Written By: Blythe Freshwater
Student mentors are a common sight around campus: they’re the cool upperclassmen that come to college a week early to help the freshmen get settled in and well-adjusted to college life. But unless you’re currently in a Christian Formation class, you may not know many of the student mentors. Therefore, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Kameron Mendes and Colby Martinez, two of OKWU’s student mentors.
Colby and Kameron hail from Ennis, Texas, which is 30 minutes south of Dallas. They knew each other in high school and have been dating since 2014. Colby came to OKWU in 2015 as a Secondary Math Education major, and Kameron followed suit in 2016 to pursue a degree in Secondary English Education. Both came from big, tight-knit families, and want one of their own someday.
Kameron had been a team helper in high school on her drill team, the Lionettes, and she loved helping the new girls make friends. She also works at the local dance studio, Stage Art, teaching hip hop, tumbling, and ballet. She loves arts and crafts, especially painting, and she collects pig and Corgi figurines. Colby, however, can be found at any campus events, usually wearing the wackiest costumes. Go to any late-night basketball game, trivia night, or Frisbee game, and you’ll either see him cheering from the sidelines or actively participating. They both say, “Come join the Intramurals! They’re a blast!”
It is obvious to anyone who talks to them that they have huge hearts for kids and teaching. So, being student mentors seems to be the perfect option for them. Kameron says, “I really like helping people, so helping freshmen transition into college has been really fun, and you get connected with new people on campus.”
When asked why they wanted to be student mentors, Colby answered, “Going along with my dreams for becoming a teacher, I want to help freshmen to encourage them and help them stay in school. I thought about the student mentors I had, and they made it so easy to adjust to being five and a half hours from home. I wanted to do the same.”
He shares that when he was in high school, he had a lot of friends who dropped out after freshman or sophomore year because school just wasn’t pleasant. He said, “I want to become a teacher because you get to make school enjoyable. My biggest goal is to see my kids come in as freshmen and then stick it all the way through to graduation. I want to be that deciding factor for them, and that’s why I’m a student mentor now. I want to see kids thrive in college and make it all the way to graduation.”
Kameron agrees and says, “When I go to campus events, I try to sit with my students and talk with them whenever I see them. Some of my students work with me in the library, so we talk, and I get help them with homework. One of my girls is a volleyball player, but she lives off campus, so when she has early practices or games, she stays in my room. It’s been a lot of fun to hang out and get to know her in that way.”
She also tries to get coffee with her kids in Doc Lacy’s and help them network. She says, “It’s really important to me that every freshman knows that they’re important and that they are valuable. The best way I can show them that is by making friends with them and helping them get connected to others around campus.”
Being a student mentor isn’t all fun and games, though. The student mentors have to be very intentional about helping the freshmen on top of their other work, jobs, or classes, and finding time to do that can be difficult. Kameron also says, “My biggest challenge was that I never actually came as a freshman, so I didn’t have to do Christian Formation. The hardest part for me is actually understanding what their assignments are. I have to learn as they learn. It’s been an interesting learning curve.”
Colby’s challenge, on the other hand, is more on the emotional side. He says, “Honestly, not taking it to heart when someone tells you they’re leaving has been a challenge. As a mentor, you want to be the best, and you want to help the kids stay here, so sometimes it’s hard to not take it personally when someone from your group decides to leave. You find yourself asking, ‘Was there anything I could have done better to help them?’ and sometimes it’s out of your control or theirs. We mentors just have to be there for them and leave the rest up to God.”
The couple shares some wisdom for the freshmen, and for all students. Kameron says, “Seriously, guys, go to class and don’t procrastinate. Don’t be afraid to have fun—life isn’t supposed to be serious all the time! Don’t let stress and everything weigh you down. Also, everyone, obey the rules. People say rules are meant to broken, but it’s definitely not worth missing school because you got a suspension or got hurt. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help from your professors. Asking for help from fellow students is great, but it’s always better to understand how the professor wants you to do the assignment, and they’ll be able to clear up questions other students might not be able to.”
Colby says, “You are going to grow a lot, and you’re going to see that the high school ‘you’ is not the real you. High school was just a stepping stone, but in college, you have the ability to find your true self. Ask yourself the big questions: What can I do? What do I really believe in? What do I stand for? The answers to these questions will shape you and your time here.”