Imagine a place where the divisions of race, gender, and ethnicity are non-existent, a place where an equitable education and support is a right of all. QCC student Zuheyry Encarnacion (Class of ‘20) knows that place. Thanks to QCC’s Mentoring Program and her mentor, Dr. Natalie Anumba, a
forensic psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Zuheyry found the support she needed to help her succeed.
“Having someone in your corner, no matter what, is amazing. Not a lot of people can say they have emotional and academic support,” she said.
It's programs like this one that are making a difference for students by offering them the support, understanding and resources to help remove the many barriers encountered by underrepresented minorities and low-income students.
In addition to supportive programs, QCC offers a community environment where everyone is welcomed and encouraged to be open and accepting of one another. The College has embraced this mindset and to help facilitate a deeper understanding of equity, the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee, co-chaired by staff member Selina Boria and Professor Brenda Safford, began holding voluntary, remote conversational talks, “Your Voice Matters: Community Conversations,” for faculty and staff to engage in open dialogue, share concerns and learn about racial injustices and systemic racism. These conversations go hand-in-hand with staff workshops centered on diversity, equity and inclusion, and unconscious bias training.
“We need to connect with each other more than ever, especially in light of the systemic racial injustice facing our community and our country,” Dr. Pedraja said.
“Brave Space/Courageous Conversations,” are also being held regularly for students to speak openly, honestly and respectfully on topics of race, racism, gender, sexism, ableism and ageism. Additional monthly lecture series sponsored by the College’s Diversity Caucus are helping to promote cultural awareness.
There are many barriers students face that have propagated inequity in education, QCC has been working on ways to remove some of these. In 2020, placement testing, which has historically been a barrier to many underrepresented students, was reassessed. Using multiple measures that include students’ overall high school GPA, higher education is now attainable for more students.
The QCC Mentoring Program has become a critical component to provide students with deeper community and career connections. Students are matched with staff, faculty, and professionals from the Greater Worcester Community to build one-on-one mentoring relationships that focus on academic encouragement, professional skill building, and social connections.
As of March 2021, our program has 141 mentor/mentee matches, with mentors from over 20 organizations throughout the Worcester area. The program also has core partners, which are organizations or companies that commit to sending 10 or more mentors to participate in the program. This year, in addition to core partners, AbbVie, the City of Worcester, UMass Memorial Medical Center and the Hanover Insurance Group, the mentoring program has added two additional core partners, Cityblock Health and the Worcester County Bar Association.
Despite the move to remote instruction and services in Spring 2020, mentors and mentees were able to maintain strong connections. More than 160 mentees and mentors attended the Fall 2020 remote kick-off session that focused on the power of mentoring.
While QCC’s Mentoring Program moved to remote meetings due to the pandemic, mentor/mentee partnerships continued to flourish. Recent graduate Bobby Kapel 20’ and Mentor Kevin Campbell transitioned to phone calls and Zoom meetings. The two have a collaborative working relationship as well as a friendship. While they are generations apart, from different countries, cultural backgrounds and career fields, they share a deep admiration and affinity for one another.
“I saw this as a big opportunity and way to keep on track,” Bobby said.