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With headquarters tucked away from the often noise-filled scene of the D’Angelo Center’s main floor, the R.I.S.E. Network performs impactfully with a calm professionalism.
R.I.S.E., or Reach, Inspire, Succeed, Empower, is a scholar’s empowerment network that provides freshmen, and more recently, sophomore Black and Latino students with skill-based development, support and opportunities to enhance their overall academic career at St. John’s.
“This opportunity [to join R.I.S.E] would be offered to incoming freshmen,” said Sharod Tomlinson, Director, R.I.S.E Network. “In June, before their freshman year, they would receive an email and they would have to self-register.”
The program is described by Tomlinson as necessary and advantageous. It has had a profound effect on the students that take part in it — so much so that scholars or mentees in their sophomore year will now have a chance to get back into the program and maintain their status as a mentee for another year.
“It’s a very hands-on program,” explained Leonard Breton, Associate Director of Student Development and R.I.S.E. Mentorship. “Customer service brought the sophomore experience about — students wanted to come back to the program.”
Promoting a culture of familiarity, honesty and accountability, as Tomlinson and Breton have, has resonated with students and encouraged them to excel.
Mentees and mentors alike were challenged to achieve a 3.0 GPA. The average GPA of mentees is a 3.4, and that of the mentors is a 3.5. Retention rates among these students have gone up as well, currently at 88 percent (fall 2018 to fall 2019).
“What made R.I.S.E. appealing to me when I first registered was having people to talk to about problems that I’m going through that they might be going through also. The members in R.I.S.E get it. I didn’t even know what to expect but the experience was good,” Kaitha Agnant, sophomore mentee, said.
“I think it’s good to have this program for sophomores also because sophomore year is harder than freshman year. You need that person that you can really ask for help and who could tell you what you need to be doing because time will creep up on you and you don’t want to be behind,” she added.
Kevin Wright, sophomore and fellow mentee, believes his attachment to the program was strong as well. “Coming back another year to R.I.S.E. was something that I had already known that I was going to do,” he said. “I really appreciated how much time and effort my mentor placed into making sure that I was comfortable within the college environment.”
He agreed that the program is necessary for sophomores as well, saying, “The second year is so important because it shapes the rest of the college experience and brings everything together.”
Andrew Peck, senior and mentor to Agnant and Wright, believes in the program and how much it helps students.
“In each of my mentees, I have seen a lot of effort to improve and a great deal of focus on taking the next steps needed to get closer to success in their respective careers and fields of interest,” Peck said. “The relationships I have been able to create as a result of the program have been substantial, I feel that each and every member of the network can receive great mentors, advice and feel a sense of family as a part of the R.I.S.E. Network.
This emphasis on relationships is important to the organization and its members.
“The program has grown because everyone has become much more involved. It really feels like a family, and is a true network. Even though we are all different, we see the value in coming together and supporting one another in the pursuit of all our goals, professional and personal,” sophomore mentor and senior Keyla Payano said.