Michael Ray, director of the American Indian Program at New Mexico State University, will use $84,000 in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds to expand a student peer-mentoring program. | NMSU photo by Josh Bachman

Federal funds help bolster mentoring program for American Indian students at NMSU

New Mexico State University’s American Indian Program will use federal pandemic relief funds to bolster a student peer-mentoring program.

Earlier this summer, the American Indian Program, which offers services to assist American Indian students in achieving their academic goals, received $84,000 in Higher Education Emergency Relief Funds to expand the Return-to-Campus Peer-Mentoring Program. It was one of 23 projects at NMSU selected to receive HEERF funding totaling $6.3 million.

The mentoring program aims to help incoming first-year and transfer students achieve their goals of pursuing a college degree, said Michael Ray, director of the American Indian Program. Mentors work one-on-one with students to help them adjust academically and socially to a university setting.

The federal funds will allow Ray to increase his staff and hire seven new student mentors and two student office assistants. It will also pay for new technology to facilitate remote mentoring.

“In past years, we were able to hire a smaller number of mentors through our operating budget,” he said. “But this year, we’re able to increase that number because of the HEERF funding. We’re also going to equip our mentors and staff with iPads so they can assist students remotely.”

Ray said his goal is to fill the new student positions soon after the fall 2021 semester begins.

“One of the main things we’re looking for in our mentors are students who want to share,” he said.

Potential mentors should also be in good academic standing and have the ability to dedicate at least 15 hours to mentoring students each week, he added.

Ray said each mentor works with up to four students, meeting weekly or biweekly at the American Indian Student Center on the Las Cruces campus or remotely.

In addition to helping students with academics, mentors also serve as a resource for campus activities. This coming school year, Ray remains hopeful that mentors and mentees will have the opportunity to safely engage in activities canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including attending sporting events and performances at the NMSU Center for the Arts.

“When you’re talking with another student, you have a sense of relatability,” he said, “and that makes student-mentoring so effective.”

Ray said the mentoring program also helps to further NMSU’s strategic goals related to student success, social mobility and building a robust university.

Students interested in learning more about the American Indian Program’s mentoring program can click here for more information.

Author: Carlos Andres López NMSU

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