AIM for greatness

By Matthew Sotlar

Youngstown State University’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion sponsors AIM, a  program that provides mentorships for first-year, first-generation students that are underrepresented at YSU.

AIM stands for ‘Achieve, Impact, Motivate.’The program is under the Penguin Ally Collective, which is designed to support students on their four year tracks. 

The office of DEI began AIM in 2020. Social work graduate student Donquail Mims is the mentoring and transition program coordinator. He described the mentorship pairing process.

“We pair students based off their major and interests with faculty members and staff members to guide them for the four years they’re pursuing a bachelor’s degree,” Mims said.

The AIM program focuses mostly on its mentorship programs for students. Mims said mentors are trained to help students feel welcomed at YSU.

“They provide a sense of belonging to our students. They don’t just come and talk about personal stuff, they talk about educational stuff,” Mims said. “They’re more like a big brother or sister.”

Another AIM initiative is Ally Circle Sessions, where mentors and students meet once a month to socialize. Previous guest speakers at the sessions have included Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown and a number of YSU professors.

“We have stress free wellness activities, lots of food, lots of opportunities to hear about different resources. It’s just a time for everyone to celebrate and feel welcomed,” Mims said.

The Office of DEI also offers a summer fellowship program. This includes Navarro Executive Fellows, a two year summer fellowship for underrepresented and marginalized students to learn leadership skills on campus.

“We pair those students off with a top-level executive within their major or field of interest,” Mims said.

Another program sponsored by the Office of DEI is the YESS Institute, which is the Youngstown State University Enrichment Summer Scholastic Institute. For three weeks each summer, the YESS Institute offers a readiness program for first-generation or underrepresented students.

Mims said he is most focused on supporting the students in the AIM program. 

“You always need somebody you can run to,” Mims said. “You can’t always go to your parents. Everybody doesn’t have a family back home or someone they feel they can confide in. I want to provide that sense of belonging and comfort.”

Applications for the AIM Program, Navarro’s Executive Fellows and YESS Institute are sent out via email towards the end of the school year. Mims said the Office of DEI usually begins to select and pair students at the beginning of the year.

“I’m placing these students and mentors. Most of the time I get it right, but it’s a long grueling process. This year we have a lot of students,” Mims said.

Students interested in learning more about DEI programs can visit the website for the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.