The current study evaluates whether a mentoring program can increase self-esteem and internal locus of control in underrepresented community college students. The primary goal of the mentoring program was to facilitate Compton Community College (CCC) students' successful transfer to a four-year university by fostering relationships with mentors from California State University Northridge (CSUN). The authors hypothesized that CCC students would improve by working with mentors in a gardening program and on collaborative in-class projects. Results indicate that the students show higher self-esteem, significant increases in self-report measures of internal locus of control, and higher levels of academic performance and motivation.
The CSUN/Compton Community College Mentoring program (CMENT) was developed to improve the transfer rate among underrepresented community college students to the four-year university level. The authors hypothesized that by implementing a mentoring program between four-year university students and community college students, attrition could be reduced and transfer rates bolstered among community college students. After several years of studying students in the classroom, the authors have found that when students work together in a gardening program or on in-class collaborative assignments, psychological well-being increases, and higher academic involvement, enrichment and achievement occur (Hoffman, 1995, 2001; Hoffman, Cruz, and Thompson, 2004).
These observations suggest that students require confidence in themselves and their abilities to succeed but may still need support when transferring to a four-year university. Only 3-5% of students from CCC transferred to a California State University or University of California school at the end of the 2000-2001 academic year. The high level of attrition was particularly reflected in transfer rates of underrepresented minority students, predominantly AfricanAmerican. These observations led to the hypothesis that CCC students may benefit from gardening and in-class group work integrated with a mentoring program to assist successful transfer to a four-year university.
One of the challenges facing underrepresented students is a lack of academic counseling which is crucial to deciding an academic path. Because of California's budget crisis, during the 2002-2003 academic year, no academic counseling follow-up was offered to CCC students (State of California, California Community Colleges, Chancellor's Office, 2004). An additional challenge facing CCC students is the lack of role models. Prior research indicates that African-American adults noted the absence of a role model as a reason for not continuing higher education (Williams, 1990). CSUN mentors provided academic counseling and acted as role models for CCC students, both vital components of the transfer process.
Data shows that the area where the college is located, and where most of the students reside, encompasses a disproportionate number of students that completed high school or higher but did not earn Bachelors degrees (U.S. Census 2000). In fact, the percentage of the population with a Bachelors degree or higher is significantly below state average. The data shows that students in Compton acquire some post-secondary education, but do not earn degrees in higher education. In addition, University of California schools will soon require a new grade point average (GPA)- increased from 2.8 to 3.0 (on a four-point scale)-that will be implemented in 2007 (Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2004), which could further impede CCC student transfer to four-year state universities.
The mentoring program is unique in that it combines outdoor activity (a gardening program) with collaborative group work. Although research suggests that outdoor activity and volunteer work improve self-esteem and well-being (Thoits & Hewitt, 2001) as well as improving rates of learning within the classroom (Bouillion &. …