Mentors lead student’s way to, through ISU

March 18, 2014

It wasn't enough to simply attend college and get a degree.

Jamina Tribbett wanted more and it started with getting out of Las Vegas.

"I knew in high school I didn't want to go to college anywhere in Nevada," said Tribbett, an 18-year-old Indiana State freshman majoring in communication with a concentration in public relations. "The education in Nevada is widely known for being poor and I want more for me. I want to earn a degree from a place where it would mean something, and not only am I doing that at Indiana State, but Indiana State has become my home."

Tribbett's more than 1,700-mile trek from her hometown of Las Vegas to Terre Haute didn't happen without first getting guidance from Leon Jackson, an Indiana State alumnus from Indianapolis who graduated with a bachelor's degree in marketing in 2004.

Jackson introduced Tribbett to Indiana State after she joined Alpha Men and Divas of Tomorrow - a Las Vegas-based leadership organization started in 1995 to help youth develop morally, ethically, professionally, and academically. The group is supported by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., which Jackson is involved in while he is a doctoral candidate in workforce development and organizational leadership at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Wanting to avoid social exclusion often linked to gang violence in Las Vegas, Tribbett joined Alpha Men and Divas her sophomore year of high school and developed a rapport with Jackson, whom she and a few other students turned to when their college searches kicked off.

"(Jackson) would tell us about Indiana State and was really supportive of us as we started to research the university, even coming to new student orientation on campus and showing us around the places he used to go when he was a student here," Tribbett said.

A proud Sycamore, Jackson knows just what university to steer students toward.

"I have referred a lot of students to ISU, starting with another student I mentored when he was in high school," Jackson said. "When he came up to me one day several years ago and asked where I had attended school, I hooked him up with Kris Rogers at Indiana State, where he was later admitted and is now in his junior year."

Jackson has been instrumental in many Las Vegas youth with their Sycamore roots, including several students from the youth leadership group who have eyes on Indiana State in the fall.

"Because of their interest in the school, Jamina and five students were all able to go to Indiana State and took a tour," Jackson said. "They all expressed interest in the university after that, so we worked with the school to do a virtual application session and walked them through the application process and opportunities available at the university, including scholarships. I worked with others at Indiana State, including President Bradley, to make the students were aware of programs the university has to help keep them there. As a team, we made sure the students felt at home and had the resources to be successful."

Although Jackson is in Las Vegas, Tribbett knows he's only a phone call away.

"Leon still calls to see what's up, especially because he knows mid-terms are coming up and he has me set GPA goals, like last semester when I told him my goal was a 3.5 GPA and he said his goal for me was a 3.79 GPA. I ended up with a 3.95 GPA," she said. "My parents are really proud of what I've accomplished so far, and my dad brags about me all the time and my mom cries when I tell about all of the stuff I've done, like when I received special recognition (at the Center for Student Success Annual Awards Celebration)."

She received a Blue Leaf Award for her participation in the mentoring program as well as involvement in campus organizations and academic achievement.

Tribbett was nominated for special recognition this year by Tim Boileau, who serves as her first-generation faculty mentor.

"If Jamina has any issues, she knows she can call me," Boileau said. "I act as a lifeline that lets her know she isn't in this alone, and hopefully I make the college experience less intimidating for her. We did a campus tour, participated in off-campus outings with other members of the program to get experiences outside the dorms, and I've arranged meetings so she can network with deans and colleagues of mine and gain perspective on what higher education is all about. These are all small acts that hopefully culminate to help Jamina develop confidence and use her time here to join other networks, create new experiences, and eventually pay it forward."

It's what Boileau did after he turned to positive role models for guidance when he became independent of his parents as a teenager.

"I had informal mentors all along the way, including aunts and others who believed in me and who were there for moral support," he said. "I've also been lucky to have former professors and colleagues who helped me along the way, and the First-Generation Faculty Mentoring Program has allowed me to give back by paying it forward as a mentor."

Currently, the program has 29 students paired with 25 faculty mentors, who were also first-generation college students, which are most commonly students whose parents did not complete a bachelor's degree.

"The ultimate goal is enhanced retention and graduation. The relationships develop individually and are based on the student needs," said James Pond, Indiana State's assistant coordinator of student success programs. "We are also in the beginning phase of helping our mentors guide the mentees to campus resources that students either underutilize or are not aware of."

The transition from high school to college is an adjustment and Boileau applauds Tribbett for jumping in with both feet when she came to Indiana State.

Along with the mentoring program, Tribbett, who is the youngest of four children, works with an ISUcceed mentor for academic support, is involved in several campus community service projects, holds down two student assistant positions on campus, and shadows the editor-in-chief of the campus newsletter in preparation of replacing her next semester.

"Leon told me he would help me get to my goals, and he's been like a big brother ever since," said Tribbett, who hopes to be a creative director at an advertising company when she graduates. "Without all of the mentors I've found, including Leon, I probably wouldn't think this was the right place for me, but they all show me things and help me feel invested so I get what I need out of college."

Tribbett has also provided her mentor with new insights into the Indiana State experience.

"(The First-Generation Faculty Mentoring Program) has been great for me," said Boileau, whose 17 years working in higher education have focused mostly on doctoral and master's degree students. "It helps me better understand students at the undergraduate level and is an opportunity to make connections with students and make a difference in their lives. After all, that's why educators come to work every day."

Contact: James Pond, Indiana State's assistant coordinator of student success programs, Indiana State University, James.Pond@indstate.edu

Writer: Betsy Simon, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Betsy.Simon@indstate.edu