Advice From Peer Mentors

Read a greeting and advice from the 2020-21 BRIDGES Peer Mentors.

Hannah Alamo
Hi guys! My name is Hanna Alamo and I am a current junior here at Pitt. I am from Indiana, PA where I am currently staying to take my fall term remotely. My intended major is emergency medicine with a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Outside of my classes, I am involved in a bunch of clubs, research and hobbies! I’ve done research in Pitt’s School of Medicine under both their Renal/Electrolyte and Emergency Medicine divisions. As for clubs, I am currently involved with our Pre-Physician Assistant club, STEP (supporting and training service dogs), Student EMS club and BRIDGES of course! I am also working full time as an EMT in my hometown, so I don’t have that much time for hobbies, but I do enjoy thrifting and embroidery! My personal advice for incoming BRIDGES members is to learn how to listen to your body and mind. For many of you, this is your first time living on your own and making decisions for yourself: Listen to yourself when you may need a break or help. If you are interested in learning more about anything I’m involved with or just want to talk, you can always reach out to me at


Kiana Dunbar
Hey, my name is Kiana Dunbar, I'm from Philly. I'm a sophomore majoring in psychology and sociology. If I could suggest anything to incoming freshman, it would be to speak up, make friends and connections, join clubs, and go to office hours and let your name be known to your professors. It's important to network in college, and it's better to start early, because you never know who you will need to come back to in the future. Just build good connections :)


Loribel Encarnacion
Hey guys! My name is Loribel and I'm a sophomore at Pitt, born and raised in Newark, New Jersey. I'm currently majoring in Politics and Philosophy, which is a joint political science and philosophy major specifically offered at the university. I enjoy SO many things, but my more profound obsessions include thrifting, working out, and watching anime (hit me up for any recommendations). I'd have to say the most difficult part of college is definitely the adjusting period when you first move in and are seemingly starting a new life, all by yourself. My advice to incoming freshmen is to never be afraid to ask for help. College is an experience like no other (especially through the pandemic), and admitting that help and advice is necessary is perfectly okay! As mentors for BRIDGES, we're all dedicated to help anyone in need of it; whether the situation be big or small. You can always reach me at any point for, literally, anything! I can't wait to meet all of you and welcome to Pitt!


Kyrian Elekwachi
Hey everyone! My name is Kyrian and I’m from Baltimore, Maryland. My major is neuroscience and I plan to minor in chemistry and get a Certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Outside of the classroom, I am a Provost Academy Leader and the Vice President of Programming for F.R.O.G.S, an organization geared towards underrepresented male pre-med students. I have a couple pieces of advice for first-year students: First, use this time to find yourself. College does not look the same for everybody and it’s okay if your journey looks different. Second, please don’t be afraid to ask for help! The University has a plethora of opportunities and resources for you. Use them to your benefit!


Mckaila Faison
Hey Everyone, I am Mckaila Faison and I’m from Atlanta, Georgia. I am a senior here at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m majoring in psychology with a minor in neuroscience on a pre-med track. I’m really excited to get to know you guys as a BRIDGES mentor this year. One piece of advice that I definitely found useful was to take care of yourself: mind, body and spirit. School can be extremely stressful. I’m sure you already know that, but it’s so easy to get overwhelmed with friends, clubs and academics to top it all off. If need be, take a step back work on you, and come back stronger and ready to tackle these new challenges. Also know that you are never alone in this transition. Not only do you have us BRIDGES mentors, but you have peers in your class who know exactly what you’re going through. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There is always someone willing to help. Can’t wait to meet you all!


Sydney Grissom
Hi Everyone! My name is Sydney Grissom (she/her) and I am from Durham, NC. I am a senior double majoring in political science and economics.  This past summer I worked as a Summer Analyst at Cambridge Associates and look forward to joining the Asset Management Industry after undergrad. In addition to being a BRIDGES mentor, I serve as the Chief Research Officer for Smart Woman Securities and am a member of BAS, RCMBA, Incline Consulting Group, and Phi Alpha Delta Pre-law Fraternity. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, eating and attempting to run. My advice to all first-year students is to not be afraid to jump outside of your comfort zone. Join that random club, talk to that random person in the elevator, and explore some new restaurants or foods! You never know what you might discover about yourself along the way.


KJ Johnson
Hey guys! My name is Kendall Johnson, but I also go by KJ. I am a senior originally from Greenville, South Carolina. I am majoring in Chemistry and pursuing a certificate in American Sign Language. Outside of BRIDGES, I am a member of the Cheerleading Team as well as president of FROGS, an organization for underrepresented male students in medical programs. College is a huge adjustment, but BRIDGES help to build a community of peer that support each other in navigating the transition. My advice to incoming students is to be open-minded and willing to try something new. Don't be afraid to reach out to your professors, TAs and fellow students if you have questions or want to know more about a topic. Most importantly, remember that BRIDGES always has your back.


Afi Koffi
Hey guys!!! My name is Afi. I’m from West Philadelphia. I am a junior majoring in biology and political science. I am minoring in Chemistry and Africana studies. In terms of clubs and organizations, I am a co-chair of the fundraising committee for the Black Action Society. I am a member of the Community Assistants Program, the Pre-Med Organization for Minority Students and the African Students Organization. A piece of advice I’d give the incoming students is to be open. The University of Pittsburgh is a very big school with a lot of different people, spaces and opportunities. Be open to all of them because you never know what you might like or what might be good for you. Keep your mind open to these things, but also keep your eyes and ears open. Many of the experiences I’ve had thus far, I learned about through word of mouth. The campus is always buzzing so pay attention to things that may peak your interest that are outside of the classroom; there is where the real college experience resides.


Alyssa Medwynter
Hi guys! I’m Alyssa and I’m a senior majoring in Linguistics, minoring in Neuroscience and Africana Studies. On campus, I'm the president of the Pan-Caribbean Alliance (PCA) and a member of the African Students Association (ASO). My advice for you guys is that it’s all about balance. If you start feeling overwhelmed while studying, don’t be afraid to take a break. Watch some Netflix, hang out with your friends, or just take a nap. Do whatever you need to do to relax. Also, don’t feel like you need to give everyone else all of your attention. It’s okay to focus on yourself and have some “me” time, nobody’s going to hate you for it. I wish you all the best on your first term here at Pitt!


Adaeze Nwobodo
Hi! My name is Adaeze Nwobodo, and I am a senior from Philly. I am a Psychology and Sociology double major on the pre-med track, with minors in Chemistry and Africana Studies. I am also getting a certificate in Conceptual Foundations of Medicine. Because I love food, my favorite thing about Pittsburgh is going to every restaurant I can. My favorite one so far has been Guacho Parrilla Argentina because they have this perfect steak sandwich and great steaks in general. I had a pretty tough time getting adjusted my first year, so my advice to incoming first-year students is this: 1) Develop good time management skills because it is easy not to do work due to all of the free time. 2) Do not be afraid to ask for help, whether from your teachers or your peers. 3) Join clubs you are interested in to be involved on campus and meet new people. I look forward to meeting all of you and helping you have a smooth transition into college! Hail 2 Pitt!


Shaughny Richardson
Hey, ya'll! I'm Shaughny Richardson and I'm from a SUPER small town in the middle of northwestern Pennsylvania, about two hours from Pitt. I am a sophomore double majoring in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Social Work. My favorite thing about Pitt is all of the opportunities to get involved around campus. I am currently a member of Strong Women Strong Girls, the Signature Days of Service Committee, Jumpstart, and of course, BRIDGES. 

The best advice I can give first year students is to come to start this new chapter of your life with an open mind. I know as well as you all do that starting college in the midst of the pandemic isn't ideal, but there are many incredible people, clubs, and opportunities that you can come in contact with if you keep an open mind and put yourself out there! You will learn balance as the year goes on, but never be afraid to get out of your comfort zone. It's much easier to discover what you do like by realizing what you don't

Everson Simpson
Hello! My name is Everson, and I am a senior at Pitt. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh before moving to Charleston for high school. I am a linguistics and Chinese double major with minors in Korean and studio arts. I really enjoy Pitt, for it is a great school full of endless opportunities to network and engage on campus. However, it is due to this that it can feel a bit overwhelming at times. My advice to incoming students is to not be afraid to take things at your own pace rather than going with the flow of others. I began my first year as an undeclared major, not really sure what path I wanted to take. I felt a bit lost in comparison to all my friends who were already working on their majors and minors. However, one thing that makes college so great is the subjectivity of it all: there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ road to success, just different ones. Your first year is a great time to explore different interests and career paths, so don’t be afraid to embrace this next chapter of your life with an open mind.


Marc Smith
大家好(Hello everyone)! 大家好 (Hello everyone)! My name is Marc Smith, and I am a senior studying Chinese and Economics. I am originally from Bowie Maryland, which is about 30 minutes outside of D.C. (and about two hours from Philly). What I love about the University of Pittsburgh is that it offers students so many great opportunities. From the accessible professors and tutors to the hundreds of clubs on campus to the long list of study abroad trips, there never seems to be a dull moment living here. If I were to impart any advice, it would be these three things: First, get involved with student clubs on campus. Many of the lasting connections that I made in school resulted from getting involved in clubs and programs like Bridges and the Chinese Language Table. Second, learn how to efficiently manage your time. You’ll be surprised how much “free time” will open up for you while at school, and it’s your job to allocate that time effectively to finish your homework on time. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Reach out to advisors, tutors, professors, and BRIDGES mentors when you are feeling lost or overwhelmed. Recognize that nobody’s perfect and you will most likely make mistakes, but you should never be hesitant to ask for assistance. I wish you all a great first year and welcome to Pitt!


Clarke Thompson-Gay
Heyy!!! My name is Clarke Thompson-Gay and I’m from Bowie, MD! I’m a junior majoring in biology. I hope to minor in gender, sexuality, and women's studies and Africana Studiesn and get a certificate in American Sign Language. I’m currently involved in Black Action Society (BAS), Pre-med Organization for Minority Students (POMS), Pathfinders and BRIDGES. I also serve as a research assistant for iHABIT at Bellefield Towers. Coming into college, I learned that having discipline and motivation is a big part of success. My advice would be to try and get involved in campus whether that be through clubs, research or just making friends on your floor or in class because it will definitely enrich your college experience. Also, never  be afraid to ask for help. These four years at Pitt will be amazing and allow you to truly find out more about yourself and your interests! #H2P!!!


MiKinley Williams
Hi!! My name is MiKinley Williams. I am a sophomore from Silver Spring, Maryland, which is roughly 20 minutes outside of Washington, D.C. I am a global management major in the College of Business Administration. I’m working toward a certificate in American Sign Language. My favorite thing about Pitt is the wide variety of activities/clubs available to students: the possibilities are truly endless. I am currently a member of the American Sign Language Club, Black Action Society, the Roberto Clemente Minority Business Association and, as you know already, BRIDGES. One of my favorite things about Pittsburgh is the VAST ARRAY of places to eat, my favorite being The Milkshake Factory.

My biggest piece of advice to first-year students is to be patient and kind to yourself. College is a marathon, not a sprint. Take it at your own pace and try not to compare yourself to others and what they’re doing. Your time at college is the best time to focus on yourself and to learn and grow as a person. Pitt is truly what you make it. Shape your experience in the way that’s best for you! H2P!! :))


Vimbayi Vera
Hi everyone! My name is Vimbayi Vera and I’m from a small town about an hour outside of Boston, Massachusetts. I am a sophomore majoring in psychology and administration of justice on the pre-law track. Although I have not been in college long, I do have some advice for you guys. What worked for you in high school in terms of studying may not work for you in college and that’s ok! Don’t be afraid to explore new methods in order to ensure your success! Also, don’t be afraid to be yourself! Being in a new place can be daunting but one thing that helps is joining clubs that appeal to you because you will meet people with similar interests! I am so excited to meet you guys and to help you in any way that I can!