Daydrianna Jeffries

Junior, Kent School of Social Work and Family Science
TRIO student mentor

Like many college students, Daydrianna Jeffries often has multiple text conversations going on at once. But there’s one particular group chat that means a lot – her text check-in with about 10 first-generation students.

Jeffries is a peer mentor for TRIO Student Support Services, a federally funded program committed to helping low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities achieve a bachelor’s degree.

“I check up on my mentees about every other week, to see how they’re doing in classes, how their mental health is and meeting up with them,” she said. “I just want to guide TRIO students to show they can succeed; [and to] be that someone who cares about you and who checks up on you.”

The value of mentors is not lost on Jeffries, a junior in the Kent School of Social Work and Family Science, who found she also needed additional support when coming into college.

“Mentorship is very important because it helps people grow,” she said. “The reason why I became a TRIO mentor was, as a first-gen, I understand the challenges and struggles. And I wanted to create that positive impact for students on their journey.”

For Jeffries and other students served by TRIO and UofL’s other student support services, the university is helping them redefine their success by focusing on their needs both in and out of the classroom. For Jeffries, that meant everything from getting tips on how to budget and grocery shop, to exploring graduate school opportunities and even how to navigate campus printing.

“TRIO provides so much support and guidance – not just academic-wise but your personal growth and things like that as well,” Jeffries said. “They’re a really big help to get you through tough times, because like as I said, being first-gen is so tough. I will go there every week to tell them my stressors. The support and just being around people who relate to me means so much.”

Jeffries grew up in UofL’s backyard, attending Cochran Elementary School just a few minutes from campus. She still remembers UofL students coming in to mentor her and her elementary school peers. As she progressed through high school, she – like many – encountered challenges that affected her personal and educational path. Noticing social issues facing her community gave her the desire to help and sparked her interest in social work.

Flaming that spark meant earning a higher education. As a first-generation student, just going to college was a major accomplishment, she said. She was able to attend UofL with help from the Woodford R. Porter Scholarship – awarded to those who exhibit a strong aspiration to succeed and give back to the community – and additional federal aid.

“As I was growing up, I found out that college could be a stepping stone for you to have a better life,” she said. “I found that UofL had a really good social work program and I looked into that and it just felt like home.”

At UofL she threw herself into campus activities to make a difference for others, joining groups like Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. and serving as the first Kent School senator in the Student Government Association. She is also involved with the PEACC Center, where she implemented her own service program, PEACCful Connections with Daydrianna, a program that helps her better advocate for students by providing them an opportunity to connect with her one-on-one about problems they’re facing or experiences for which they may need services.

Jeffries wants to take all the lessons she learned – and is still learning – and share them with others. “I want to be the change within my community,” she said. That’s why she values the social work education she’s gaining and her work with the TRIO mentor program. She wants her fellow students to excel.

“I had mentors and I want to pay it forward; for somebody else to have a positive experience and make their experience less stressful,” she said. “The first thing I always tell my mentees is don’t hesitate to reach out or ask for help. Because I’ll go back to my experience being a freshman and I would endure all these different problems and I wouldn’t ask for help. And I learned from that, too.”

“UofL provided these programs and centers on campus for everybody to feel safe and supported, and I feel like being a part of what UofL has presented on campus makes me feel like part of a community,” she added. “And it did light a passion within me to pursue things I’m doing in leadership. It just bettered me as a person.”