A Peer Mentor for Students Who Need the Most Help

University Relations - Communications
June 16, 2014

Trevor Gervais earned a scholarship to attend the University of Arizona through Arizona Assurance, a program that provides financial and social support for low-income Arizona residents. The opportunity inspired him to pay it forward, so to speak. Now, he is on a quest to ensure that educational resources are available to all students.

No two students’ college experiences are the same, and Gervais is well aware of the unique challenges many of his fellow Wildcats face. 

As a peer adviser in the Pathway to Academic Student Success probation program, Gervais mentors students whose grades have suffered for a variety of reasons.

He says the misconception that students on academic probation are not motivated or do not have the capability to be successful is unfounded.

"I think there's a really unfair assumption that a lot of people have of what academic probation means, as though it's this terrible thing that happens to kids who don't try or are lazy," said Gervais, a senior studying political science. "In reality, it tends to be people who have had a lot going on, who work full time, who are going to school here and at Pima Community College, or they have a child they're trying to support."

Gervais learned from an early age how outside factors influence a student's progress. 

His mother is a kindergarten teacher at a low-income public school, where more than 90 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Gervais spent considerable time in her classroom getting to know her students, and realized that what occurs outside of school directly affects what happens in it.

The PASS program, housed within the UA Office of Academic Success and Achievement, also recognizes this correlation, which is why its peer advisers emphasize skills that are applicable to all phases of life, such as study habits, time management and goal setting. All PASS students meet one-on-one with peer advisers.

"We've found, time and time again, that if we can help them with these things, their grades will improve," Gervais said.

Gervais believes that expanding education begins with public policy.

In 2012 he worked for U.S. President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and, last year, was one of 147 students in the U.S. selected to serve in the White House Internship Program.

While he has no desire to run for political office, his dream job would be to serve as a chief of staff, influencing public policy decisions, particularly regarding education.

This summer, Gervais will continue spreading educational opportunities to those in need.  He plans to work in Lima, Peru, for six weeks with a non-governmental organization, teaching English to impoverished students in public schools. 

The difference he has made in students' lives is appreciable. Last semester, nearly every single student he advised with PASS improved their grades, and the overwhelming majority managed to get off academic probation, he said.

"When you are able to open up your eyes and see the world around you for what it really is – really diverse people coming from really diverse backgrounds, hoping to accomplish great things – I think you can take steps along the way to help people achieve what they want to achieve."


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