Two years ago, these were the main concerns of incoming Providence College students Amie Mbye ’18 (Pawtucket, R.I.) and Jarely Paulino Diaz ’18 (Lawrence, Mass). But, after spending five weeks in the Friar Foundations Program (FFP), a summer bridge program intended to ease the transition from high school to college, they were poised to take on the school year.
This year, Mbye and Diaz each made it a priority to give back to the program by becoming resident assistants/mentors (RAMs) to 22 students in this summer’s FFP cohort – all members of the incoming Class of 2020. The program, which is supported by funding from The Angell Foundation and The Salah Foundation, invites accepted PC students who might benefit from a jumpstart to their college careers to campus. They take credit-bearing classes, attend skills-building workshops, participate in field trips, and get to know their fellow students and the campus.
The FFP students are led mainly by a group of 10 RAMs, all of whom are upper-class PC students. Mbye, a global studies and economics double major and a Spanish minor, and Diaz, a public and community service studies major, agree that their participation as RAMs this year absolutely stems from the positive experience they had within their cohort – the program’s first.
“A lot of what we do is help the new students feel comfortable in the environment and help them find resources, not only during the program but during the school year,” said Mbye.
Although Mbye was somewhat prepared for college-level courses before 2014 – having participated in a college preparatory program, Upward Bound, through Rhode Island College – she said the exposure to the campus itself during that time was invaluable.
“It was amazing. It helped me to get to know the PC landscape,” she said. “I appreciated the program so much, and I wanted to be a part of it again.”
Diaz said the FFP experience was foundational for her on several fronts. It inspired her to become involved in student leadership and to develop strong academic practices. Socially, she said some of her best friends are students who were in her FFP cohort.
“I thought that it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. It was a great transition into the College,” she said.
Diaz was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and had never expected to pursue an education beyond high school. Being invited to the FFP was what she needed to ease the big transition, she said. What she found was a close-knit community of students, some with similar backgrounds to her. She also developed a strong rapport with the mentors, one of whom, Eric Rivera ’16, was “a great role model.” Rivera was president of the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, a head resident assistant, a coordinator of the Horizons Retreat, and a member of the Dirigo leadership honor society.
In deciding to apply to become a RAM, Diaz reflected on her experiences and relationships as an incoming student in the FFP, she said.
“I wanted to be a bridge between the incoming students and those people I met when I was an FFP scholar. I feel like – more than giving back – it’s important to try to be a person of resources and be relatable to the students,” said Diaz.
FFP students are more diverse than the overall student population of PC. The male/female ratio is 50 percent/50 percent, 88 percent are multicultural students, and 80 percent are first-generation students.
Although creating a diverse group of students wasn’t the expressed intention of the program, making known resources available to multicultural students is important not only within the FFP, but throughout the College community, said program coordinator Kaitlyn M. O’Malley, who is the assistant director for student-athlete services/life skills coordinator in the Office of Academic Services.
“Diversity is something that we’ve talked a lot about as a community, and we try hard to hear everybody. We make a real effort to expose students to all resources when they arrive on campus. It’s a broad range, and it’s extremely important that they are connected with those,” O’Malley added.
Mbye and Diaz were introduced to the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs through the FFP and are still involved in the student-run organization. Mbye also is a member of the African American Society and the newly established chapter of the NAACP on campus.
“It’s so exciting to be working with students as they start college, discover who they want to be, and have people come in who are energized. Just to get to know the students on a personal level and to be able to watch them grow throughout their four years is very rewarding,” said O’Malley.
So agrees Patrick Rogers ’17 (Middleboro, Mass.), a student in his second year as a RAM. “It’s amazing how much of a big world it seems when you first step on campus,” he said. This year, he noticed that the group became very close very quickly, mainly because it spends so much time together.
A social work major, Rogers finds that everything that happens outside the classroom is just as important as what transpires inside, in terms of personal growth. The FFP affords students the opportunity to participate in several field trips, thereby strengthening the bond with fellow students. This summer, the group has attended a New England Revolution game and visited Newport, where it toured the Breakers mansion and walked the Cliff Walk.
The program will conclude on Aug. 5 with a luncheon reception.