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Student of the Month

The Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month award recognizes outstanding students who are members of the organization. Each month, a participating student is selected for the award based upon her or his work in Project Strive/TRiO and other activities on campus or in the community. Award winners will receive a plaque from Project Strive and have their photo placed in the “Project Strive/TRiO 2015-16 Student of the Month” Achievement Recognition board. The board, located in the Strive Learning Center, is themed "Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible."

April 2016 - Sara Tompkins

TompkinsSara Tompkins is the Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for April. Tompkins said her parents are a key to her success and she is grateful they encourage her to reach her potential.

“They pushed me to meet my fullest capabilities just like Project Strive does now,” she said. “They didn’t graduate from college, so it’s their dream and mine that I earn my degree. They know I can do it. I’m determined.” Tompkins said she never leaves the Project Strive/TRiO center without having all of her questions answered. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at without them. They are always pushing me to do new, better things,” said. Tompkins who made the Dean’s List in December and is hoping to be on the President’s List in May.

She also credits Upward Bound, another TRiO program, with her success. She has participated in it every summer since eighth grade. She completed courses in Chinese, Spanish and English. In the English class taught by CSC professor Dr. Lee Miller, her essays were judged among the best in the class earning her trips to a national leadership conference in Chicago in 2013 and to Yellowstone National Park in 2014. Upward Bound Director Maggie Smith-Bruehlman said Tompkins was the ultimate Upward Bound member, attending all quarterly meetings, submitting online assignments, and meeting with her academic adviser. “She participated in every summer program with gusto. She always displayed a positive attitude and loved playing pranks on team leaders in the summer program. She has developed into a confident, goal-oriented and determined young woman who will undoubtedly secure a successful career at Chadron State College and beyond.” Smith-Bruehlman said. Amanda Lewin, retention specialist with Project Strive/TRiO, said Tompkins attends all of the organization’s events and is involved in many campus activities. Tompkins has participated in the Rugby Club, the Native American Club and the Outdoor Club. She was hired as an Eagle Leader for New Student Orientation. “She is not afraid of responsibility. But she’s is not all work, she loves to have a fun and enjoys a good prank. We’ve really enjoyed having Sara in the program and look forward to watching her grow,” Lewin said.

Project Strive/TRiO Director Jen Schaer invited Tompkins to speak at a conference in Kearney on National TRiO Day in late February. The audience included high school students enrolled in Upward Bound. Tompkins said the opportunity got her out of her comfort zone and gave her the chance to improve her leadership and public speaking skills. She told the students that Upward Bound changed her life. “It made me go from shy to confident, smart to intelligent, and a follower to a leader. Without Upward Bound I would not be the person I am today. I might not have even made it to college. Through the program I always thought ‘why me?’ They always seemed to always call on me to speak up or me to be a role model in some way. They saw something in me,” she said. Giving back is a pattern in Tompkins’ goals. She said she plans to earn a degree in either corrections or juvenile justice so she can make a difference and help people.

Being a first generation college student is an important topic for Tompkins. She wrote in an essay for Upward Bound, “being a first generation student is like waiting in a line, really wanting something, but then becoming wracked with apprehension and anxiety about the person at the counter and how he or she will deliver the product or service.” She chose CSC because of the small class sizes, the welcoming environment and scholarships she earned from the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation and CSC. “I like the one-on-one attention you can get here. Everybody knows everybody,” she said. “All my CJ instructors are awesome.”

March 2016 - Courtney Pendleton

PendletonCourtney Pendleton of Geneva, Nebraska, has been named the March Student of the Month for Project Strive/TRiO.

Pendleton, a senior Family and Consumer Science major with a concentration in Health and Human Services, will graduate in December 2016. She is also an FCS Club member. Her favorite class has been FCS 314 Future Focus, a one credit hour, face-to-face course of about 15 students taught by Dr. Josh Ellis. “He’ll write a prompt or two on the board and then we’ll discuss the topics and how they relate to our personal goals, family structure over time, society and politics. It’s not a lecture. I like to hear and learn about other points of view and we’re good about keeping the group discussion civil,” she said. Pendleton said Ellis also offers a student choice week, when the topics of discussion are guided by students’ prompts.

“Teri Albertazzi was the same way. She asked what we thought about the topic. More classes should be like that. I think I do as well as I do because FCS is hands-on rather than a lecture-based major,” said Pendleton also counted Dr. Russ Seger’s Aging and Death course among her favorites. Project Strive/TRiO counselor Sonja Dressel encouraged Pendleton to give a presentation at a TRiO Day event in Kearney in late February. Although she was nervous about the public speaking commitment, Pendleton presented her speech, “Finding Your Niche,” sharing tips for overcoming obstacles and adjusting to college life. “Learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Build a support system for yourself, including someone who is a straight shooter and will tell you when you get off track. You’re going to fail at certain things, but that’s not a reason to give up. Take what you can from it and do better next time,” she said. Dressel sat next to Pendleton’s mother, LaDonna, in the audience that day and said they were both proud of her. “On our campus we frequently talk about being a ‘home away from home’ and promote our family-like atmosphere, and that day when we were able to witness together Courtney inspiring other students, it was a great experience of being a CSC family,” Dressel said. “I've been truly honored to see her develop as a student and a leader since I met her family during New Student Orientation.”

Dressel said Pendleton’s fantastic sense of humor is a quality that sets her apart from others. “She is witty, smart and has more keen observations on life than individuals twice her age. When she stops by my office we've been known to have lengthy discussions about current events, politics, theology or television. I always look forward to her insights,” Dressel said. Pendleton’s summer plans dovetail nicely with her long-term career plans. After three years as a camp counselor at Carol Joy Holling Camp near Ashland, Nebraska, and the Sullivan Hills Camp near Lodgepole, Nebraska, she has been hired as an assistant camp director at the Ebert Ranch in Texas. Camps are a healthy, positive experience for children, according to Pendleton. “It’s good for kids to have ‘unplugged’ time outside where they get back to the basics like swimming and hiking,” she said.

One of Pendleton’s best outdoor memories during her CSC career was her Study Away Alaska trip in 2013. She fondly recalls the trip that included helping with the Iditarod. “I’m a certified dog handler. How many people can say that? It was eye opening to see so much cultural diversity in art, science and language. We even met someone from Chadron at the Native Heritage Center,” she said. Closer to home, Pendleton has been involved in the community. She taught Sunday School for two years and now leads a Bible study class for college-aged students at Immanuel Lutheran Church. Pendleton’s other extracurricular activities include clogging. She is the Campus Activities Dance Club president and takes clogging lessons on Monday nights and tutors another college student on Wednesday nights, continuing an interest she has pursued in several types of dance since she was three. She is busy this month, along with other dance club members, preparing for the group’s April 30 recital during which she will help coordinate sound, lights and cameras.

February 2016 - Kelsey and Leyna Brummels

BrummelsChadron State College students Kelsey and Leyna Brummels describe their close relationship as an “us-ship.” They complete each other’s sentences with ease and share characteristics of a deep and lasting friendship.

The sisters from Ewing, Nebraska, also have something new to share – both have been named the February Students of the Month by Project Strive/TRiO. Jen Schaer, project director, said her staff felt the sisters deserved to share the honor for a number of reasons. “Kelsey is a strong student and was a work-study for us in 2014-15. She produced the end-of-the-year video which took a lot of time and is not afraid to step up and do any task asked of her,” Schaer said. “Leyna is an excellent student and her personality makes you want to sit and talk to her for hours and hours. She helps out any Strive member and is willing to step up to the plate when asked.”

The Brummels were involved in National TRiO Day promotions and have attended speakers like Devin Hughes, co-sponsored on campus by Project Strive/TRiO. Kelsey also serves as a mentor for other Project Strive/TRiO students. The sisters said they appreciate the welcoming atmosphere of the Project Strive/TRiO center in the lower level of the Library Learning Commons in the Reta King Library. “They are there for you. They want the best for you. You just want to give them a hug,” Kelsey said. Her sister agreed. “Jen is amazing. I might ask her what seems like a stupid question and she always helps,” Leyna said. “She’s a great person to talk to about any problem I might have, and she always knows the right thing to say.”

Leyna, an accounting major, enrolled at CSC in 2013, and Kelsey came a year later to study marketing. They had visited the area on vacations with their parents and found they liked it, which factored into their decisions to attend. Both have plans to volunteer with The Big Event, an annual day of CSC service in the community, and are active in Phi Beta Lambda (PBL). Leyna serves as PBL’s secretary and Kelsey is the Campus Activities Board (CAB) representative and social media contact. They each helped with PBL Week in February by posting photos of daily promotions to increase awareness about and membership in the club. Kelsey said she appreciates the leadership development and networking opportunities provided through PBL. Leyna said she likes the structured, fast-paced nature of the eight-week business classes. “The hard deadlines are preparing us for careers in business,” she said. “Plus midterm time is like finals week for us so we can relax and celebrate over the break.”

The first-generation students feel like they learned a strong work ethic from their father who is a dairy owner and operator and their mother who is a para-educator. “Our parents always both exemplified and encouraged us to work hard at anything and everything we do and to always show respect to everyone,” Kelsey said. In addition to their own studies, two times in February the Brummels, with other PBL members, assisted Chadron High School students who were preparing for a state competition in Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), the high school counterpart to PBL. They proofread papers written by the students and reviewed pre-tests. “For five teenage boys, they had great manners, were very polite and a joy to work with,” Leyna said.

Future educational plans for the women include sitting for the certified public accountant exam for Leyna and pursuing a master’s of business administration for Kelsey. Leyna may pursue a career at an accounting firm in the Norfolk, Nebraska, area, while Kelsey hopes to enter the college recruiting field or join a public relations staff for a sports team.

January 2016 - Tate Jensen

McBrideTate Jensen knows many key people in the Nebraska Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) organization and he has every intention of becoming one of them someday. Jensen, a junior from Benkleman, Nebraska, has been honored as the January Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month. Jensen feels he has benefited immensely from one-on-one advice from the organization’s director, Jen Schaer, and counselor, Sonja Dressel, who have helped him with academic planning and finding internships.

“Jen and Sonja wrote letters of recommendation supporting me as an applicant for the NSCS student trustee, so I know they are confident in me, that I can represent CSC well,” Jensen said. Another supporter of Jensen in his bid for the student trustee position is Admissions Representative Justy Bullington, who gave him a tour of campus when he was a prospective student. “The campus tour by Justy was the deciding factor for me. Before that I really had no idea that I would enroll at CSC. The whole campus has been great. When I’m coming back to Chadron after a break in Benkleman, I say I’m going home,” he said. A graduate of Dundy County/Stratton High School, Jensen enrolled at CSC having already earned 10 credit hours through Mid-Plains Community College. He is pursuing a 6-12 field endorsement in Business, Marketing and Information Technology. So far, he is on track to meet his goals to graduate in four years and debt-free.

While in high school, Jensen qualified for FBLA nationals in three areas but rules allowed him to compete in only two categories: business ethics and community service projects. He won the America award at nationals. “Peggy Parker and Lisa Fox are two of the best teachers I ever had. I didn’t think I would say this, but I want to go back to Dundy County, teach business and become an FBLA adviser, coordinating and sponsoring student events and competitions. Long term, I plan to design and develop business curriculum,” he said. Jensen, who is already a member of the professional FBLA association and familiar with many FBLA state leaders and officials, said he plans to eventually advocate at the state level until business becomes a core class in secondary education.

In preparation for future leadership roles, Jensen is quite active at CSC. He was appointed to the Student Senate in late 2015 to represent the school of Education, Human Performance, Counseling, Psychology and Social Work. As such, Jensen has been involved in discussion around a food pantry for students and is a member of the Campus Improvement Committee. He was also appointed to the campus' Education Technology Committee in January and has supported Senate’s purchase of additional recycling containers. Additionally, Jensen is the president of United, a club approved by the Campus Activities Board in December, designed to offer mutual support for LGBTQ Plus students. “Our goal is to have support meetings and also educate the campus community and increase understanding of LGBTQ Plus issues,” Jensen said. Outside of CSC, Jensen works 40 hours per week at a local grocery store and volunteers to support community recycling.

December 2015 - Jenna McBride

McBrideJenna McBride of Victorville, California, is the Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for December.

Her older sister, Tara, had planned to enroll at CSC before McBride came to the same conclusion after independently investigating her options in California. Tara is a sophomore and also a member of Project Strive/TRiO. “I was very surprised, shocked and happy about receiving the award,” McBride said.

Project Strive/TRiO Director Jen Schaer said McBride is a great addition to the Project Strive family. “She has been a mentor and also promotes the program to new students. She has helped at Signing Days and also as a New Student Orientation mentor. Jenna pushes herself to do well in her classes and accepts challenges head on,” Schaer said.

McBride, who plans to graduate in May with a Business Administration degree including options in both Management and Accounting, said she enjoyed the eight-week business courses because the format allowed her to take between 18 and 21 credit hours each semester. She also took summer classes online to accelerate her graduation. An internship with the campus food service, Creative Dining, during the summer of 2015 helped McBride clarify her future career path. She managed the C-store in the residence halls including in-store promotions, inventory and ordering for high school students attending summer athletic camps. Her friend and Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for November, Brook McPherson, and her supervisor, Amber James, were very helpful during the internship.

McBride is now the Lead Adventure Guide at the Chadron Maverik C-store which is equivalent to an assistant manager. McBride has taken the initiative to talk to her store director and the district manager about her career plans. The Big Snow Region that includes Chadron also covers Colorado, where McBride would like to work after graduation. “I realized from my experience in Creative Dining that I wanted to be in management instead of accounting. My goal is to become a Maverik store director and owner. I really like working there. Having a job really helps. I like to be busy. I met people and it made me want to stay in Chadron,” McBride said.

Project Strive also helped her stay in Chadron, meet friends and overcome homesickness. She has attended workshops about stress management and resume writing. She is the co-president of Phi Beta Lambda (PBL) and served as an officer last year, as well. The group has sponsored bands on campus, movie nights and a fall leadership conference. McBride led PBL fundraising efforts by helping to organize a 2015 Valentine’s Day Dinner attended by staff and faculty.

November 2015 - Brooke McPherson

McPhersonBrooke McPherson has been named the Project Strive TRiO Student of the Month for November.

When Brooke McPherson of Martin, South Dakota, enrolled at Chadron State College in August 2014 she knew she had to become more outgoing if she was going to be able to pursue her goal of becoming a psychologist.

McPherson, Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for November, said she has increased her confidence level, in part, through her job at the Eagle Grille on campus. She has worked in various areas of the operation and especially enjoys catering. “I get to know lots of people and I’ve become much more social. I can talk to people I’ve never met before. I want to help families so I will need to be comfortable talking with people,” said McPherson, who plans to earn her doctorate and become a family counselor.

Amber James, Creative Dining Services retail manager, said McPherson is hard working, positive and always ready to lend a hand. “Over the last year and a half we have enjoyed watching Brooke grow and learn. I could not think of a better person to have received the Student of the Month award,” James said.

In addition to the recent honor, McPherson has earned scholarships through Project Strive/TRiO that have helped her afford summer classes and stay on track for graduation. Her favorite class, so far, has been English 111, a transitional course. “It’s amazing how much you can improve. Now, I correct other people’s’ grammar,” she said.

Although she has little time for extracurricular activities, McPherson was especially excited to be involved with other Project Strive/TRiO students and leaders in the organization’s plastic recycling project across campus this fall. “It’s important. I’ve always been involved with recycling. In high school, I talked with my teachers about it,” she said. Project Strive/TRiO director, Jen Schaer said McPherson was great help getting the recycling program started. “Brooke has been a great assist to the Project Strive program. She has stepped up as a mentor this year and encourages the younger students to get involved more with Project Strive,” Schaer said.

McPherson is also involved in Phi Beta Lambda and the CSC Art Guild. She describes the pace of her life as one of “being on the go.”

“I consider Chadron my home. The campus is beautiful and tuition is affordable. I knew during my campus tour that CSC is where I wanted to go,” she said.

October 2015 - Ben O'Banion

LunkwitzSecond generation CSC student and social work major Ben O’Banion of Boulder, Colorado, has been named the Project Strive TRiO Student of the Month for October.

His mother, Dawn Bowcott-King, was inducted into the CSC Hall of Fame in 2013 in honor of her distance running accomplishments in the mid-1980s. She was also one of the college’s first graduates of the Social Work program. “She told me I could look at other colleges, but that I was going to come to Chadron. I’m glad I did. This is a good school,” he said.

In his second year as a mentor in the CSC Project Strive TRiO program, O’Banion reminds his group of six freshmen about upcoming events such as budgeting, team building and resume workshops, among other responsibilities. “TRiO has given me the motivation to do well on tests and opened up a job opportunity for me mentoring six freshmen. The staff is always there for me,” he said.

He was one of eight mentors who attended a training workshop in Rapid City, South Dakota, last year. He has been pleased to see the confidence levels of his mentoring cohort members increase as they become more involved. “This is exactly what I want to do. I want to help people. I’m born to do this. A lot of my friends come to me for advice,” he said.

Project Strive TRiO director Jen Schaer said O’Banion is a valuable member of the organization, willing to help in any capacity and especially skilled at getting others involved. O’Banion’s work ethic is evident by his schedule when he returns home for breaks. He has a dog walking job, volunteers as a mentor at the Chase House, a home for troubled youth, and is on the grounds crew at the Eldorado Swimming Pool.

Sonja Dressel, counselor with Project Strive TRiO, said O’Banion has an amazing attitude. “He is always positive about whatever he is learning in class or through outside of school activities. Ben also has big heart and genuinely cares about people around him. We are very lucky to have him as a mentor to other Project Strive students,” she said.

O’Banion also has a passion for bowling that has led him to bowl competitively and practice regularly with a coach when he returns to Colorado for semester breaks. In Rapid City last year, he won a tournament of 47 bowlers, averaging above 180 in 12 games. He is excited to be approaching the average score of 190 needed to qualify for consideration to join the Pro Bowling Tour.

“I come from a long line of O’Banion bowlers,” he said, adding that he bowled a 246 in the summer of 2013 and the summer of 2014. His goal is to be a pro bowler on TV within three years. “If I don’t qualify for the tour, I’ll coach kids. There’s a lot more to bowling than people realize. When the ball isn’t reacting like you want, you change your strategy. There’s gravity, physics, geometry, form and footwork to consider. When I’m up there for those two seconds, everything else goes away,” he said.

September 2015 - Amanda Lunkwitz

LunkwitzProject Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for September, Amanda Lunkwitz of Brady, Nebraska, has been a student athletic trainer for two years as well as a resident adviser (RA) at Chadron State College. Lunkwitz attended Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Nebraska, for one year before transferring to Chadron State. Her older brother lives in Texas. Her mother is a nurse and her father is a truck driver.

During her time as an RA in the residence halls, her naturally friendly nature was an asset to her. “It’s important to be open to people, smile and say, ‘Hi.’ You never know what someone’s going through,” she said.

The year Lunkwitz was both a trainer and an RA was tough, she said. Travel is a major part of her job as a student trainer with some of the bus rides lasting between 13 and 20 hours, she said. “We eat at a lot of buffets. You get to know the coaches, staff and players. You can see different states if you’re awake. I call it ‘sleep’ in quotes because you really can’t get comfortable or relax and you don’t wake up refreshed,” she said. “I’ve seen the hours I will be working and what the work entails,” she said.

Don Watt, CSC’s certified athletic trainer, said Lunkwitz knows her job and approaches it with professionalism. “She sees when something needs to be done and does it,” he said.

In addition to working with Watt, Lunkwitz said she has learned a lot from graduate student Theodore “T.L.” Espinoza, also a certified athletic trainer. “He has taught us how to assess an injury and decide on treatment,” she said. Espinoza said Lunkwitz is dedicated to her work and her work ethic. “She is dependable and shows great initiative in her job. Amanda is always eager to learn and improve her skills as a student athletic trainer, making my job extremely easy. She has made this year in football a real pleasure as I know I can always depend on her,” Espinoza said.

In addition to being an RA and a trainer, Lunkwitz qualified as a lifeguard. She hadn’t taken swimming classes before college but with encouragement, she met the requirements needed to become a lifeguard. This skill, along with others she acquired during her internships, will serve her well as she pursues a career in athletic training following her December 2015 graduation from CSC. She also hopes to eventually pursue a master’s degree in athletic training. “It’s been a good experience. A lot of friends have helped me get this far. I’m ready to walk across that stage,” she said.

Jen Schaer, Project Strive/TRiO director, said when Lunkwitz came to her concerned about swimming and lifeguarding, she knew could assist her based on 15 years teaching swimming lessons. “Having had years of experience as a lifeguard, this was a great way for me to give back and share a passion in a different area. It was a great opportunity for me to help a student achieve success in another area of their life,” Schaer said. While Lunkwitz was enrolled in Donna Ritzen’s swimming class, she and Schaer spent hours together so Lunkwitz could perfect various swimming strokes. “Everything she does, she takes seriously. She’s not afraid to work, which is a great quality,” Schaer said. After completing the CSC swimming course in the spring of 2015, Lunkwitz opted to take an additional test to qualify as a lifeguard and worked at the Chadron State Park swimming pool during the summer.

With the demands of school and work, Lunkwitz is grateful for Project Strive TRiO. “The Project Strive TRiO staff is great. They organize fun activities to take your mind off school. When you’ve had a rough day, they’re always there to listen, lend an ear and give you support. I’ve borrowed textbooks from them and I always enjoy going there,” she said.


Previous Students of the Month

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