No one ever said college was easy. And though for some, the challenges within higher education may appear insurmountable, Southern Utah University’s Student Support Services prove otherwise everyday, touting countless success stories of students who have overcome intimidating financial struggles, disabilities and adverse circumstance to earn a college diploma.
The most notable of these success stories were highlighted at the annual TRiO Award Ceremony, where students who have overcome intimidating challenges to successfully perform in the academic world are recognized and rewarded.
During the award ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, each recipient recounted his or her path to and through SUU. Student Support Services Executive Director Lynne Brown says this is an event that people across campus anticipate each year, as a showcase of all the good that can be accomplished by SUU’s dedicated faculty, mentors and tutors through the Student Support Center.
More importantly, the annual award ceremony individually recognizes individuals who have overcome much to succeed as Thunderbird students. Though their stories are all very different, each of these four students has worked hard to succeed and deserve accolades from the entire campus community.
Inspired by former Thunderbird Frank Behunin, who embodied the spirit and dedication Student Support Services encourages within their students, Brown said, above all, the Frank Behunin Recognition was created to identify a student of resilience and hard work. According to Brown, Carly Christensen, a senior early childhood development major, “embodies all this and more.”
The Frank Behunin Recognition goes to just one student within the Student Support program each year.
Throughout her life, Christensen has struggled with school. She explains, “I didn’t like it and I wasn’t good at it.” Needless to say, the prospect of college was not exciting, but Christensen knew it was necessary.
Turns out, all Christensen needed was a little support. She expresses her gratitude to have been directed to the Student Support Center and adds, “If it weren’t for Student Support, I would definitely not be graduating this May.”
Thanks to the tutors and faculty who volunteer through Student Support Services, Christensen not only learned to appreciate school but also to excel as a student. She leaves this May a changed person – confident and excited about her future as a college graduate.
When Jacob Malie, a junior biology major, was only 12 years old, his parents pulled him out of public school with the intention to homeschool he and his siblings. This, unfortunately, never happened. And though he says he did develop a strong work ethic during this time, Malie said he always knew he wanted to go back to school.
Though he was fearful his lack of formal education may limit his academic success, Malie pushed through, eventually earned his GED and then enrolled in classes at SUU.
Malie credits his success to his family, teachers and Student Support Services who directly addressed his fears of failure and helped him persevere. Student Support also provided guidance as Malie developed new study habits and learned how to best manage his time as a student.
After losing her job as part of a failed business venture and with five children to support, Amber Dalton quickly realized the importance of education and determined that never again would she place she and her family in the position they were in – jobless and without the proper qualifications.
Though intimidating – given the amount of time she had been away from school – Dalton jumped into college at full speed, and with the help of Student Support, she has found success and is now a senior nursing major at SUU.
Though it wasn’t always easy being both a student and a mother, Dalton is proud of the example she has set for her children and cheered by the opportunities that have come through her college experience.
Looking back, she recalls, “Many nights, I sat at my kitchen table doing homework alongside my children – they learned right along with me how important an education really is.”
“I will forever be thankful towards Student Support Services,” Dalton said.
A widow for the past fifteen years, Linda Balduck raised two boys alone and has been pursuing an education for the past five years at SUU. But when Balduck suddenly lost her job at a company that closed without notice, she was left wondering how she would continue to pay for college. Stressed and alone, Balduck found relief in Student Support Services who helped her identify and pursue opportunities for financial support to continue her education.
Now a senior science and elementary education major, Balduck expresses her gratitude to the “thoughtful, caring people in Student Support who were always willing to help when needed.”
According to the Student Support Center website, SUU’s Student Support Services is funded by a grant from the US Department of Education to serve students who meet one of the following criteria:
• First-generation in college (neither parent has a Bachelor’s degree)
• Students who have lower family incomes
• Students who use English as a second language and are permanent residents of the USA
• Students with a documented disability
Above all, the Center seeks to create a welcoming and caring environment where students are given the time and attention they need to resolve problems and make important life decisions.