New Academic Mentor Program Connects Wheeler Alumni and Students of Color

October 13, 2021

Wheeler’s Office of Unity & Diversity has launched an Academic Mentor Program that pairs Wheeler alumni mentors with 7th-, 8th-, and 9th-grade students of color. The new initiative is part of The Wheeler Student Support Program’s work to encourage, assist, and celebrate students who are traditionally underrepresented in independent school communities and on college campuses.

“Students thrive in an environment that is inclusive and supportive,” says Student Support Coordinator Rose Phildor. “The added layer of support provided by our Student Support Academic Mentors will enhance our students’ potential to succeed academically and socially.”

While all Wheeler students can receive assistance and supplemental help through a variety of established programs and initiatives at school, the new Academic Mentor Program recognizes that some students benefit from additional targeted support that takes their particular backgrounds and socially significant identities into account.

“It’s a well-known fact that mentoring benefits both the mentor and the mentee. At independent schools like Wheeler, students and alumni of color often experience a lesser feeling of belonging and being valued due to lack of representation in the faculty and within the student body,” says Director of Unity & Diversity Princess Sirleaf Bomba. “This mentoring program really resonated with our alumni. They are excited to come back and make a positive impact on something they might have experienced themselves, and our current students will benefit from having mentors who understand their lived experiences and reflect their hopes and aspirations.”

A photograph of a computer screen showing a virtual meeting with alumni mentors and Wheeler staff meeting via Zoom.
Alumni Academic Mentors meet virtually with Wheeler colleagues.

Twenty-two Wheeler alumni of color are participating in the new mentor program, which is significantly funded through a philanthropic gift from current Wheeler parents. The alumni will provide one-on-one support, both academic and social, to 22 current students. For example, the mentors may serve as tutors in specific academic coursework or provide guidance about how students can successfully navigate Wheeler culturally and institutionally.

All of the mentors are from the Classes of 2016-20. “Young alumni bring the significant advantage of their deep familiarity with Wheeler’s curriculum and faculty,” Phildor explains. “They are easily able to partner with our Academic Support department, the mentored student’s teachers, and, if necessary, with health services. In essence, they serve as a member of the student’s extended advising team and play an important role in the student’s ultimate ability to thrive at school.”

If you would like more information about the Academic Mentor Program, please contact Rose Phildor.