The Rainbow Center held their annual interest meeting for their FAMILEE mentoring program on Wednesday night. FAMILEE stands for fostering academics, maturity, independence, leadership, empowerment and excellence. It also references the historical practice of referring to someone in the LGBTQ community as “in the family.”
According to the Rainbow Center, FAMILEE “is a peer-mentoring program that is designed to pair new students with experienced students during their first year to assist them with their transitioning to the University of Connecticut.”
After an application process, mentors are matched with mentees based on specific needs, be it support, majors or hobbies. So far this year, there are 14 mentors in the program and they are continuing to accept mentors and mentees.
“We are very proud and excited about our group so far,” said Julia Anderson, who runs the FAMILEE mentoring program as the graduate assistant at the Rainbow Center.
After mentors and mentees are matched up, they are required to meet twice monthly, once one-on-one and then once during a FAMILEE reunion, which is what the Rainbow Center calls the group meetings for the program. During one-on-one interactions, it’s essentially up to the pairing to decide what they want to do, whether it be studying, going out to lunch or just talking to each other. Anderson explained that it’s a very individualized program and whatever you make of it.
“It’s a very flexible program, that’s one of the benefits,” said Anderson.
“You can’t force the relationship, you can only encourage it,” one student involved in the program said of their experience as a mentor.
During group meetings, one can expect teambuilding exercises, catching up with other group members and going to activities with people in the program. There are also student leadership opportunities, such as the leadership council which handles the event planning for FAMILEE, that you can get involved in as early as the October of your freshman year.
“It would’ve helped me find my identity [to be involved as a mentee] while I was a first year student,” said a mentor in the group. “I’ve undergone a lot of growth and I want to be able to identify with someone and help them at whatever stage they are in their life.”
The mentors act as a resource to new students and help them get acclimated to the UConn campus. They are trained in all the organizations and services here on campus to be able to better help their mentee.
A unique aspect of this particular mentoring program, compared to others on campus, is that it’s not tied down to any class to allow more people to participate freely without fear of privacy being breached.
“We protect the privacy of the people in this organization. It’s a completely private group,” said Anderson.
The program is open to all students regardless of their sexuality, orientation and gender identity or expression. Applications for mentees are still available online at rainbowcenter.uconn.edu/mentoring. This is one of the largest groups of mentors that the program has seen in its nearly five years of running, including the two years since it has been revamped after a large-scale assessment program.
The FAMILEE mentoring program is undoubtedly one of the reasons UConn was ranked in the top 30 schools for LGBTQ students by collegechoice.com.
“This program is so important, knowing that the LGBTQ community is one that doesn’t have as high rates of retention. We want students to stay in the UConn community. Oftentimes, when students transition from high school to college, it feels like they are back in the closet. If that’s what they need, we facilitate that conversation for them,” said Anderson.
Julia Mancini is the associate life editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.