Mar 4, 2008

A.S.S.I.S.T. provides students a helping hand

by Drew Menard

For 16 years, Liberty’s A.S.S.I.S.T. program has been training student leaders and developing meaningful relationships on campus.
A.S.S.I.S.T., which stands for Active Students Serving, Instructing and Socializing Together, gives upper-class students the opportunity to mentor an incoming freshman for the entire year. The mentor spends time with the new student and helps them with the transition into college life. The mentee is blessed with the knowledge and insight of a peer who has “been there and done that,” as well as a friendly face to help them with the pressures of campus life.
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Sophomore and A.S.S.I.S.T. mentor Albert Mavunga said, “It’s like a tour guide through your first year of college. This program helps you dodge some things you might have crashed into.”
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The program is focused on four major areas of student life: academic, social, spiritual and leadership.
For a lot of new students who have trouble adjusting to campus life, this program helps integrate them into their new environment.
Sophomore Taylor Cruz, program coordinator and a mentor with A.S.S.I.S.T., is excited to see the development of the program this year. A.S.S.I.S.T. started with 16 students involved in the fall. Since then the program has more than doubled to more than 35 students.
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“Being able to pour into someone else’s life (is) rewarding,” Cruz said.
Freshman Wilhelmina Davis said that at first she was not sure if she wanted to stay at Liberty. She explained how she went to a program hosted by the Center for Multicultural Enrichment (Center4ME), heard about the A.S.S.I.S.T. program and decided to “give it a try.” Davis’ mentor, Garria Henry, contacted her through Facebook before the two met.
“We just hit it off,” Davis said.
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Since making contact, Davis and Henry have developed a meaningful relationship. They go to church together every Sunday and meet with each other regularly throughout the week. The two pray together and talk about whatever is on their minds with one another.
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“I love my mentor,” David said. “She’s more than my mentor — we’re like best friends now.”
Davis said that, because of the A.S.S.I.S.T. program, she has been able to experience “the full effect” of Liberty.
A.S.S.I.S.T. was started by the Minority & International Student Office in 1992 and is one of its oldest programs. It was initially started as a program to help minority students adjust to life at Liberty and develop leadership qualities. Since the Minority Student Office was renamed the Center4ME in 2004 to better fit the department’s purpose statement, A.S.S.I.S.T. has become available to a broader range of students.
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A.S.S.I.S.T. Program Director Daveta Saunders said, “Now that we’re the Center4ME we have been opening up our boundaries. We have been able to get more people involved who are not just minorities.”
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The Center4ME is constantly coming up with new ways to fulfill their purpose of “promoting unity and celebrating diversity.” The A.S.S.I.S.T. does just that by developing leaders on campus and giving students discipleship opportunities.
“It’s exciting because discipleship is a big part (of A.S.S.I.S.T.), and there are a couple of other mentoring programs being started as a result of the effectiveness of this program,” Saunders said.
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A.S.S.I.S.T. is an excellent avenue for discipleship because of its focus on relational interaction. Many members of the program have become close friends and some have even continued to stay in contact long after their time at Liberty.
Adedamola Onafowokan, administrative assistant to the director at the Center4ME, was a mentor with A.S.S.I.S.T. seven years ago. He and Daniel Georgieve, his mentee, are still friends after all this time.
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“It was a great experience,” Onafowokan said.
Onafowokan and Georgieve were both international students at Liberty — Georgieve is from Bulgaria, and Onafowokan is Nigerian.
“We had a great relationship, both knowing what it was like being so far away from home,” Onafowokan said.
Onafowokan said that whenever either of them would get homesick, they could pray for one another.
After seven years, the two still keep in contact via Facebook.
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“(A.S.S.I.S.T. was) just a great experience. It took the awkwardness out of meeting someone,” Onafowokan said.
The program not only helps develop leadership skill in student mentors and friendships between students, but it also helps students to meet people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
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“Our nation is becoming so much more diverse. This allows students to put their racial differences aside and lead each other,” Saunders said.
Mavunga is an international student from Zimbabwe. He is currently mentoring a Korean student and enjoys “the chance to listen to somebody, to understand him and see where he’s coming from.”
“It’s intimidating. This person is looking up to you,” Mavunga said.
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Saunders explained that the program seeks to build leadership qualities in students who would not necessarily be seeking leadership positions.
“Praise God for Liberty giving students opportunities to excel.”
Cruz is excited to see the development of the mentees this year.
“They are the future leaders of Liberty. They’re going to be loud on this campus,” she said.

Contact Drew Menard at ajmenard@liberty.edu.


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