On October 23, former and current Kalamazoo College students were united at the Alumni of Color reception to hear of a newly created mentorship program for students of color.
The Mentoring and Pathways to Success (MAPS) Coalition is a “a group of alumni of color who are really passionate about trying to figure out how to best support students of color on campus,” said Dion Bullock K’12, one of the four founders of the program.
Upon graduating, members Dion Bullock, Esperanza Felicidad Cantu K’11, Salwa Tareen K’14, and Obi Nnebedum K’12 all wanted to give back to K, but didn’t exactly know how. What Bullock did know was that, “if people didn’t take a chance on us as students of color—to mentor us, and mold us, and to get us to take on more leadership—we probably would have never made it through.”
In order to discover what students at K wanted, the four conducted a focus group with current K students.
“Students asked for more opportunities to have more alumni and student of color connections and that’s what we’re giving them,” Bullock said.
There are three different aspects within MAPS: rethinking through identity formation for students of color on campus, career and post graduation focused mentoring, and alumni engagement.
One of the reasons why MAPS is so important to its founders is because they know first-hand what it means to be a student of color at K, a predominantly white institution.
According to Cantu, the feeling of isolation and not wanting to be here didn’t stop after her first year.
“As a senior on [her] way home from Chemistry lab, [she] was on the phone with [her] mom, saying ‘I’m going home, I can’t do this anymore,” Cantu said. “I think that to not use my own experience in some way that might be helpful to someone else, even if it’s just to say ‘hey I’ve been there before’, that would be such a waste.”
Bullock cited this kind of behavior as to why many alumni of color want no part of the institution after graduating: “But when they do that they’re actually forgetting the current students that are there. And if they don’t come back, there’s just a cycle that we need to break.”
MAPS is a solution that these alumni have offered to break the cycle of students being unable to have a model for where they can go or what they can do outside of K.
“Alumni of color especially can play a vital role, and a vital bridge, in terms of building understanding of where K has been, and where it can go, and what it truly can be for students of color now and in the future,” Tareen said.