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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Grandparents mentor UA students

    Many students participate in clubs, Greek life and find friends to make the transition to college easier, but for some students, what they may need are “”grandparent”” mentors.

    Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs sponsors the Abuelitos and Abuelitas Reaching Out to Mentor y Apapachar Students program, which brings in elderly Hispanic men and women to spend time with UA students.

    The program “”is an opportunity for us to provide kind of an extended family sense to students,”” said Socorro Carrizosa, director of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs.

    The program, which meets the third Thursday of every month, brings eight to 12 “”grandparents”” to speak with students on a range of topics, Carrizosa said.

    Sometimes the meetings are more formal, with presentations on topics affecting students. Other times they are informal get-togethers where the mentors can ask the students how their lives are going, she said.

    “”The abuelitas will ask them, ‘You told me you were getting ready for an exam, how did it go? Have you talked to your mom lately? What’s going on with your boyfriend/girlfriend?’ whatever,”” Carrizosa said.

    The relationship between a grandparent and a grandchild is an important connection that can make students feel more comfortable at college, Carrizosa said.

    “”I think across most cultures, but especially with the Latino culture, the extended family is very important and the grandparents are a critical part of the family dynamics,”” she said.

    Carrizosa said the mentors are encouraged to act like real grandparents to the students.

    “”The instruction to these elders was to come in and treat these students as they would their grandkids – to be intrusive, to be loving, to question them just like they would their grandkids,”” she said.

    Some of the original abuelitos and abuelitas are UA alumni who want to give back to the UA community, Carrizosa said.

    Many students are the same age as their grandchildren so they want to give back, Carrizosa said.

    Anywhere from 15 to 40 students attend the monthly meetings, she said.

    Most of the students who attend the meetings are freshmen, students from out of town or older, non-traditional students, Carrizosa said.

    “”It was like having a grandma here,”” said Claudia Villaescusa, a physiology junior, who is not from Tucson.

    Villaescusa said she made a connection with one mentor in particular who gave her the personal attention she needed.

    Many students started attending the monthly meetings when they were freshmen, made a connection with the mentors, and have continued with the program, she said.

    J.J. Federico, a Latin American studies senior, is one of the students who has been active in the program since he was a freshman.

    Federico said the planned programs are usually about broad topics that everyone attending can relate to but afterward the mentors are more informal.

    “”(The abuelitos and abuelitas) always stick around just to offer little pearls of wisdom about anything,”” Federico said. “”They’re really friendly.””

    They are retired professionals and former UA students so they know where the students have been, culturally and educationally, he said.

    “”It’s always fun”” especially when they bring food, Federico said.

    “”The abuelitas will tell them, ‘If you want a home-cooked meal, all you have to do is call,’ and there have been many students who have taken them up on that,”” Carrizosa said.

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