Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 8:53 pm | Fair 62º


Local News


Hancock College Launches Pilot Mentor Program

Students paired with staff representatives, community members to increase successes

Allan Hancock College student John Vilarino works with his new mentors, City Manager Rick Haydon and Christian Gardner from Hancock staff, to build a container to protect an egg dropped from 21 feet.
Allan Hancock College student John Vilarino works with his new mentors, City Manager Rick Haydon and Christian Gardner from Hancock staff, to build a container to protect an egg dropped from 21 feet. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

The money was fake but the budding relationships were real as Allan Hancock College students united with community members Wednesday night under a pilot mentorship program. 

Eleven students ranging from a student-parent to a student-athlete to first-generation college students met with the mentors during a gathering at the Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum.

“Our goal is to foster a sense of belonging, engaging our students with our community, and really enhancing not only the experience of our students but the experience of our community members here with the college,” said Nohemy Ornelas, vice president of student services at Hancock.

Warren Gabaree, project director of the Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program, suggested the college launch the mentorship program to help students succeed.

“It was something that kind of had been on my heart for a while,” said Gabaree, who also is a dentist and among leadership with Serve Santa Maria.

Gabaree took the idea to college officials and found support. 

“It was kind of a vision that’s come to bloom,” he said. 

“What’s unique about this is we’re bringing in members of the community so the community is able to build a relationship with the college and students,” Gabaree said. “So it gives them that social capital the other students would have in a more metropolitan area that they don’t have in Santa Maria.”

To ensure success, each of the 11 was paired with a Hancock College staff member plus a community representative.  

“We wanted to start small so we could make adjustments if we need to,” he said.

The volunteer mentors are expected to meet with the students for at least four hours a month with the hope of sharing valuable life experiences, Gabaree said.

“It’s community reaching out to future generations of our community,” Gabaree added.

The meet-and-greet session Wednesday included a team-building exercise — Saving Humpty Dumpty — with a feisty auction to purchase supplies.

Afterward, the mentors and students crafted a container to keep an egg safe while being dropped from a Santa Maria Fire Department ladder truck 21 feet above ground.

While award-winning auctioneer Jim Glines presided over the bidding, the money handed over was fake. That didn’t stop the fierce competition for what essentially was trash — empty toilet paper rolls, old newspapers, plastic wrap, empty food boxes and more. 

Armed with supplies including straws and plastic bags, Team Sean — with student Sean Rebaldo and businessman Pat Cusack — earnestly worked to craft their egg protector.

Rebaldo said he decided to participate in the program because he wanted gain leadership experience. 

“I thought this would be a great experience to help me with that,” he said, adding he was surprise to find he bonded more quickly than he expected with his mentor.

“I’m excited to see where it goes from here,”  Rebaldo said, adding he wants to get more connection with the community while also building his character.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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