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Opportunity Scholars program expands, increases role of student mentors

Changes and expansions have come to the Mercer University Opportunity Scholars (OS) program this year.

The program is catered to incoming first-generation college students, students with disabilities and students from low-income families to help them transition to college life. It originally lasted a week before the start of the school year, but now lasts all four years with the assistance of student leaders called Opportunity Scholars Ambassadors, or OSAs.

“OSAs and fellows now have the opportunity to build stronger relationships with one, another and ambassadors are able to provide greater mentorship to fellows,” Macire Aribot, an opportunity scholars ambassador, said in an email to The Cluster.

OSAs now have a greater role in helping counselors from Student Support Services, the office that oversees Opportunity Scholars, plan and lead some of the group events.

“This change allowed fellows to get a student perspective on things like managing mental health in college or innovative ways to save money,” Aribot said.

The program also now features a newsletter for first-years that “provides OS fellows with encouraging words, updates on the great things other fellows have been achieving and news about upcoming events and workshops on campus,” she said.

For Savannah Duringer, a freshman majoring in graphic design, the Opportunity Scholars program has been a huge help.

“I can't express how helpful it is to have a mentor who understands what you are dealing with during your first year and be there willing to tackle any situation with you,” Duringer said.

Duringer joined OS to make new friends, and “get a head start on the college lifestyle,” she said, and she urges others to join.

“It builds a strong foundation for a successful first year, and it also is a wonderful support system that many of us need while stepping into this new chapter in our lives,” she said.

The OSAs are helpful in creating this support system, Duringer said.

“They do this through one-on-one meetings and by building a personal relationship with you,” she said. “I couldn't imagine starting college without having been an OS.”

CORRECTION: The previous version of this article reported that Opportunity Scholars is a one-year program and that group events are held by Opportunity Scholars Ambassadors. However, the program now lasts four years, and OSAs help plan some events alongside Student Support Services faculty. This article has been updated to reflect these changes.

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