees.
Stephen Okon, a fifth year doctor of pharmacy candidate from Miami, said he feels that mentoring is good if the intentions are pure. Okon helped found the Big Brother Little Brother mentoring program at FAMU and understands firsthand the importance of proper mentorship.
“It’s good to have someone experienced to show you the do’s and don’ts of the university,” Okon said.
Freshmen often fall victim to non-genuine mentors because they place their trust in the first upperclassman who befriends them. These students do not understand the time, money and favoritism that contribute to the glamorized social success stories they’ve heard.
Students who enroll in summer sessions meet people seeking mentees sooner than others. Upperclassmen scout them early and befriend them with first year survival tips, rides to Wal-Mart, and help moving in. Most mentors critique physical features first in selecting a mentee. Being lighter skinned, having long hair, or fitting the stereotype of what is considered to be “masculine” play a major role in being selected for mentorship. Public speaking ability, likeability, and style factor in the decision making process.
Mentees are often later grouped with similar freshmen. These groups of mentees often help create early friendship networks. After the proper introductions to prominent campus officials and personal grooming, the race for social status begins. The top prizes in the competition are crowns, titles, and/or Greek letters.
Ryan Rigg, a first year chemical/biomedical engineering student from Ft. Lauderdale, said he feels mentoring takes patience and experience.
“Mentors that I’ve had including teachers, friends, and family–have always given
me the option to determine my own success,” said Rigg.
The down side to the exploitative mentoring present on campus is that everyone
cannot win, and every goal will not be accomplished. Students pride and feelings are often hurt when they come to realize that a system of unwritten rules that may have worked for some, does not work for all.
Once mentees realize that they received unfavorable advice, they tend to rebel. Mentor to mentee relationships become distant or non-existent as the mentee searches for his/her own path on campus.