Sharing the HPU experience with new students

Kelly-Wapenski Senior Peer Mentor Kelly Wapenski at the Aug. 23
New Student Orientation Kick-off event, which was held
at Aloha Tower Marketplace
Hawai‘i Pacific University Senior Peer Mentor Kelly Wapenski said the first couple of weeks of school — filled with campus events — is a good time for incoming students to meet people and make friends.

“That’s how I met some of my friends at HPU,” she said.

During her freshman year, Wapenski, who is in her senior year, said she — like many first-year college students — was homesick at times.

“I missed the food, and I missed seeing my family,” she said. “Of course I can relate to any student going through that.”

As she starts her final undergraduate year in the psychology program, Wapenski said the HPU experience went beyond her expectations.

“If you look at the psychology program in particular, there are seminars and symposiums, where you can learn about topics in psychology and meet professors and make connections,” she said. “(The professors) have all been amazing influences and they will help you out beyond belief.”

Wanting to share her positive HPU experiences with new students, Wapenski stepped forward three years ago, expressing interest in the university’s Peer Mentor Program.

“That’s what influenced me in choosing this position (peer mentor),” she said. “(I want) to help give more people an even better (HPU) experience and help them to acclimate better.”

She's lighting a candle

 

As a peer mentor, Wapenski works with 10 to 12 first-time, full-time freshmen. It is a paid part-time position. Her role is to provide academic support, motivation, and mentorship throughout the new students’ first year at HPU.

“I contact my mentees at least once a week, and I try to meet up with them every week or every two weeks,” she said. “I see how their week is going and if they have any issues.”
Depending on the mentor and mentee’s schedules and interests, activities done together may include hiking excursions, getting food or coffee, attending HPU events, or simply having a friendly chat, Wapenski said.
Wapenski is also a senior peer mentor. She has additional duties of running Peer Mentor Program meetings and trainings and planning for them.
One of Wapenski’s fellow mentors in the program is her brother, Don Wapenski. He is a sophomore, majoring in applied mathematics and minoring in computer science, and is a first-year peer mentor.

“(My brother) decided to be a peer mentor, because he did have a peer mentor of his own and he liked that experience,” Wapenski said. “He thought he had some good advice to give the mentees.”
Wapenski said incoming students should take advantage of the Peer Mentor Program.
“(The Peer Mentor Program) is something that can really help incoming students with making friends and discovering Hawai‘i and the culture here at HPU,” she said.