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Photo by Natalie Sanchez / EOU student Ana Badillo-Juarez enjoys the view of Steelhead Falls on the Deschutes River. Badillo-Juarez is the first recipient of a new award for TRiO participants intended to help supplement costs associated with many outdoor activities.
LA GRANDE, Ore. August 10, 2016 – One local business owner is making it possible for more Eastern Oregon University students to experience the great outdoors.
Jim Whitbeck opened Blue Mountain Outfitters two years ago, and his downtown shop dedicated to outdoor lifestyles is making a difference for undergraduates in the university’s TRiO Student Support Services program.
Whitbeck partnered with TRiO and EOU’s Outdoor Adventure Program to create an award to supplement costs associated with many outdoor activities. The funds are awarded to one student per term and are merit based.
Working with the Outdoor Adventure Program was a natural fit for Whitbeck. Because the award is available to TRiO students exclusively, he hopes to bridge the gap for those who might otherwise be unable to afford taking a course or going on a weekend excursion.
Recipients can enroll in an outdoor course of their choice and/or attend weekend trips at an amount of no more than $250.
Ana Badillo-Juarez is the first student selected for the award. The elementary education major from Culver, Ore., is using the funds to continue her pursuit of a newfound zeal for outdoor recreation.
“Some people think it’s crazy that I had never been stand up paddle boarding, tent camping, kayaking and shooting, but it’s true,” Badillo-Juarez said.
Last fall during EOU’s outdoor-themed Week of Welcome (WOW), Badillo-Juarez had her first foray into these activities as she engaged with new students as a WOW leader.
“At first, I was really scared to step in the water and especially on a paddle board,” she recalled. “I never thought that I would enjoy my time out on the lake relaxing and enjoying the breeze.”
“After I was able to experience that, I started thinking about how I would be able to do those activities again because of the costs, but this award changed my life and will help me continue to explore nature,” she added. “There are no words to express how thankful I am to have such a great support system at EOU.”
Badillo-Juarez, center, with Jim Whitbeck, award sponsor and owner of Blue Mountain Outfitters, and Naomi Tuinstra, academic advising specialist for TRiO Student Support Services at Eastern Oregon University.
Badillo-Juarez was a student aid in University Advancement last year. Tim Seydel is the vice president for the department and also the executive director of the EOU Foundation. He is excited to collaborate on this and other funding opportunities that benefit students.
“We’re continually looking for new and innovative ways to help our students thrive in all aspects of their college career and I couldn’t be happier for Ana,” Seydel said. “Connecting our community, the university and our environment is a specific objective and we are making it happen with programs like this.”
The Outdoor Adventure Program partners with Student Services to introduce incoming students to opportunities. Creating and facilitating recreational and educational experiences that foster students’ physical, mental and emotional development is the aim throughout the year.
“The goal is to be an inclusive and diverse program that serves the needs of all EOU students,” said Michael Hatch, Outdoor Program coordinator. “This award is a fantastic opportunity to promote health and wellness on campus and beyond.”
TRiO is taking the same holistic approach to success. New to EOU last fall, the program is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education and the university anticipates serving 160 students each year of the grant, specifically first-generation and low-income. It also assists students with disabilities and those who are aging out of the foster care system, or are currently or have recently been homeless.
Michael Williams is the TRiO program director. He sees the collaborative effort of the new award as a means to increase opportunities for students to broaden their personal and academic horizons.
“It will help students make the most of their time at EOU,” Williams said. “The benefits of inspiring confidence in those who will be participating will spill over into the community, because they will get more involved. I am so honored that Blue Mountain Outfitters thought about our program and our students to benefit from the award.”
Naomi Tuinstra, academic advising specialist with TRiO, also believes the award will serve as a marker of success.
“TRiO is a program that serves all kinds of students pursuing higher education against many odds,” Tuinstra said. “This award is a reward for academic achievement, and recognizing the accomplishments of our students is an integral part of how this program is designed and why it works.”
Creating a university partner award is an opportunity Whitbeck hopes other downtown businesses will consider, too.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity to connect my business with the university through this unique offering that will impact a student in a meaningful way,” Whitbeck said. “The outdoors are often frequented by those with a certain kind of privilege, and I’d like to break beyond that.”
“It will also help us clarify the kind of impact we can have on the community and will increase engagement by local businesses with the university toward similar ends,” he added.
From the Outdoor Program perspective, Hatch agrees.
“This partnership is a great example of how EOU and local businesses can coordinate to promote enriching experiences and foster activities and courses that develop students cognitive and social skills as well instill a sense of place and increase their environmental awareness,” he said. “This award expands students’ overall awareness and engagement in our community and appreciation for the natural world.”
Specifics of the award will be determined on an individual basis depending on the student’s interest, courses and trip availability.
For more information visit www.eou.edu/trio and www.eou.edu/outdoor.
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