BHSU student launches successful mentoring program through BHSU Make a Difference Initiative

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, September 24, 2015/Categories: 2015








           Black Hills State University student Shenae LaCroix, exercise science major from Newcastle, Wyo., started the mentoring program YJ (Yellow Jacket) Friends after receiving the first-ever Make a Difference Scholarship. The Make a Difference Scholarship is a scholarship program that in exchange for scholarship funds, students are encouraged to give back to the community.



Black Hills State University student Shenae LaCroix is making quite the difference on campus and in Spearfish with a new mentoring program she created through the BHSU Make a Difference Initiative.

The BHSU exercise science major from Newcastle, Wyo., was awarded the first-ever Make a Difference Initiative, a scholarship program that along with scholarship funds, students are encouraged to give back to the community.  

LaCroix started YJ (Yellow Jacket) Friends, a mentoring program that matches BHSU student volunteers, or mentors, with a non-college person with special needs. The program allows community members with special needs an opportunity to have a college experience they might not otherwise get.

YJ Friends held its inaugural group activity earlier this month at the Northern Hills Training Center, with mentors and mentees participating in a variety of outdoor games and activities.

Currently, 14 mentors participate in YJ Friends. LaCroix expects that number to grow over the next year and said she already has students on a waiting list for the program.

"I&rsquom really excited about this program and it&rsquos been fun to get started," LaCroix said. "Everyone had a ball at the first event. They were excited to have us there."

LaCroix began working on YJ Friends in April, and spent her summer corresponding with the Northern Hills Training Center, setting up mentorships and activities. LaCroix has an entire semester of activities planned for YJ Friends, including  Yellow Jacket athletic games, a movie night, cookie decorating and a Halloween party complete with costumes and a visit to the pumpkin patch and corn maze.

LaCroix has a history of volunteering she&rsquos been actively involved in Special Olympics over the years, coaching basketball, which spurred her interest in applying for the Make a Difference Initiative and starting an on campus mentoring program.

"You learn so much from the process. It&rsquos a great opportunity," LaCroix said. "It&rsquos fun to see how many people you can help and all those connections you can make. I was very lucky to receive this scholarship."

LaCroix also serves as the vice president of the Health Science Student Organization at BHSU, and is a representative for her residence hall. She is a member of the Yellow Jacket Triathlon team and serves as the Student Athletic Advisory Committee representative for the team.  

LaCroix&rsquos vast involvement reflected on her work in the Make a Difference Initiative. She was dedicated in preparing the program, said Sandy Klarenbeek, instructor of health education at BHSU and a Make a Difference Imitative committee member.

"She really earned it and worked hard to launch this mentoring program. She&rsquos a go-getter," Klarenbeek said.

Klarenbeek encourages students to begin the application process for the 2016 Make a Difference Initiative, which will be awarded in spring 2016.

"I hope everyone will see the Make a Difference scholarship, apply and come up with another project to benefit our community," LaCroix added. "And with YJ Friends, I hope everyone creates a friendship and just has a whole lot of fun with this program."

Those interested in mentoring in YJ Friends can message BHSU YJ Friends on Facebook or email LaCroix at

To contribute to the Make a Difference Initiative, contact BHSU University Advancement at (605) 642-6385 or donate online at

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