The Value of APU's Mentoring Programs

by April Overholt '11

Although students at APU enjoy the privilege of a 14-to-1 faculty-to-student ratio with professors committed to honoring God First, many find they desire a deeper, one-on-one relationship with a faculty or staff member who will get to know them on a personal level.

Out of a passion to meet this need, the late staff member Gladys Wilson founded the women’s mentoring program, Heart to Heart, in 1990 and Residence Life staff Kelly Schlenz and Ronny McGee created Blueprints for men in 2007. Both programs match students with a spiritual mentor from either APU or the local community.

Spiritual Mentoring Coordinator Jeanine Smith, M.Div., explains that the mentoring programs exist for students who seek a deeper relationship with God despite the busyness of college life. “These programs help students keep God first in the midst of preparing for their vocation, and in the context of the other important things they’re doing in their lives,” Smith said.

Yvette Latunde, EdD, assistant professor of special education and Heart to Heart mentor, recognizes the overarching benefits of providing this resource for students. “Mentoring is supported by research as being effective for the success of higher education faculty, student retention, and graduation,” she said.

Although mentoring relationships focus on facilitating students’ growth, mentors often find themselves challenged as well. “Anytime we walk with someone on a deeper level, we are changed and formed, too,” Smith said, a mentor herself. “I’ve gained a lot from younger people of faith, from their passion and energy to grow.”

Mentors often join the programs because they were blessed with a similar experience in their own lives. “I became a mentor because, during my childhood, college years, and professional career, spiritual and professional mentors have provided the support I need to become all that God wants me to be,” said Latunde.

From his participation in Blueprints, junior biblical studies major Spencer Trefzger has seen the tangible influence this kind of support can have. “I have learned many of the important skills that it takes to be a man in today’s world, and I can honestly attribute my coming marriage this summer to the discussions I’ve had with my mentor,” he said.

Currently, both Blueprints and Heart to Heart need more mentors in order to match all students interested in the program. However, the Office of the Campus Pastors provides other resources to help those not matched to get connected. If you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, please visit Office of Spiritual Life for more information.