Pomp and Circumstance is the one song that all college students look forward to hearing, as the famed processional march indicates that graduation is finally upon them. But for some, the ceremonial tune seems faint, as the journey to graduation can be a difficult and daunting process. While students often turn to their professors for help, sometimes it takes a fellow peer to guide a struggling scholar along the path to academic success. That’s why Student Services at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management created the Peer Outreach Mentoring Program (POMP).

POMP, the first all-student mentor program at the Rosen College, was formed during the Fall 2011 semester under the direction of Academic Services Coordinator, Vanessa Cogswell.

“We created this program to offer a support system to students already on academic probation, as well as at-risk students,” said Cogswell. “The goal of POMP is not only to help students improve their GPA’s, but also to teach them to cope with stress, grief and other social issues that affect a college student’s life.”

Cogswell believes that students have an easier time relating to their peers because they have taken the same classes and faced similar challenges, and can therefore offer advice based on first-hand experience.

“Not only is there a minimum academic standard for our student mentors, but we interview each one to make sure they’re capable of advising a mentee,” said Cogswell. “We look for mentors that are goal oriented, who like to lead, are nurturing, encouraging and can ultimately empathize with the mentees.”

POMP currently hosts bi-weekly meetings, in which mentors facilitate an academic activity, such as test taking strategies, followed by a social activity, such as stress management. Each meeting also includes icebreakers and a refreshment break in order to help build relationships and a sense of camaraderie within the group.

During its inaugural semester, mentees who attended two or more meetings saw an average increase of .85 in their term GPA, and those that attended at least one meeting and had active contact with their mentor saw an average increase of 1.41 in their term GPA. Additionally, all of the mentees who entered the program on academic probation and had attended at least one meeting were removed from academic probation at the end of the Fall 2011 term.

Cogswell credits the program’s success to its great group dynamic, productive relationship building and its goals. The success of the program sparked a new rule for readmitted students, who are now required to attend POMP meetings.

“In a single semester, we’ve evolved from a small group to 23 mentors and 20 mentees,” said Cogswell. “I’m hoping to make this a funded program next fall, so we can better serve more students. My goal is to create a similar program geared toward freshmen and continue to strengthen the current group.”

Students, who wish to enroll in the program as a mentee or mentor, should contact Vanessa Cogswell at Vanessa.Cogswell@ucf.edu.