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North Shore Community College expanding womens' mentoring program

Posted by Bella Travaglini  August 13, 2010 10:48 AM

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North Shore Community College in Danvers this fall is adding a new service to a women’s transitional education program.

Through a two-year, $6,000 Essex County Community Foundation Grant, the school will train and hire a student mentor for the Women in Transition program, a part-time educational program for women who have been away from college for a long time or who begin college later in life, said Margaret Figgins-Hill, WIT program coordinator. The grant will be shared with a sister program offered at the Lynn campus of the college that focuses on helping women secure employment opportunities.

The transition program for women has been offered at the Danvers campus for over 20 years, said Figgins-Hill, and attracts women from many North Shore communities who oftentimes are facing financial hardship, abuse or addiction. Each year, 24 women participate in the self-contained program that provides emotional support services in addition to liberal arts classes.

“This is a very supportive, very connected program for women who have come back to college after facing much adversity,” said Figgins-Hill. “We have seen so much success with it. The eyes who are looking at me in September when they begin are not the same eyes looking at me in May. It’s a whole new person who leaves our program,” she said.

The women who attend the program are usually older than the traditional college-aged student ranging from 20 to 50 years old, said Figgins-Hill. Many attain an Associate’s degree, while others have gone on to receive a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, she said.

Applicants for the new mentor will be limited to past WIT program graduates, said Figgins-Hill. The mentor will undergo a specialized training program before starting in the role sometime this fall. As the program is held part-time, three days a week, the mentor position will mirror that schedule, she said.

“It will be extremely valuable to have a woman, who has gone through the program and gone on to turn her life around and achieve success, to be here to show current students the way,” said Figgins-Hill.

Karen McNaster of Wakefield in 2008 graduated from the WIT program after coming to the college at age 42, recently divorced and without a job after being a stay-at-home mom for 8 years.

“The WIT program saved my life,” said McNaster. “It gave me direction and offered tremendous support. Meeting and learning in an environment with other women who shared in my predicament gave me strength.”

McNaster, who will begin her junior year at the school this fall, plans to transfer to Leslie College next year to study in the human services program.

“My long-range plan is to become a licensed social worker,” said McNaster. “I’m going all the way.”

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