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We spoke with former Big and Facilitator, Kirsten Cherry, on her experiences with Science Leadership and Mentoring. She graduated from UCF in Spring 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Forensic Science with minors in Chemistry and Crime, Law, and Deviance. Kirsten started out as a Big with the Young Women Leader’s Program (SLAM’s predecessor) in fall 2016 and worked with YWLP and SLAM until her graduation.

Kirsten Cherry with graduation sash

What prompted you to first join SLAM (formerly YWLP)?

I wanted to find a way to get involved on UCF’s campus. I also wanted to make new friends and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do both.

You spent five years dedicating your time to SLAM and YWLP. What kept you coming back year after year?

What kept me coming back was the long-lasting friendships I was building with the mentors and mentees. And the fact that I saw a huge positive impact on the mentees’ lives over the course of the program each year.

What is your favorite memory from your time at SLAM?

My favorite memory was my first year as a Big; I formed such a strong connection with my Little. It was a struggle at first, but with time I finally got my Little to open up to me and we both had positive impacts on each other’s lives. It was a wonderful experience.

What advice would you give to new SLAM mentors?

Advice that I would give to new SLAM mentors is to trust the process. Being a mentor is certainly not easy and it takes time to build authentic relationships with your mentees. Also take the time to remember what it was like to be a 7th grader, and use those personal experiences, whether good or bad, to help you connect and relate to your mentee.

How did your SLAM experience help prepare you for life after graduation?

I believe that SLAM has prepared me for life after graduation by helping me build upon my leadership skills. Starting out as a Big, I used to be terrified to speak in front of people but as I progressed and became a Facilitator, I gained the confidence to be able to publicly speak and lead lessons within the program.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are to become a Forensics Crime Scene Investigator and find different ways to give back to my community focusing on young girls interested in STEM.