FORGE Mentorship Program Drawing Students In

Date Posted: 3/12/2015

Stephen F. Austin students at the Wesley Foundation are leading new students toward personal and academic success.
Now that Matt Cecil is on the verge of graduation from Stephen F. Austin University, he has wisdom and experiences to share with incoming students to aid in their success through the FORGE Mentorship Program offered through the Wesley Foundation. “Over the past two years, I have been mentoring two freshmen,” he shares, “and it has been a wonderful experience. The FORGE program has helped me become a better listener and teacher for my two mentees and all future mentor relationships.”
According to Rev. Tom Teekell, college pastor at SFA Wesley Foundation, FORGE is a mentorship program intended to meet incoming students where they are in their personal and spiritual journeys. Notes Tom, “With the help of the mentor, the mentee decides what they need most from the program.  If they need accountability to study, help managing anger, or encouragement to prayer regularly, that’s what we help provide -- in a Christian context. It’s not just another ‘big brother’ or ‘big sister’ program you might find in a fraternity or sorority.  The purpose of FORGE is to help lead freshmen and sophomores toward personal, spiritual, and emotional maturity. By developing intentional, meaningful mentor-relationships, older students can encourage younger students toward wise and biblical decision-making in all areas of their lives.” Adds Tom, “When a student reaches their junior year, they become eligible to be a mentor to an incoming freshman or sophomore, and the cycle starts again.”

Bigger and Better
Assistant Director Jesselyn Briggs, who oversees the FORGE program, says, “We are excited about the huge growth this year in our FORGE Mentorship Program. Last year, we began this program with three sets of mentors and mentees. This year we have 12 mentors and 16 mentees! Upperclassmen mentors meet weekly with freshman and sophomore students.” Freshman Jordan Czichos shares that “FORGE has helped build my strength in Christ. My mentor helps me with decision-making and helps lead me on the right path when, without it, I would probably make decisions that would weaken my relationship with God.” Sophomore Rachel Pipkin also speaks of the program’s value saying, “I have been a part of the FORGE Mentorship Program since I was a freshman at SFA. It has given me someone to be accountable to in both my spiritual and personal life.” Freshman Matthew Leigh shares that, “FORGE gave me a mentor who is insightful and honest. I basically got the big brother I never had.”
The leadership exercise of mentoring has benefits for all involved. Junior Hannah Cheek adds, “Being a mentor is both a leadership position and a learning experience. You lead and influence your mentee, but you also learn from them, too. It is a wonderful feeling knowing that you are someone that is looked up to and that you are striving to make a difference in someone's life while they are impacting yours as well.” Senior Stephen Smith, “The program is a great way to help yourself – while you are helping others grow in spirituality and maturity.”
Intentional thought is given to the pairing process. Leaders created a speed-dating type process called speed-friending where students can meet a number of other students in a short, focused time. “Mentors list 3-5 names of students they clicked with and the students do the same, and we match them accordingly,” adds Tom. Accountability is boosted through a signed covenant between the mentor and mentee, and a reminder that the mentor is not a licensed counselor but rather a peer who has a bit more wisdom that comes through age and life experience. “We believe by investing in these students,” adds Tom, “that they are more likely to stay around and plugged in.”