The Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month award recognizes outstanding students who are members of the organization. Each month, a participating student is selected for the award based upon her or his work in Project Strive/TRiO and other activities on campus or in the community. Award winners will receive a plaque from Project Strive and have their photo placed in the “Project Strive/TRiO 2014-15 Student of the Month” Achievement Recognition board. The board, located in the Strive Learning Center, is themed "Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible."
Second generation CSC student and social work major Ben O’Banion of Boulder, Colorado, has been named the Project Strive TRiO Student of the Month for October.
His mother, Dawn Bowcott-King, was inducted into the CSC Hall of Fame in 2013 in honor of her distance running accomplishments in the mid-1980s. She was also one of the college’s first graduates of the Social Work program. “She told me I could look at other colleges, but that I was going to come to Chadron. I’m glad I did. This is a good school,” he said.
In his second year as a mentor in the CSC Project Strive TRiO program, O’Banion reminds his group of six freshmen about upcoming events such as budgeting, team building and resume workshops, among other responsibilities. “TRiO has given me the motivation to do well on tests and opened up a job opportunity for me mentoring six freshmen. The staff is always there for me,” he said.
He was one of eight mentors who attended a training workshop in Rapid City, South Dakota, last year. He has been pleased to see the confidence levels of his mentoring cohort members increase as they become more involved. “This is exactly what I want to do. I want to help people. I’m born to do this. A lot of my friends come to me for advice,” he said.
Project Strive TRiO director Jen Schaer said O’Banion is a valuable member of the organization, willing to help in any capacity and especially skilled at getting others involved. O’Banion’s work ethic is evident by his schedule when he returns home for breaks. He has a dog walking job, volunteers as a mentor at the Chase House, a home for troubled youth, and is on the grounds crew at the Eldorado Swimming Pool.
Sonja Dressel, counselor with Project Strive TRiO, said O’Banion has an amazing attitude. “He is always positive about whatever he is learning in class or through outside of school activities. Ben also has big heart and genuinely cares about people around him. We are very lucky to have him as a mentor to other Project Strive students,” she said.
O’Banion also has a passion for bowling that has led him to bowl competitively and practice regularly with a coach when he returns to Colorado for semester breaks. In Rapid City last year, he won a tournament of 47 bowlers, averaging above 180 in 12 games. He is excited to be approaching the average score of 190 needed to qualify for consideration to join the Pro Bowling Tour.
“I come from a long line of O’Banion bowlers,” he said, adding that he bowled a 246 in the summer of 2013 and the summer of 2014. His goal is to be a pro bowler on TV within three years. “If I don’t qualify for the tour, I’ll coach kids. There’s a lot more to bowling than people realize. When the ball isn’t reacting like you want, you change your strategy. There’s gravity, physics, geometry, form and footwork to consider. When I’m up there for those two seconds, everything else goes away,” he said.
Project Strive/TRiO Student of the Month for October, Amanda Lunkwitz of Brady, Nebraska, has been a student athletic trainer for two years as well as a resident adviser (RA) at Chadron State College.Lunkwitz attended Mid-Plains Community College in North Platte, Nebraska, for one year before transferring to Chadron State. Her older brother lives in Texas. Her mother is a nurse and her father is a truck driver.
During her time as an RA in the residence halls, her naturally friendly nature was an asset to her. “It’s important to be open to people, smile and say, ‘Hi.’ You never know what someone’s going through,” she said.
The year Lunkwitz was both a trainer and an RA was tough, she said. Travel is a major part of her job as a student trainer with some of the bus rides lasting between 13 and 20 hours, she said. “We eat at a lot of buffets. You get to know the coaches, staff and players. You can see different states if you’re awake. I call it ‘sleep’ in quotes because you really can’t get comfortable or relax and you don’t wake up refreshed,” she said. “I’ve seen the hours I will be working and what the work entails,” she said.
Don Watt, CSC’s certified athletic trainer, said Lunkwitz knows her job and approaches it with professionalism. “She sees when something needs to be done and does it,” he said.
In addition to working with Watt, Lunkwitz said she has learned a lot from graduate student Theodore “T.L.” Espinoza, also a certified athletic trainer. “He has taught us how to assess an injury and decide on treatment,” she said. Espinoza said Lunkwitz is dedicated to her work and her work ethic. “She is dependable and shows great initiative in her job. Amanda is always eager to learn and improve her skills as a student athletic trainer, making my job extremely easy. She has made this year in football a real pleasure as I know I can always depend on her,” Espinoza said.
In addition to being an RA and a trainer, Lunkwitz qualified as a lifeguard. She hadn’t taken swimming classes before college but with encouragement, she met the requirements needed to become a lifeguard. This skill, along with others she acquired during her internships, will serve her well as she pursues a career in athletic training following her December 2015 graduation from CSC. She also hopes to eventually pursue a master’s degree in athletic training. “It’s been a good experience. A lot of friends have helped me get this far. I’m ready to walk across that stage,” she said.
Jen Schaer, Project Strive/TRiO director, said when Lunkwitz came to her concerned about swimming and lifeguarding, she knew could assist her based on 15 years teaching swimming lessons. “Having had years of experience as a lifeguard, this was a great way for me to give back and share a passion in a different area. It was a great opportunity for me to help a student achieve success in another area of their life,” Schaer said. While Lunkwitz was enrolled in Donna Ritzen’s swimming class, she and Schaer spent hours together so Lunkwitz could perfect various swimming strokes. “Everything she does, she takes seriously. She’s not afraid to work, which is a great quality,” Schaer said. After completing the CSC swimming course in the spring of 2015, Lunkwitz opted to take an additional test to qualify as a lifeguard and worked at the Chadron State Park swimming pool during the summer.
With the demands of school and work, Lunkwitz is grateful for Project Strive TRiO. “The Project Strive TRiO staff is great. They organize fun activities to take your mind off school. When you’ve had a rough day, they’re always there to listen, lend an ear and give you support. I’ve borrowed textbooks from them and I always enjoy going there,” she said.
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