Three FHSU students selected to attend conference hosted by former President Clinton

Three Fort Hays State University students with a plan to help first-generation college students stay in school will join approximately 1,000 other students from around the world to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University from April 1 to April 3 at San Diego State University. The conference will be hosted by former President Bill Clinton.

Andrew Dempewolf, Oberlin junior, Tyler Thompson, Derby junior, and Jessica Tormey, Derby junior, all members of FHSU's Student Government Association, submitted a "Commitment to Action" to the CGIU after receiving information from Dr. Mark Bannister, dean of the College of Business and Leadership, who suggested that SGA participate in some way.

The trio's "Commitment to Action" focuses on creating a support network for first-generation college students, known as the First Generation College Student Leadership Network. The network would be made up of current college students, FHSU professionals, and educators and support personnel from across Kansas.

"The 'Commitment to Action' is a way for students to help solve a problem plaguing higher education across the country, asking ourselves how we can help our peers be successful," said Thompson. "First-generation college students are much less likely to complete a college degree. Typically, this is attributed to students not having the support base at home to help prepare them for college life. Our commitment asks students, staff and administrators to collaborate to create a flexible support system in our campus community.

"If our model works, we believe it can be extended to other institutions in the Regents system and across the nation to address the problem on a larger scale," he said.

Tormey said social networking, traditional meetings and a mentor program would be used to help the students succeed.

"It would be a 21st-century support program that involves Student Affairs, Diversity Affairs and Financial Aid," she said.

Thompson said that their goal is to improve retention and persistence among first-generation college students.

The idea for the Network resulted from being orientation assistants, said Tormey.

"The incoming freshmen have so many tools at their disposal to make sure they succeed in college," she said.  "We feel that if they are given tools that will help and encourage them to succeed, the retention numbers would increase.  Every student deserves the opportunity to be educated, and we feel that this program will make that opportunity more realistic."

Although the CGIU schedule is not yet final, Dempewolf, Thompson and Tormey said they are looking forward to what is expected to occur.

All three students noted President Clinton's keynote address as one of the things they most look forward to.

"President Clinton's keynote will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us to hear directly from a former president," Thompson said.

A community service project is expected on the last day of the conference, and the group may meet Clinton there.

"Coming from a small, rural town myself, I admire President Clinton's rise in the political world," said Dempewolf. "Although I disagree with some of his policies, his work after leaving office has been admirable."

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