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'I Just Needed a Win'

Student Success Center Provides a Needed Spark

By Megan Jonas

Cooper Strout '17 grabs his phone and brings up an image that he's saved for over six years. It's a side-by-side comparison of him and his father, Steve. "That's us at the same age," he says. "Isn't that crazy?"

He knows he and his dad shared a resemblance and "the same grit and persistence," but there's a lot he doesn't know, and never will. Just as Strout began his junior year at Whitworth, his father died of early onset dementia – a disease that had slowly robbed him of his personality and abilities.

"It was awful," Strout says. "The year that followed, I was just losing it."

Strout, a business administration major, says that's when academics became tougher. "My dad had just died. My grades were slipping big time, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to graduate," he says. "I had these two really difficult things in conjunction, and I started cracking, essentially."

A professor soon took notice. "He pulled me aside and asked if I was doing OK," Strout says. When Strout responded with tears, the professor referred him to Whitworth's Student Success Center, which coordinates care and resources for students in need, and supports them through relationships with staff and with trained students who serve as peer coaches.

Strout began meeting regularly with Rebecca Blackburn, assistant director of Student Success. Together with Blackburn, Strout processed his personal issues and set goals for school.

"If you're struggling, it's not shameful to ask for help," he says. "The Student Success Center put me on a good track of things I could work on and could control."

Blackburn helped him create strategies for staying organized and completing his schoolwork on time – "stuff that I was going to learn ultimately, but I needed that spark," he says, snapping his fingers.

When Strout met his first goal of becoming an analyst for the Whitworth Student Investment Group that spring, he knew he was making progress. "I just needed a win," he says.

Strout not only graduated, but landed a job as a financial analyst and married his college girlfriend. Although he is still working through issues, he knows he can use the tools he gained from Student Success. "Life," he says, "gets better every single day."

Cooper's story appears in the fall 2018 issue of Whitworth Today magazine, available here.