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Tue, Feb. 25

Mayer grad is 'peer mentor' to new university students

Mayer grad Justin Van Horne, center, along with Yoshira Ornelas, left, and Kelsey Castellano, is one of the University of Arizona's Arizona Assurance Peer Mentors who will help incoming freshmen adjust to university life, and will outreach to middle school students who might benefit from the Assurance Scholar program, which provides financial aid and support to potential UofA students.<br>
Courtesy Photo

Mayer grad Justin Van Horne, center, along with Yoshira Ornelas, left, and Kelsey Castellano, is one of the University of Arizona's Arizona Assurance Peer Mentors who will help incoming freshmen adjust to university life, and will outreach to middle school students who might benefit from the Assurance Scholar program, which provides financial aid and support to potential UofA students.<br> Courtesy Photo

President Robert N. Shelton welcomed more than 700 new Arizona Assurance scholarship students into the University of Arizona Friday.

Among those who will offer support and friendship to those students is 2007 Mayer High School graduate and UA sophomore Justin Van Horne, an engineering student, Arizona Assurance peer mentor and co-president of the Arizona Assurance Scholars Organization.

The peer mentorship program is one of the opportunities the Arizona Assurance students have to gain academic support and learn about UA resources.

Peer mentors will also serve as outreach volunteers in the spring and will go out to middle schools in Tucson, meeting students with similar backgrounds, who would most likely qualify for the financial aid program. The peer mentors can earn up to three units of credit for their time dedicated to outreach for the program as well as their role as peer mentors.

"I look forward to going back to my hometown and promoting the UA and the Arizona Assurance Program," said Van Horne. "I grew up in Prescott Valley and went to a very small high school (Mayer) with a graduating high school of 40 students. To come here and become a mentor to others and to be able to provide leadership and speak before hundreds of students is a very big deal. I am humbled."

Mayer School District Supt. Pat Dallabetta said he is glad to see Van Horne using his talent and skills at the university level.

"Justin was a student leader, student body president, and just a really terrific kid," Dallabetta said. "He is probably one of the brightest that has graduated here and I'm glad he's using his academic talents to go to university. He's just a neat overall kid in every way."

Van Horne, along with 17 other second-year Arizona Assurance scholars, will serve as peer mentors to a portion of the incoming class of freshmen who are not already being mentored through other UA peer mentoring programs.

Student mentors agree to volunteer a minimum of three hours a week to provide leadership, friendship and support to incoming scholars that have been assigned to them. In addition, the peer mentors will attend weekly meetings and host a series of six workshops throughout the semester on topics such as stress management, library resources and academic success.

In addition to volunteering as a peer mentor, students have the opportunity to get a job on campus.

Arizona Assurance, a UA financial aid program initiated by Shelton, works to increase Arizona residents' access to higher education by enabling students to earn undergraduate degrees in four years, without accumulating significant financial debt.

The program, now in its second year, supports new freshmen scholars and the original scholars, who are now sophomores, with a combination of private and public money. The money covers college costs - including tuition, books, and room and board - for in-state students who are from families making $42,400 or less per year and who are eligible a federal pell grant.

A variety of programs support the Arizona Assurance scholars. For example, Arizona Assurance scholars must be enrolled in a peer mentorship program to maintain their eligibility.

"Peer mentors and faculty mentors each have different support roles. Mentor peers are going through the same experience as their mentees and faculty or professional mentors have already succeeded academically and professionally at varying levels in their chosen careers. Both types of mentors can make a world of difference to these students," said Arezu Corella, director of the peer mentorship program.

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