The 2018 Fall Semester is less than two weeks old, but 16 UH West Oʻahu students have been hard at work for weeks. There’s been training and then five Freshman and New Student Orientation sessions along with being present for La Punua, a two-day affair where they established relationships with incoming students they’ll mentor this academic year.
And that’s not all. During the first week of school they donned their uniform – a red and white three-quarter length raglan sleeve t-shirt with ”PUEO 2018” emblazoned on the front — to help with the Office of Student Life’s Welcome Week festivities, including staffing tables set up with refreshments and student treats.
Meet the Pueo Leaders, a select group of students tabbed as a vital part of the Peer Undergraduate Engagement and Orientation (PUEO) Leadership Program. It’s a program that’s designed to make new students feel comfortable with their new academic home. The program is part of UH West Oʻahu’s Student Success Initiatives to promote academic success and degree completion and ultimately increase student retention and graduation.
Through the program new students are connected with a support group of fellow students as well as the PUEO Leaders who help the students make the jump from high school to college and adjust to the social, personal and academic changes presented them. According to Rouel Velasco, head of UH West Oʻahu’s Office of Student Life, the PUEO team’s work will extend throughout the year.
“They will be remaining in contact with the first-year students, emailing and calling them to check-in to see their progress and transition, engage them in student events and activities, and will be assisting them with course registration for the next semester,” Velasco said. “They will be planning an end of the first-semester event for all first-year students to celebrate their first semester.” Katrina Abes, Academic Advisor, continues on, “In addition, the PUEO mentors wants to create an environment where the students feel a belonging to each other and to the campus.”
The peer mentor-leaders will guide all first-year students throughout the first and second semester to assist with their transition to the academic and social atmosphere at UH West Oʻahu. This includes meeting with first-year students individually, encouraging them to get involved, assisting them with course registration, providing workshops and attending events together.
Officially, the PUEO Leaders/Mentors are to:
- Coordinate and invite freshman and transfer students to activities on and off campus, offering opportunities to meet other students and make friends.
- Stay in contact with student mentees (face-to-face, one-on-one, or in a group; as well as via email, text or Facebook) providing information about academic resources, personal resources, university policies, and reminding them of important deadlines.
- Share their knowledge and experience about how to be a successful college student.
Velasco said mentor-leader mantra for this year is “open mind, willing heart,” which was developed by the Program Team of PUEO Leadership Program, and sets the tone of attitude of service and willingness to first-year students. The Program Team also guides the peer mentor-leaders and conducts meetings and assists in program planning for the peer mentor-leaders.
To become a PUEO leader, students must possess a minimum grade point average of 2.5 and be a full-time student in good economic standing; possess a positive attitude, demonstrate enthusiasm to improve and meet other requirements. Those that become PUEO Leaders receive a stipend plus other benefits, including UH West Oʻahu items.
The 16 PUEO leaders were selected through a three-phase process – application/resume/short answer, group process, and individual interview. The peer mentors then participated in an overnight team bonding experience called Night OWL (Opportunities With Leaders), HiLAMA (mentoring institute that brought together different on-campus mentor programs), and an upper division three-credit writing intensive peer leadership education and mentoring course. These experiences help prepare the students for their roles as orientation leaders for the Freshman New Student Orientation sessions and the year-round mentoring of first-year students.