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Whitworth students inspiring others to pursue college

Fri., Jan. 13, 2012, midnight

Many high school kids dream of college, but not all students know how to get there – or whether it’s even a possibility for them.

Four Whitworth University students decided they wanted to help make the college connection for students living in Spokane’s most impoverished ZIP code.

The result is a three-day program at Whitworth dubbed BELIEF – Because Every Life Is Empowering the Future – that kicked off Thursday. It’s designed to give students the tools they need to continue their education after high school.

“I’m so excited to be here,” said Jacolby Rivers, one of 20 students taking part in the event, all from Rogers High School. “Just being around more inspiring people, being with people who will get our mind on college – it will make me want to go to college more.”

The students will stay on campus through Saturday to get a taste of university life. That’s perfect for Kelly Trebesch, a Rogers High senior: “I really want to go here, and I wanted to see how friendly the people are.”

Throughout the weekend, the high school students will attend workshops that focus on leadership; what colleges look for in a student; breaking stereotypes; and the “cycle of liberation.” In addition, there will be practical advice on making higher-ed an attainable goal, such as a presentation on financial aid.

“We wanted to focus on empowerment and creating hope,” said Molly Hough, a Whitworth University junior who helped coordinate the event.

A basketball game, a comedian and games are also on the agenda to mix in some fun.

On the final day, the students’ legal guardians are invited to the campus. “We will help them understand how to encourage the kids to go to school,” Hough said, as well as go over the process of applying for and receiving financial aid.

Admissions counselors from Whitworth will be available to answer students’ questions about applying to the north Spokane school, but the goal of the program isn’t to promote Whitworth as a college choice, spokeswoman Emily Proffitt said in an email.

“Their goals are to give a holistic model of the college experience, to build relationships between higher ed and high school students, to help students realize their potential and that college is an attainable goal, to provide them with the tools needed to make them successful in their goal of a college education, and to fight the opportunity gap,” she said.

The Rogers students who arrived Thursday were filled with energy, and excited for their opportunity. Their hosts were equally thrilled.

“There’s a stigma not only in Hillyard and Rogers that they are not even expected to go to college,” Hough said. “We wanted to remove that stigma and empower them. We wanted them to know that their ZIP code does not determine where and if they go to college.”

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