Passing It On

Jan 11, 2021

  • - Darrek Harshberger

  • - Alyssa Komoroski

Darrek Harshberger signed up for Cal U’s Peer Mentoring Program to meet new people and to have someone to turn to with questions. In his peer mentor, Alyssa Komoroski, he found someone who could guide him through his first semester — and a friend. 

Throughout the fall semester, Komoroski checked in on Harshberger twice a week to make sure everything was going OK, and he went to her with his own questions — as well as those posed by friends who didn’t have a mentor to turn to. 

Komoroski helped him make connections, get involved in campus organizations and navigate classes. When Harshberger struggled to find the courage to approach his professors with questions, Komoroski encouraged him to email them. Once he’d taken that step, he began to feel more comfortable reaching out to professors and speaking up in class.  

“It can be a difficult transition from high school to college,” Komoroski said. “Not many things are the same, and there is a lot more responsibility on college students that many people don’t think of. It’s starting all over in a brand new place with all new people. This can be scary, and I understand that and now know how to overcome these fears.” 

“It’s nice to know someone who’s been there and done all that stuff,” Harshberger said. 

First-year and transfer students have the option of being matched with a peer mentor — a fellow student who can show them the ropes and support them in their first semester at Cal U. Each year, hundreds of upper-level students serve as peer mentors to incoming students. To volunteer, email the Peer Mentoring Program at

“At first I thought it had to be strictly Cal U,” he said of their mentoring conversations. However, Komoroski assured him that they could “talk about whatever,” and that opened up the opportunity to share more about what was going on in their lives.  

“It’s important to get to know your protégé and become friends if possible,” Komoroski explained. “I got lucky that Darrek and I had a lot of similarities and similar interests.” 

The two are both in the Honors Program. Komoroski is a junior pre-K through grade 4 special education major; Harshberger, a first-year secondary education major with a concentration in mathematics. 

“I feel this experience has been greatly beneficial for both of us, and I think that it is amazing that I got to help someone and make a new friend in the process,” Komoroski said. 

Looking ahead, Harshberger wants to become a peer mentor himself so he can help others. He also thinks that it would be a beneficial experience for him as an education major. “I feel like it would be so much fun,” he added. 

“It gives you experience in a leadership role and teaches you how to speak to new people,” said Komoroski, who has served as a mentor three times. “I am excited to continue my journey as a peer mentor!”