Peer Mentor Summit Kicks Off at GU4LA Schools

As students, families and staff get back into the swing of being in person and in the classroom, GEAR UP 4 LA schools are launching one of their first major in-person events in over a year-and-a-half – Peer Mentor Summit.

Belmont High School and Roybal Learning Center were the first to hold the much-anticipated event on Oct. 9, gathering dozens of ninth- and 10th-grade students who participated in college and career exploration lessons as well as dialogue circles to help develop their voice, share interests, and learn leadership strategies to improve academic success. (SEE MORE PHOTOS HERE.)

The remaining GEAR UP sites will hold their summits over the next several weeks.

“Something that GEAR UP helped me with is speaking skills and how to communicate with people as well as learning about college and all the opportunities you can have when you join the program,” Roybal student Anamarie Lopez said.

GEAR UP 4 LA’s peer mentoring program empowers students to build college-going aspirations and enrollment while sharing college access information with peers.

“The program itself gives you many benefits, including leadership skills, portfolio building, and social interacting,” Roybal student Brandon Santamaria said.

Before the pandemic stalled in-person functions, GU4LA invited all peer mentors to participate in day-long activities at a local college. The last in-person Peer Mentor Summit was held February 2020 at Los Angeles City College.

This year, teams are holding their events at their respective school sites, ensuring the continued safety of students and staff while providing students a safe space to explore, share, build relationships, and make valuable connections with one another.

“I want to be a mentor because I want to help a lot of people that are struggling with what college they want to go to,” Belmont student Saikhanzaya “Jayson” Ikhbayar said.

As part of Peer Mentor Summit, students learn a variety of topics through interactive activities. Such topics include the four systems of higher education in California – community colleges, UCs, CSUs, and private/independent colleges – and share names and locations of campuses and the GPA requirements for each.

They also learn the difference between college match – the academic suitability of a college or university for a student – and college fit – the degree to which a college meets a students’ academic, social, financial, and other needs and interests such as campus culture and academic programs.

“Something that I found helpful about the GEAR UP mentor program was just learning about college, learning about opportunities they can bring to you,” Roybal student Bryant Barillas said.

Students also get to know their peers, including their fears and hopes of being a peer mentor, through team-building activities.

“Today was really fun,” Belmont student Linda Perez said. “In the beginning, it was uncomfortable, no one was really speaking, but with the activities, we gained confidence. I would love to continue.”