BHSU Make a Difference Initiative recipient to launch mentor program

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, April 16, 2015/Categories: 2015









           Black Hills State University student Shenae LaCroix, exercise science major from Newcastle, Wyo., was awarded the first-ever BHSU Make a Difference Initiative Scholarship, a $2,500 scholarship that encourages recipients to develop a sustainable community project. LaCroix will launch YJ Friends, a mentoring program for college-aged community members with special needs.




Thanks to a recent $1 million donation to Black Hills State University, student Shenae LaCroix is ready to make an impact on her community and receive a scholarship to assist financially in completing her degree.

LaCroix, an exercise science major from Newcastle, Wyo., was awarded the first-ever BHSU Make a Difference Initiative, a new scholarship program that encourages students to give back to the community.

Dr. James Hess, professor of psychology and chair of the School of Behavioral Sciences at BHSU, pledged $1 million to BHSU to establish the School of Behavioral Sciences Make a Difference Initiative. In exchange for scholarship funds, students plan and execute a sustainable community project.

LaCroix was awarded $2,500 in scholarship funds and will receive a $2,500 match to implement her community project, a mentoring program for college-aged students with special needs.

Called YJ (Yellow Jacket) Friends, the program will match BHSU student volunteers, or mentors, with a non-college person with special needs. LaCroix said the mentoring program will allow community members with special needs an opportunity to have that college experience they might not otherwise get.

YJ Friends will allow mentees to attend campus events, hold craft nights and take community field trips.

"I want the BHSU student to become that friend they would have made in college," LaCroix said.

Dr. Chery Anagnopoulos, professor of psychology at BHSU and a Make a Difference committee member, said LaCroix is an outstanding student with a long history of volunteerism, which made her stand out in her application.

LaCroix currently volunteers with the Special Olympics program in the state and said that special needs students are a niche that the community often forgets to support. Her involvement with another mentoring program in Rapid City gave her the idea to start one in Spearfish.

"The spirit of this scholarship award is to assist students who can make a difference as they move forward beyond the university," Anagnopoulos said. "This unique scholarship allows highly motivated students who want to be a difference maker in their communities to do so. We believe this award gives the student recipient an opportunity to network within the community, to create connections between the community and University students, and to bring something beneficial to the community.

LaCroix plans to meet with the Northern Hills Training Center before the end of the semester, and spend her summer meeting with community organizations and businesses to plan events for YJ Friends and recruiting student volunteers.

Hess said that LaCroix&rsquos project is the perfect opportunity to launch the Make a Difference Initiative and show students and the community the success the Make A Difference Initiative will have on the University and the entire Spearfish community.

"Spearfish is our home," LaCroix said. "Getting involved helps us meet people and make connections that might not happen if we just stay on campus. Volunteering teaches us new things, about our community and also about ourselves."

The Make a Difference Initiative will continue to award students with future scholarships. Those interested in making a donation to the initiative can contact BHSU University Advancement at 605-642-6385 or donate online at

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