Rock Valley College

Mentoring Students with Disabilities

The number of students pursuing post-secondary education continues to increase.  Just like their non-disabled peers, many of these students enjoy a successful and enriching college experience.  The presence of a disability, however, often means that these students encounter different challenges than their non-disabled peers.  The support provided by mentors can be instrumental in providing the  guidance and tools to help students integrate into college life, make connections to resources, and develop the skills necessary for academic success.

In order for the mentoring experience to be successful, it is important for mentors to understand that students with disabilities are first and foremost people first.  They have their own unique set of circumstances, backgrounds, abilities, and values.  The barriers they may experience as a result of their disability do not define them, but rather are just one facet of their life.  Emphasizing the student and not the disability is important for building a strong and successful relationship.

Applying to Be a Mentor:

Students who desire to mentor should:

1. Stop by the Disability Support Services (DSS) office to pick up a mentor application;
2. Once paired with a mentee, return completed mentoring agreement form to the DSS office; and
3. Obtain additional instructions and information from DSS staff.

Requesting a Mentor:

Any student who feels he/she may benefit from a mentor, may request one by either stopping by the DSS office (located on the Ground floor of the Student Center), or completing a mentee application.  All completed applications should be submitted to the DSS office for processing.  Once processing is complete, a staff member will be in touch regarding next steps. 

For more information on the DSS Mentor Program contact the Disability Support Services office at (815) 921-2371.

Why Mentoring?

The benefits that mentor programs provide to postsecondary (particularly first-year) students have been well-documented, and are often life-long.  In addition to having a positive impact on student engagement and retention, mentor programs provide a broad range of services for students who benefit from having an advocate and positive role model to help them navigate the challenges and complexities of the college experience.

The overall purpose of the mentoring experience is to provide opportunities for students (mentees) to learn and benefit from the knowledge, wisdom, and expertise of more experienced individuals (mentors). Mentors can provide the support, guidance, and tools to help students integrate into college life, make connections to resources, and develop the skills necessary for academic success. Mentors may also:

  • Provide academic, personal, and social support to students with disabilities;
  • Assist students in acclimating to and navigating the college environment;
  • Facilitate the building of relationships between faculty, staff, and students;
  • Foster personal development of self-reliance, self-determination, and self-advocacy; and
  • Assist students with becoming more engaged and socially integrated in their college experience.

Beginning the Mentoring Experience

As you embark on this new mentoring experience, please keep in mind that each relationship will be unique.  Some relationships will form quickly and others may take more time.  There is no wrong or right way to mentor.  Find what works for you and your mentee and keep the lines of communication open.  The following links contain information for mentors who will be working with students with disabilities.  Because of the unique circumstances that are often associated with disability, mentors should be knowledgeable about the various issues and challenges that students with disabilities face.  The following information is intended as a guide to assist with fostering a positive mentoring experience and provide direction in addressing potential situations that may arise throughout the mentoring relationship.

Contact for Disability-Related Questions or Concerns

We hope that you find your mentoring experience fun, rewarding, and meaningful.  Please do not hesitate to contact us at any time should you need assistance:

Disability Support Services (located on the Ground level of the Student Center)
Phone: (815) 921-2371