Peer Mentors

Mentor of the Month: Ali El-Araby

Meet Ali El-Araby, our College Steps May/June Mentor of the Month.  Originally from Buffalo, New York, Ali recently graduated from Northern Virginia Community College and will continue his education at the University of Virginia this fall where he will study kinesiology.

College Steps Program Coordinator, Taylor Bryant, was eager to nominate Ali for this recognition, noting his professionalism. “Ali always pays great attention to detail. All of his mentor journals are turned in on time and are very well written, and he is one of the first mentors to step up if I need help covering a shift,” says Taylor.

She also noted Ali put in extra time at the end of the semester with a mentee who needed support preparing her psychology paper and studying for her final.

When asked what he most enjoyed about being a mentor, Ali says it was seeing his fellow students grow and develop both socially and academically.

"What stood out to me working with the students is the amazing transformation in character and performance that they showed as the year progressed,” he explained. “Some students were extremely shy, reserved, and seemingly overwhelmed at the start of the academic year. Others had it in them to perform well academically, but they never had the right tools to achieve that. It was heartwarming to see them get the results they put the effort for, and it's a real pleasure that they are now our friends for life. Being part of College Steps was an experience unparalleled by any other."

Thank you, Ali for going above and beyond to help your fellow students and mentors. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


Mentor of the Month: Savannah Santiago

Savannah Santiago is now in her third year as a mentor in the College Steps program at Southern Vermont College (SVC). This spring, she will graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services.  

Savannah Santiago

Savannah Santiago

But that wasn’t always her goal. As a freshman in college, Savannah had her sights set on a career in nursing. Her experience as a trained mentor within the College Steps program, however, helped reshape her personal and professional goals.

“Working with College Steps students has shown me that I want to be in a field where I can be creative in my attempts to help others. It has shown me my passion is helping others and for that I am grateful,” said Savannah.

Thanks to her experience as a College Steps Peer Mentor, after graduation, Savannah plans to pursue a career in social work or case management.

Darcy Oakes, College Steps’ Program Coordinator at SVC noted Savannah’s creativity in her nomination, explaining that Savannah often shows fellow students how to use activities like painting and cooking to overcome stress and develop life skills.

Savannah says peer mentorship taught her that success can look like different things to different people. “It’s not about how you get there. It’s about how dedicated you are,” she added.

 Congratulations Savannah on being the College Steps’ Peer Mentor of the Month!

Mentor of the Month: Nabia

As a mentor in the College Steps program at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) - Loudoun campus, Nabia is known for her positive attitude. She is currently studying psychology and plans to transfer to Virginia Commonwealth University upon graduation from NVCC. Two of her personal strengths are organization and writing, which she uses generously to help others.

Nabia says that helping other students with things like note-taking, essay composition and general organization skills outside of the classroom has helped improve her own study habits.

When asked what she enjoys most about being mentor, Nabia says, “Watching the students improve and become better socially and academically over time and feeling like I have helped make a difference.”


College Steps student and peer mentor at Southern Vermont College honored as youth leaders

College Steps student 

College Steps student 

We are so proud of College Steps student, Alyvia Metcalfe and peer mentor Amber Archer for their leadership and hard work!

The following article appeared in the "Bennington Banner" on Sunday, December 10, 2017: 

Students Amber Archer and Alyvia Metcalfe will receive the Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award from the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Southern Vermont College has announced. The awards will be presented by VCIL's executive director, Sarah Launderville, and Deborah Lisi-Baker at VCIL's Holiday Open House on Thursday, Dec. 14, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the First Baptist Church at 601 Main St.

The Deborah Lisi-Baker Youth Leader Award was created by VCIL's board of directors in 2006 in honor of the disability rights organization and emerging leaders who believe in the promise of disability rights and independent living movement. For much of her life, Lisi-Baker has advocated for human and civil rights of people with disabilities. She served as VCIL's executive director for many years and retired in 2009. 

Archer, of North Troy, is a sophomore majoring in radiologic sciences at SVC. She is a mentor in the College Steps program at SVC. In addition to Archer's volunteer efforts on campus and in the community, she learned American Sign Language and has worked at a local high school with deaf and hearing-impaired students. According to Darcy Oakes, program coordinator of College Steps at SVC, "Her work with young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities on the College campus supports them in reaching their academic, vocational, social and independent living goals." 

Metcalfe, Bennington, is a second-year student at SVC through the College Steps program. Due to her influence and extensive social network, Meltcalfe has facilitated connections whereby her fellow College Steps classmates have become engaged in work experiences with local business owners. Metcalfe is well connected with United Counseling Services in Bennington. She is currently working in an internship at Bringing You Vermont and is employed at Price Chopper. Oakes, who nominated Meltcalfe, said, "Alyvia is happy to use her influence to forward not only her own goals, but also the goals of her friends and peers." 

College Steps partners with colleges and universities to support students of varying ability (e.g., autism spectrum disorders, intellectual disabilities and learning disabilities) with their college pursuits. 

College Steps at Lyndon State College is excited to welcome 6 new mentors to our program.


College Steps at Lyndon State College is excited to welcome 6 new mentors to our program.


College Steps offers students the support of our peer mentor network. Peer mentors are there to lend a hand and help College Steps students feel more comfortable as they navigate the college social network. Peer mentors are carefully selected, trained, and closely supervised by College Steps’ professional staff


“I think its great having a mentor... They have experience on campus so they can show you the ropes. I feel good interacting with other people instead of just being on my own. Without the support it would be tough. College Steps helped to boost my confidence a lot.” 


Peer Mentor Blog

What is a peer mentor? As a member of the NCC Peer Mentor team I have learned that it encompasses a series of abilities from every spectrum. At times one can be both a friend and a tutor. But, most importantly, a person who meets a variety of students with different personalities who can make your day with a smile or an action that shows that the College Steps student is growing academically and socially!

Jessica Gomez, second semester as a Peer Mentor.

College Steps Mentor Blog Post

Keila Hernandez

My name is Keila Hernandez, I am a sophomore at Southern Vermont College. I've been a mentor for a year now and I love it so much. Below are two pictures of some the wonderful relationships I have built in my role as a mentor at SVC. I attend class and lunch with Sarah, afterwards we focus on home work and Patrick and I are working on getting involved in social events on campus. 

Meeting with College Steps students every Monday Wednesday and Friday has been amazing. Not only do I feel that I am helping them grow, but they are helping me grow. The smile on their faces when we finish an assignment or have great conversation is what keeps me going everyday. They are always willing to learn new things and meet new mentors. This experience has been great for me and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world! 

Mentor/Student Blog Post

By: Dawn Brownlow and Andrew Fontana


Becoming a college steps mentor has taught me many things besides helping and supporting other students. I’ve learned that being a mentor gives you the opportunity to not only help, but also be a friend and a role model. Every student that I worked with, I’ve been able to build a good connection with each of them where we would smile, laugh, and have fun overall while we worked together. Each day, the students I work with always seem to grow and progress in many ways whether it’s their academics or social involvement. Not only do they grow, but the mentors grow as well by becoming much more confidant, and together with the students they support.


This is my last year at Southern Vermont College I would like to say how my experience at this college has been fun for me.  I have learned so much from this college. The one thing I have learned is to try your best at something even if it is hard.  My first year, I took Quest For Success with Stacey Hills. At first I did not know how hard the class was but, I stuck with the class, and I ended the class with an A-.  The second year in college I was more interested in learning about different music cultures. Since then I’ve taken even more music classes with Eric Despard. I really likes his classes!