Press Release
Student-Athletes at Thomas College to Benefit from New Near-Peer Tutoring Program MacKenzie Riley Young | December 12, 2023

WATERVILLE, MAINE, December 2023 — Thomas College has been awarded a $19K grant from the MELMAC Education Foundation for the first year to implement a pilot program that uses near-peer academic mentoring to support the academic and psychosocial needs of student-athletes.

Near-peer mentors understand the various facets of campus and academic life at Thomas College, and that collective knowledge gives them the ability to connect, provide encouragement, function as positive role models, promote a sense of belonging, and engage in academic support activities with mentees.

Near-peer mentoring pairs a more experienced mentor with less experienced mentees. Being close in age is a key component of near-peer mentoring and supports better interaction with and understanding of the struggles faced by the mentees.

“We know that mentoring is an effective strategy for fostering the success of college students, and mentoring programs in particular for first generation college students have shown success by developing a sense of belonging. For example, with programs that are organized around common interests – in this case, athletics and academics,” said Senior Vice President of Student Success Debbie Cunningham.

Thomas College serves a high percentage of Maine students (80%) who are Pell-eligible (36%) and students who are identified as first-generation (56%). Thomas College also enrolls a high percentage of students each year who identify as student-athletes (40% in the 2020-2021 academic year). As a Division III school, Thomas student-athletes do not receive any additional scholarship support, but they are expected to commit a significant amount of time and effort to their sport in terms of practices, travel, and competition. Time management and the ability to keep pace with academic demands is a challenge for all students, and that challenge is heightened for student-athletes who must meet academic and athletic schedules, with little control over the latter.

The MELMAC investment funds a pilot program that employs graduate students at the college to provide ongoing support to student-athletes. These positions are dedicated to supporting the success of an assigned caseload of student-athletes by building relationships to support the development of confidence, adaptability, self-efficacy, motivation, and belonging; monitoring academic progress in terms of semester and cumulative GPAs; serving as a liaison with faculty advisors, academic coaches, and staff in the Student Success Center to monitor students at key benchmarks during the academic year; assist in the development and monitoring of academic plans for student-athletes; schedule and oversee academic study halls for student-athletes; and connect student-athletes to campus resources as needed to navigate challenges as they arise (e.g., tutoring, financial aid, counseling).

The anticipated outcomes of this program include higher retention and graduation rates for student-athletes.

“As a sport management major, I knew I wanted to work with student athletes after graduation. Seeing students build their confidence and thrive here at Thomas is extremely rewarding,” said Ressa Maheu, a graduate on-campus student and our first mentor in this pilot program.

About Thomas College: 

U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks Thomas College as a top college in Maine for the social mobility of our graduates. Our clear career focus, including a one-of-a-kind Guaranteed Job Program™, makes it possible to advance faster in the arts and sciences, business, and education. Choose to pursue any undergraduate degree in only three years, knowing that we offer a variety of in-person or 100% online graduate degrees that you can complete in just one more year. Located in Waterville, Maine, Thomas College is your pathway to a promising future, guaranteed. For more information, visit or contact MacKenzie Riley Young at [email protected] or 207-859-1313. Find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and TikTok.