The University of Arizona’s Fostering Success program is growing quickly. Since the peer mentoring program launched as a pilot with six students in fall 2017, participation has increased to 71.
July 22, 2020

“I’m absolutely not going to turn anybody away,” says Program Coordinator Dani Carrillo, who fields requests from interested students.

Fostering Success serves students who confront homelessness or housing insecurity, have been in foster care, or lack the support of parents or guardians. The 2016 Campus Climate survey showed that 20% of undergraduates — 6,800 students at that time — often or always experienced an unstable residence for financial reasons. The percentage likely increased this year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Fostering Success uses a peer mentoring model to build community and make participants aware of helpful resources. 

Destiny Griffin, an undergraduate studying public health who plans to become a physician, was having trouble covering the cost of on-campus housing or finding another place to live when she got involved with the program.

“My peer mentor has actually had the same experiences I’ve had. He helped me figure out how to increase my financial aid, and it worked out,” she says.

Griffin is one of around 600 students who remained in on-campus housing during the spring semester after campus residents were asked to leave if they could find other arrangements. On-campus housing felt like Griffin’s best option, because the school year had been her first time living apart from her family. 

Campus Pantry also remained open to provide food at no cost to the campus community, and Carrillo made frequent visits to pick up food for program participants who lacked transportation. She works closely with Campus Pantry staff to strategize about supporting Arizona’s most vulnerable students, she says.

Carrillo also delivered food and hygiene items donated by community members. Philanthropic support is increasingly vital as Fostering Success continues to grow. And it’s a morale boost for the students, Carrillo says.

“Every time there’s a show of support, you can just feel the room light up with energy — that there are people out there who think they can do this, they can earn a degree. It’s a huge, huge motivator.” 

This story originally appeared on the Arizona Alumni Magazine website.