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.