BHSU-RC student honored for accomplishments and persistence

Author: BHSU Communications/Friday, May 13, 2016/Categories: 2016

Colton Jacobs, a BHSU-RC student who was recently honored with the BHSU-RC Director's Award for Academic Achievement, credits the GEAR UP program for his early academic success and preparing him for college.

Black Hills State University - Rapid City (BHSU-RC) student Colton Jacobs received the Director's Award for Academic Achievement this spring.  

Colton, who is pursuing a degree in business administration at BHSU-RC, is a testament to the power of persistence and optimism despite dealing with a number of significant personal and family obstacles. Colton credits the GEAR UP program, which he attended throughout his high school years, as a major factor for his success. GEAR UP is an acronym for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, a federal program that is administered in more than 40 states.

The BHSU-RC Director's Award for Academic Achievement honors a student who has overcome significant barriers to obtaining an education and is achieving success in their field of study. Although he doesn't like to dwell on the negative, there's no denying that Colton has overcome more challenges than most people will meet in a lifetime. Issues like homelessness, poverty, depression, parents with alcohol and drug addictions, his best friend committing suicide, and others.

Colton, who has shown an amazing level of resilience, works for the BHSU-RC technical assistance office in addition to taking a full load of university classes. He attributes his ongoing academic and personal success to GEAR UP and the caring people who were in the right place at the right time that inspired him and challenged him to succeed.

"GEAR UP is the reason I pushed myself," Colton says. "It was a positive environment. Some things were overwhelmingly negative for me at that time."

Colton was a reluctant to say the least GEAR UP attendee the first year. He didn't want to go (mostly due to the uncertainty and change) but his mother took him anyway.

"I decided to give it a shot and eventually I liked it. After I went home for a while, I realized how many positive influences were in place at GEAR UP," Colton said.

He noted that RAs (resident assistants) had similar home life stories and he connected with them. "They just treated me normal." He appreciated their positive outlook and goals.

GEAR UP was especially helpful in the development of Colton's math skills that he had not mastered at school. He was an excellent reader-even though he didn't learn to read until the second grade. By fourth grade he was reading at an advanced level.

When he found out he was accepted at BHSU-RC just as he was finishing high school, Colton was thrilled and says he had a hard time believing it was actually true.

"I knew I was going in the right direction. I was on a good boat and I felt good about it," Colton said.

Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr., BHSU president who presented Colton with his BHSU-RC award, says that it's these kinds of stories that spurred BHSU to take on the administration of the GEAR UP program.

"I commend Colton for his achievements. He's truly an amazing student and I see a great future for him," Jackson said. "GEAR UP is here [at BHSU] for the students. It's for Colton, and the many other students with dreams, dreams that start with earning a college degree. That's why it's so important to have the GEAR UP program. It's all about finding ways to encourage students to earn a college degree."  

Jackson notes that BHSU has a strong legacy of providing educational opportunities for American Indian students, has exceptional educational outreach and grants administration experience and is committed to the mission of GEAR UP.  The faculty at BHSU and the new staff that have been hired to lead the program at BHSU are dedicated to developing and implementing strategies that will increase the number of low income students, many of them Native American students, who will enroll at a university and graduate with a degree.

Colton returned to GEAR UP as an employee-his title was office assistant but he says he did a little bit of everything.

"I was very energetic and had a good work ethic. I wanted to pay back GEAR UP for letting me attend and giving me a shot," Colton said. "They appreciated me and that made me feel good. Getting positive feedback was a good change."

"I want kids on the reservation to know that no matter how bad it gets, you can still push on your own and you are not destined to fail. I never really had a good role model growing up. At GEAR UP, I did. I wanted to be like them," Colton said.

As Colton gets closer to earning his degree, he's considering options for his future. His eyes light up as he talks about some of what he calls his "crazy dreams" and career possibilities which all have a common thread to improve the lives of others in his hometown on the reservation. Right now he's considering many options including the opportunity to collaborate with his father on a tourism business, finding ways to utilize more solar power, creating scholarships for students, inspiring others through as an author, employing students, and even being a motivational speaker.

"I want to motivate people. I want them to realize that they can do it," Colton says. "No matter what's going on in your life, keep your dreams and you can do it. It's possible."

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