Mentors Play Big Role for EOP Students

Imagine the culture shock Kris Kowdley faced when he and his family had moved from their native India to the United States: He was 13, and after attending conservative, traditional Catholic schools his whole life, he was suddenly a student in a public high school in Brooklyn.

Then, a few years later, he was in college. "I had no idea what a traumatic experience that would be," he recalls. "It was a very hard adjustment for me. It would have been so valuable if I would have had a mentor."

Thanks to Kowdley and 40 other volunteer mentors, Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students at the University of Washington don't have to go it alone. The EOP's Mentor Program volunteers act as supportive, positive role models for about 100 EOP students. The program serves minority and disadvantaged white students at the UW.

Though he has a killer schedule--as an assistant professor of medicine and attending physician at the UW Medical Center, he often works from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.--Kowdley knows how important his volunteer work is.

"It is a big challenge with my schedule," he says. "But being a mentor is one of the best experiences I have ever had. It's great to know I am having a positive impact on someone's life."

Kowdley meets with a freshman and senior, both of whom are interested in medicine. While they mostly meet for breakfast, sometimes he will invite them to spend the day with him on the job.

"It is difficult enough coming to a large university, and considering applying for something like medical school," says Kowdley. "But if you are from a minority, it can be even harder. And while the students may do great academically, most of them have more trouble socially, especially, if like me, they have come here from another country. We mentors aren't really counselors, but we are someone to talk to."

A kickoff orientation is planned for Sept. 30 for this year's mentor program participants. Last year, 100 student protégés (any first-year EOP student), 100 student mentors (senior EOP students) and 40 volunteers, such as Kowdley, took part.

"We could always use more volunteer mentors," says Sherry Chavoya, who coordinates the seven-year-old program. "There are lots of EOP students who would benefit."

Alumni mentors are needed now to help entering freshmen this fall. For more information on the EOP Mentor Program, contact Kay Larson at (206) 685-9274 or 1-800-AUW-ALUM or send e-mail to

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