April 30, 2009
Paying it Forward
Whitworth's first Act Six graduate in education returns to Tacoma to teach at alma mater
Since leaving Whitworth in 2007 as the university’s first Act Six graduate in education, Lauren Thompson has returned to her hometown to encourage other students to surmount the obstacles standing between them and a college education.
Thompson, who graduated from Tacoma's Henry Foss High School in 2003, now teaches at her alma mater, where she leads a college prep program for sophomores and juniors. The program, called College Bound, is designed for low-income and first-generation students. It allows Thompson to focus on a group of 30 students, rather than teach several classes a day, and through it she works to help equip them with the skills necessary to make it to college.
"Because of the demographic of the students, I have faced some interesting challenges," Thompson says. "At least once every two months one of my kids moves out of their current home and family situation and into another."
Thompson says she's amazed by her students' perseverance and resiliency in the face of daunting challenges. For instance, one of her students holds two jobs, gets good grades and finds the time to help at home and volunteer in the community.
"I am truly blessed that the Lord has chosen me to be a stable influence in the lives of these future leaders," she says.
In addition to receiving the Act Six scholarship, Thompson received the Washington Mutual Future Teachers of Color scholarship and was one of sixteen recipients of the Gates Achiever Scholarship during her time at Whitworth. She also was involved in numerous extracurricular activities, including serving as president and secretary of the Black Student Union, as a resident assistant in Warren Hall, as a member of the Multicultural Student Leaders Club, and as diversity-events coordinator for the Whitworth Admissions Office. In addition, she tutored in the education department and worked for the daycare center at Whitworth Presbyterian Church.
Thompson is engaged to Eli Taylor, and after they get married, in July, she plans to move to Baton Rouge, La., where she will teach at an elementary school. She hopes to open a preschool there as well.
"Act Six gave me a great support system that I know will continue to encourage me as I pursue my dreams," Thompson says. "This support system enables me to venture outside of my comfort zone to accomplish things that weren’t on my radar before I became part of Act Six."
Launched in 2002 by the Northwest Leadership Foundation (NLF) in Tacoma, Act Six seeks to develop urban leaders to be agents of transformation on campus and in their home communities. Since the program's inception, six cadres of ethnically diverse and mostly first-generation, low-income Act Six scholars from urban Tacoma and Seattle have enrolled at Whitworth.
"Our scholars are having a profound impact through their leadership on campus, and as they begin to graduate we look forward to their impact in the community," says Tim Herron, founder and national director of Act Six. "This is what we envisioned when we launched Act Six and what we are now seeing replicated around the state and nation."
Whitworth University launched the first Act Six affiliate, in 2002, and has since supported the establishment of new affiliates in Alaska, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington. In fall 2009, Whitworth will welcome its seventh cadre of scholars, including its first group of students from Spokane. To date, 91 percent of the scholars in the first two cadres have graduated. Overall, 90 percent of the 67 scholars originally selected for the program have graduated or are still enrolled – reflecting graduation and retention rates that far exceed national averages. Act Six scholars have been elected student-body presidents two of the past three years at Whitworth and have been involved in numerous other leadership roles on and off campus.
Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). The university, which has an enrollment of 2,600 students, offers 53 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
Emily Proffitt, public information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-4703 or firstname.lastname@example.org.