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April Student of the Month

The EOC Participant of the Month for April 2018 is Rodney. This was a very easy choice for me as the Natrona County EOC Coordinator, as he is the epitome of a TRiO/EOC success story! I am honored and privileged to work with Rodney, and I am in awe of his dedication to his newly found passion for education, his community, his service to others, and his sobriety.

I met Rodney in the spring of 2017 at the Casper Re-entry Center; he was in the Therapeutic Community (TC) unit for substance use related issues. In 2012, Rodney was in a vehicle rollover crash and lost his ability to walk. He lost his job, income, and was no longer able to provide for his family – financially or emotionally. “Long story short, my alcohol abuse landed myself in several trips to jail, depression set in and I didn’t care anymore, my last drink cost me a five year prison sentence leaving my family on their own. I knew I had to change me, and requested to be placed at TC in Casper Therapeutic Community Rehab. I learned about my disease & behaviors knowing I couldn’t return to that lifestyle.”

During a group presentation at CRC/TC, I met Rodney. He was very interested in the content of the presentation, and immediately signed up for EOC services in Casper. “Trio visited the facility and offered a new start; I signed up that day. I was released in August 2017 and registered for classes within days. My major is Electronics Technology at Casper College and now I am fulltime student.”

Rodney is finding a lot of success in his Electronics classes, and checks in frequently with the EOC office to discuss GPA, class schedules, and scholarships. He has received several scholarships and grants, and is on track to graduate at the top of his class in his major. His academic goals are right in-line with the Objectives outlined in our grant: “My academic goals are to receive an associate’s degree in Electronics in 2019. When I achieve graduation, I plan to attend the University of Wyoming to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Electronics.”

In addition to being a fulltime non-traditional student, Rodney is also the Resident Manager at The Hope House, a Sober-Living house in the Casper community. He frequently volunteers for other entities in our community. “My volunteer and community service is mainly CR (Celebrate Recovery) in Casper. I am a fulltime volunteer every Friday night or whenever needed if possible. I help cook, serve the evening dinner, and attend the evening services. I also help with the food bank prior to leaving for the night. I try to put in a minimum of twenty-four hours a month. I also volunteer at the 12/24 Club when they are in need of workers for their activities.”

I am honored to work with Rodney, and I look forward to his graduation(s) from Casper College and  the University of Wyoming in the future!

Natalie Pique – EOC Coordinator

November Student of the Month

Melisa at LCCC would like to announce the November EOC Participant of the Month, Mark. He is a current student at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne. Mark is studying Liberal Arts and will be graduating this December. In the Spring of 2018, he will be transferring to the University of Wyoming to continue with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science. Mark is very motivated to continue his education and and take the next steps to secure his future. I have enjoyed working with him and can’t wait to see how he accomplishes his future endeavors.

December Student of the Month

The Student of the Month for December is Samantha Roedel.  While she isn’t the typical model for success, she has withstood some insurmountable obstacles this semester and has come out better for it.

Samantha came to me on a referral from Adult Basic Education in Powell.  She should have been a junior in high school, but decided to take her HiSet rather than start over at a new high school after being moved to this area.  She passed her HiSet and placement testing, and she was ready to begin the process of applying for college.  She originally lived in Montana, but her mom was diagnosed with a terminal illness and moved to hospice.  At 17, so she moved in with her Dad and step-mom, never really knowing them in the past.   Having a learning disability her whole life, she wants to become a special education teacher to help students who struggle as she has.

When she met with me, she filled out the FAFSA and the Northwest College admissions application.  I also encouraged her to apply for scholarships and Student Support Services. She did connect with Student Support Services, and we have been working collaboratively to help her.  Sam and I talked about Hathaway, but later SSS discovered that she wouldn’t qualify for Hathaway because she would have been a senior this year and wouldn’t have access to that money until next year when her “class” would graduate.

Her situation changed drastically over the summer.  She met with me in the Fall because she needed to make a payment for her schooling, so I helped her fill out papers for student loans.  At that time, I learned that her mom had passed away.  She had also moved in to the dorms because her dad kicked her out of their house, stopped returning her calls and cut her off completely.  A little later in the semester, she was awarded the Point Architects scholarship which is a local scholarship arranged through Educational Opportunity Center in Powell.  She had the deepest gratitude.  As she went through the semester, she suffered with grief and anxiety.  After she moved out, her dad ended up going to the hospital, almost dying.  No one would give her any information on how he was doing, so she struggled to focus on school work.  Her grades were suffering, so she cut her course load in half.  While she only passed one class the Fall semester, she has shown incredible tenacity.  She kept trying until the very last day of the semester.  Up until a day before break, she didn’t know where she would go or who she would stay with over the Holidays.  Any one of the stresses of homelessness, the loss of her mother, her father’s illness and her learning disability would have been enough to quit school, but she continued to persevere even through the darkest of times.  She is an inspiration as someone who knows what she wants out of life and keeps working towards it regardless of heartbreaking circumstances.

October EOC Student of the Month

The October Participant of the Month is Donald Whitmore. Donald was a new participant in 2016 and was referred by a fellow Casper Re-entry resident. He came to the EOC office and asked for assistance applying to Casper College. As I began my usual conversation about FAFSA, Compass testing, transcripts, and applying to school, he held his hand up and said “Whoa! You’re speaking a foreign language to me. I got my GED in Boot-camp – I don’t know all these things you’re speaking about!”
I realized at that moment that I was treating Mr. Whitmore like a number, not a person. Between FAFSA workshops, scholarship appointments, Financial Aid presentations, and numerous student appointments, I was in “go” mode trying to get through the busy EOC season. I set my office phone to voicemail, shrunk the screens on my computer, and shut my office door so that I could concentrate on what was important – the client. Something I had momentarily lost sight of.
Mr. Whitmore explained that he had been incarcerated for 3 years and was released in January 2016. He did not want to return to the life he had previously been living, and was interested in the Automotive Technician program at Casper College. He had concerns about paying for school, at which point I explained the Pell grant, FAFSA, and scholarships – in layman terms, understandable to people that do not work in the education world. We worked on his FAFSA and applied to CC. I explained that we would need to order his transcripts and locate his shot record for proof of MMR shots. We then talked about the Compass test and I gave him the link for practice test and a waiver for the $10.00 test. He was thankful for the waiver as he was looking for a job and did not have the money to spend on a test. This appointment lasted one hour and 15 minutes, not much longer than a typical appointment, but he had my focused attention the minute he held up his hand to slow me down.
Fast forward 7 months: I had a FAFSA & scholarship appointment with Donald on October 3, 2016. We renewed his FAFSA for the 2017/2018 school year and applied for scholarships through the CC Scholarship  portal. He currently has a 4.0 GPA and loves being a student. He would like to graduate with his Associate’s in Auto Tech and go on to get an additional degree in business. He hopes to run his own automotive shop someday. In the past seven months he has become a successful college student, got a full-time job, got married, and became a dad to a baby girl, Natalya Rose. He brought his wife, Juanita, to his appointment today – she wants to get her GED and asked if she could “join” EOC. I gladly handed her an application and asked her what programs she was interested in…without rushing her. Both Juanita & Donald said that they want Natalya to grow up with college educated parents.

April Wyoming EOC Student of the Month

Charlotte Bohren is the Wyoming EOC student of the Month for April.  Sheridan EOC coordinator, Katherine writes: I met Charlotte back in Feb 2014 at the WIC office as I was just getting a good start in EOC.  She is a veteran and has two children, then ages 1 & 6.  She told me that day that “Yeah, I should go back to school.”  She had an Associate Degree (General Studies) from Sheridan College and had taken some time off from school.  We worked together to get her FAFSA done and with help from the University of Wyoming Outreach coordinator here, she was enrolled in summer session a few months later.  She is now completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice through University of Wyoming.   I visited with her several times, especially the first year or so as most of her classes were in the building where my office is.  She never forgot to remind me that “I would not have done this IF it weren’t for you.”  When I called her back in March to tell her the new FAFSA changes and that I was available to help her renew her FAFSA, etc. I was thrilled to hear that she was going to graduate.  Today she, accompanied by her husband and 3-year old stopped by to get her picture taken and pick up her graduation gown.  The little guy really got a kick out of getting in the picture!  Her husband is so proud of her, and I didn’t miss the opportunity to do a little recruiting.  (He will be calling me when he is ready to finish college.)  Charlotte has truly been an inspiration to me and contributes much to why EOC is a rewarding job!

Wyoming EOC Participant of the Month-January

We are a little late on the January Student of the Month for Wyoming’s EOC program, but better late than never, right??

We are pleased to introduce Azhane Bufford, a senior at Pine Bluffs High School with a vision to someday change the world in positive ways.  Having moved from Denver, she has also done very well at PBHS.  Her first semester earned her a 3.4.  While Azhane has had some cards stacked against her, she has met every challenge put before her with courage and strength, a feat that few would have the ability to endure.  Moving to Wyoming brought new challenges for Azhane but she has taken them on with a passion and is succeeding every step of the way.  Despite moving to a new town this year, she stepped out of her comfort zone and has quite easily made many friends and won the hearts of the staff and the support of the community.    She shows immense kindness and concern for those she cares about at, something this world always needs more of!  Azhane has dreams to continue her basketball career at the next level and begin studies in the medical field.  She is unsure of where she is headed for college, but her future sure looks bright!  

February Wyoming EOC Student of the Month

Kerri Yellowbear is an enrolled member of the Northern Arapaho Tribe. She is the daughter of Byron & Jean Yellowbear. Both her immediate & extended family are carriers of the Tribe’s language, traditions, & ceremonies. “Kerri is a traditional young lady,” said TRIO Coordinator Hattie Penny, “and she is also a super fun person who people love to be around.”
Kerri (bottom row, left) participated in UW TRIO Talent Search while a student at St. Stephens Indian High School (where she graduated in 2007), & now participates in UW TRIO Education Opportunity Center (she is pictured at a recent EOC conference in Ethete).  “I am so excited to be accepted to the Institute of American Indian Arts!” said Yellowbear. She will began her film-making major at IAIA in January, 2016.