Mentoring Program Connects Black Students and Alumni

Twenty-two Black alumni mentors are providing one-on-one guidance and support to current Black students at Loomis Chaffee through a new initiative that launched in November.

The Black Alumni Mentoring Program, which sprung from a groundswell of alumni enthusiasm, aims to pair interested students with trained alumni mentors who will help them through their journey at Loomis Chaffee and beyond.

“Our Black alumni are very successful individuals who know other very successful individuals and would love to give Black students the opportunity to network and advance,” explains Assistant Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Stacy-Ann “Ro” Rowe ’97, who helped develop the program. “Not everyone is born with privilege, but we are attempting to help make the playing field a bit more equitable.”

The program supplements the school’s advising system. Participating students, like all Loomis students, have faculty advisors who oversee their academic program, help them create positive academic and social experiences on campus, and serve as contacts with their families. Through the new mentoring program, the alumni volunteers are available to help Black students navigate other aspects of independent school life. Ro says queries for the mentors may be as simple as “Where in this area can I find skincare products that are best for my skin type?” or as far-reaching as “I am interested in a particular field for my career. Do you know someone in that field who could offer advice?”

Participating students will meet with their alumni mentors several times during the school year although the pairs may choose to meet more frequently. For now, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meetings are virtual.

The idea for the mentoring program emerged last spring when a group of Black alumni expressed a strong desire to guide and support the school’s current Black students. The alumni recalled that, as students, they often had wished for someone who looked like them to talk to and to share their experiences.

Excited by this interest and recognizing the benefits of such connections, Head of School Sheila Culbert added the creation of a Black alumni mentoring program to the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives announced in June 2020. Ro then worked with Black alumni over the next several months to develop the program, arrange training, and coordinate the pairings. The students submitted their top three choices for mentors based on common interests, hometowns, cultural backgrounds, career paths, activities in which they participated at Loomis, and other factors. Ro says she was able to match all of the students with mentors they had ranked in their top three, and excitement swirled around Gilchrist Auditorium during the first group meeting of students and their paired mentors in November.

For more information on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Loomis Chaffee, connect to the Student Life page on the school website.