The Scholar’s Mentorship Program at SUNY New Paltz is more than a scholarship. It is a community, built on the promise that underserved students can receive mentorship and guidance among other perks. One of those potential perks as of 2020 is a computer, donated by Michelle Di Palo-Williams (‘77) and her husband.
The program is located in the SUB Atrium next to the campus bookstore. Students are accepted either with admission to the college, or with a separate application. The SMP program offers special classes to acclimate students to New Paltz, as well as tutoring services and a study space for group projects.
“You get to take classes exploring themes of racism and education as well as understand career exploration and intersectionality,” said former member and fourth-year history major Odessa Quinonez. She applied during student orientation, and thought it was more of a club than a separate program.
SMP was founded by the Black Studies department over 30 years ago. The program is split up into three tiers. In the first tier, you are mentored. As you move through the program, you can become a mentor yourself and eventually a student leader and help others acclimate to the predominantly white campus.
All first year students enrolled in SMP take the class “Critical Scholarship in the lives of Historically Underrepresented Students,” and there are five other classes that students have the option to take as they gain more knowledge and experience with peer mentoring.
Michelle Di Palo-Williams, an alumni of SUNY New Paltz and the SMP program, donated funds to purchase over 30 computers for students currently enrolled in the program when classes started to go remote in spring 2020. Di Palo-Williams used a myriad of scholarships and grants to work her way through a New Paltz education and go on to Harvard for additional degrees.
The new location of the SMP Program gives students more space to learn from mentors and get additional support, with state of the art technology equipped in the rooms.
“It offers a mentor during your first few semesters and then you get to become a mentor in your later years to younger students and help them explore the campus and classes,” continued Quinonez. Though she is no longer part of the program, she appreciates the help it gave her when she first arrived to campus.
Mark Rumnit (‘93) has been the Director of the Scholar’s Mentorship Program at SUNY New Paltz since 2012 when he moved from the Educational Opportunity Program and then academic advising before taking his current position.
“Since the SMP’s founding in 1988 it has grown to involve over 50 faculty and staff mentors working with more than 200 academic proteges each academic year,” states the SMP staff website.
Also according to the page there are 178 proteges with a GPA of 3.0 and above 78 first year students in the program.
For more information on the SMP Program, visit www.newpaltz.edu/smp.