CHADRON – Sara Tompkins is the Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for April. Tompkins said her parents are a key to her success and she is grateful they encourage her to reach her potential.
“They pushed me to meet my fullest capabilities just like Project Strive does now,” she said. “They didn’t graduate from college, so it’s their dream and mine that I earn my degree. They know I can do it. I’m determined.”
Tompkins said she never leaves the Project Strive/TRiO center without having all of her questions answered.
“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without them. They are always pushing me to do new, better things,” said. Tompkins who made the Dean’s List in December and is hoping to be on the President’s List in May.
She also credits Upward Bound, another TRiO program, with her success. She has participated in it every summer since eighth grade. She completed courses in Chinese, Spanish and English. In the English class taught by CSC professor Dr. Lee Miller, her essays were judged among the best in the class earning her trips to a national leadership conference in Chicago in 2013 and to Yellowstone National Park in 2014.
Upward Bound Director Maggie Smith-Bruehlman said Tompkins was the ultimate Upward Bound member, attending all quarterly meetings, submitting online assignments, and meeting with her academic adviser.
“She participated in every summer program with gusto. She always displayed a positive attitude and loved playing pranks on team leaders in the summer program. She has developed into a confident, goal-oriented and determined young woman who will undoubtedly secure a successful career at Chadron State College and beyond.” Smith-Bruehlman said.
Amanda Lewin, retention specialist with Project Strive/TRiO, said Tompkins attends all of the organization’s events and is involved in many campus activities. Tompkins has participated in the Rugby Club, the Native American Club and the Outdoor Club. She was hired as an Eagle Leader for New Student Orientation.
“She is not afraid of responsibility. But she’s is not all work, she loves to have a fun and enjoys a good prank. We’ve really enjoyed having Sara in the program and look forward to watching her grow,” Lewin said.
Project Strive/TRiO Director Jen Schaer invited Tompkins to speak at a conference in Kearney on National TRiO Day in late February. The audience included high school students enrolled in Upward Bound.
Tompkins said the opportunity got her out of her comfort zone and gave her the chance to improve her leadership and public speaking skills. She told the students that Upward Bound changed her life.
“It made me go from shy to confident, smart to intelligent, and a follower to a leader. Without Upward Bound I would not be the person I am today. I might not have even made it to college. Through the program I always thought ‘why me?’ They always seemed to always call on me to speak up or me to be a role model in some way. They saw something in me,” she said.
Giving back is a pattern in Tompkins’ goals.
She said she plans to earn a degree in either corrections or juvenile justice so she can make a difference and help people.
Being a first generation college student is an important topic for Tompkins.
She wrote in an essay for Upward Bound, “being a first generation student is like waiting in a line, really wanting something, but then becoming wracked with apprehension and anxiety about the person at the counter and how he or she will deliver the product or service.”
She chose CSC because of the small class sizes, the welcoming environment and scholarships she earned from the Susan Thompson Buffet Foundation and CSC.
“I like the one-on-one attention you can get here. Everybody knows everybody,” she said. “All my CJ instructors are awesome.”
—Tena L. Cook, Marketing Coordinator