Students are helping each other navigate life on campus.
Last school year, then-senior Kendra Paez ’22 founded Presence, an all-female mentorship club on campus, as part of her Aequitas senior project. Paez, who now volunteers with the Peace Corps in Gambia, started the women’s peer-mentorship club with the goal of cultivating relationships among women on campus.
A year later, Presence is again connecting younger female students with older female students who can help them navigate life at Wheaton.
Lilliana Coyle, a sophomore studying elementary education and Christian formation and ministry, now leads the club as president. She said she hopes to pass on the model of kindness she experienced from Presence as a freshman.
“Last year, my mentor was a sounding board who was able to support me and center me back on the Lord in the process,” Coyle said. “We hope that mentees will become mentors and that this would produce a cycle of female mentorship and leadership on campus.”
The club held a kick-off event for participants on the Stupe patio in September. Nineteen mentorship pairs participated in a scavenger hunt and captured photos of their findings. The event concluded with journal decorating and warm beverages.
The club allows the pairs to conduct their meetings as they see fit. Mentors and mentees are encouraged to get together regularly, but the specifics are left up to the pairs. Coyle and other cabinet members provide support and resources as needed. Pairs have since met over coffee, had breakfast or dinner together, and texted throughout the week.
“Freshman and sophomore year is filled with a lot of decisions and growth and change,” Coyle said. “The goal is to support the underclassmen, to have people with more experience come alongside them and support them educationally, spiritually and relationally.”
Elli Horvath, a sophomore applied health sciences major, was a mentee last year. She built a strong relationship with her mentor — a tight bond that continued even after the year came to an end.
“Talking to and getting her perspective was grounding,” Horvath said. “Every time we met together, it was so refreshing to know that I wasn’t alone in the craziness of school, balancing friendships, and all of the things that Wheaton offers.”
After being a mentee for the duration of her freshman year, Horvath now serves as a mentor.
“I am grateful that they decided to reach out to me because I was poured into, and I valued that so much,” Horvath said. “It’s a joy to be able to pour into another person and hopefully give them a similar experience to mine.”
As the Executive Vice President of Student Life and Engagement, sophomore political science major Anna Moore plans to prioritize on-campus mentorship programs. The Presence Cabinet is in consultation with Student Government to discuss how they can support existing mentorship programs like Presence.
Moore plans to raise awareness about mentorship programs on campus — including Presence, the International Student Programs’ Ladder mentorship program and the Office of Multicultural Development’s 1-2-1 program — through social media, Residence Life and the Admissions office. Moore also hopes to connect with Diakonoi members, commonly referred to as “Dekes” — student tour guides who encounter prospective students and their families on a regular basis.
“We want to make sure that students know that whenever they arrive on campus, the transition will be as easy as possible because of mentorship programs,” Moore said.