Huntington, Ind.— Huntington College sophomore Dustin Smith, a mathematics major from Rensselaer, Ind., was recently honored at the 2002 “Realizing the Dream” banquet in Indianapolis. Along with 31 other outstanding first-generation college students, Smith was given the opportunity to recognize a teacher who played an important role in encouraging him to be academically successful and to pursue a college education. Smith chose his Kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Karen Watt from Monnett Elementary School in Rensselaer.
“I chose Mrs. Watt because I loved going to her class,” said Smith. “I was very shy as a youth and she created an atmosphere in the classroom that made it easy for me to be comfortable and to learn. Her personality coupled with her teaching ability got me off to a great start in school. The success that was initiated back in kindergarten did not fade throughout my life.”
“Realizing the Dream” is a program that honors first-generation students who have excelled not only academically but also in leadership and campus activities in their freshman year at Indiana colleges. A grant to the Independent Colleges of Indiana from the Lilly Endowment makes “Realizing the Dream” able to contribute to the general scholarship fund of each participating campus in the name of the student being honored.
The program acknowledges the role that parents and teachers play in determining the direction a student takes as he or she progresses through school. After their individual college chooses each student, they get the opportunity to name a teacher in elementary or secondary school that most influenced them to attend college. A $500 professional development award is given to each of these teachers in appreciation of the good they have done in a student’s life.
“I was really excited that this award gave me an opportunity to recognize someone I felt deserved recognition,” said Smith in reflection about the “Realizing the Dream” program.
Attending the banquet in addition to the students, parents and teachers were special guests, presidents of the colleges and the campus coordinators of the “Realizing the Dream” program. The keynote speaker at this year’s dinner was a first-generation graduate of the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, The Honorable John N. Hostettler. Hostettler is the representative for Indiana’s 8th Congressional District.
Dr. Louis C. Gatto, director of the program, praised the accomplishments of those honored in past years. According to Dr. Gatto, “Recently completed studies for the previous classes reveal a 95% graduation rate, which is approximately double the national collegiate graduation rate. There is no better incentive than this success story to encourage college attendance by others who do not have the benefit of a family college tradition.”
Huntington College is a comprehensive Christian college of the liberal arts offering graduate and undergraduate programs in more than 60 academic concentrations. US News & World Report ranks Huntington among the Top 10 comprehensive colleges in the Midwest. Founded in 1897 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Huntington College is located on a contemporary, lakeside campus in Huntington, Indiana.
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