Sophia Lim, Section Editor
New faces, new environment, new everything, we get it.
The school year kicked off for some of Saint Martin’s incoming freshmen with the AHANA program. AHANA has completed its ninth year of being a prominent factor in orientation for students of color, with this year being the largest number of attendees to date. Prior to the start of the three-day orientation, mentors worked and trained tirelessly in preparation for the arrival of their soon-to-be mentees. Every year, a theme is set into place for groups to be able to distinguish one another when having breakout sessions. This year, the theme was spices with group names being: Li Hing Mui, Sazon, Paprika, Ginger, Pepper, Cacao, Lemon Pepper, and Chilli Pepper. AHANA decided to be spicy.
Saint Martin’s strives to make college life as enjoyable and comfortable as they can, especially for new students arriving such as; transfers, freshmen, foreign exchange students, and many others. However, some may not adjust or adapt to university life as quickly as others. AHANA stands to provide aid in the transitioning process for incoming students of color, while also promoting a diverse environment and exploring other cultures. In a way, AHANA Connections aims to be a sense of home away from home.
“AHANA was an amazing way to start off my college journey. I made friends, learned about the resources on campus, and bonded with different people from different places. This program connected me with people who I know that I can count on when I feel lonely or homesick,” said freshman, Kalyn Diaz.
In a mentor and mentee setting, students were able to cover topics in a safe and judgement-free environment. Informative sessions about the ins and outs of the school were held, but also less formal sessions including Honesty Hour took place, which allowed the students to freely ask their mentors questions where they could offer advice and guidance. Ace Adolfo, freshman and mentee stated,
“Attending AHANA was one of the best decisions I’ve made so far this year. This event allowed me to meet new people, develop new friendships, and also enabled me to be very involved in such a welcoming community.”
Although the program lasted only three days, students were able to build lasting friendships among each other and had the opportunity to reach out to their mentors, even after the program had ended. Similarly, another mentee, Lita Bankson shared,
“AHANA was amazing and I really loved meeting people from the islands and from different places! The mentors were so kind and welcoming and it helped make my transition into SMU so much easier.”
Although the program stands as a transition aid for the incoming freshmen, it also had a positive impact on the mentors as well. They all loved meeting the new mentees. Some who had been mentors in the previous year stated the experience continues to improve each year as more students begin to join. As for those experiencing their first year as a mentor, all are looking forward to returning for future AHANA programs. Alexis Skinner, a senior and one of the lead mentors, shared,
“AHANA is like no other. The program invokes a sense of belonging. We break barriers together and create our own narrative. I’m proud to say that they are family.”
This program enabled a strong community to be built, shared experiences and lessons to others, and created long-lasting bonds. Going into his last year, Saul Gurrola shared about his experience of being both a mentor and mentee saying,
“AHANA is not something that you can define easily. Rather, it’s something that you experience. Overall, I will deeply miss the connections I have made, but also appreciate what the program has done for me.”
Overall, AHANA Connections 2019 received positive feedback from mentors and mentees alike- many are excited for what the next one will hold.