ST. GEORGE, Utah — The Utah Education Network recently honored Sylvia Bradshaw, director of sponsored programs at Dixie State University, as one of Utah’s American Graduate Champions.
The recognition honors individuals who demonstrate a commitment to helping others reach their educational goals. Bradshaw did exactly this when she inspired the Utah Higher Education Staff Association to adopt the BFF initiative to Bring a Friend to Finish —Return, Learn, and Earn.
“It is an absolute honor to champion the Bring a Friend to Finish initiative,” Bradshaw said. “I am humbled to work among amazing and gracious people within the Utah System of Higher Education who want to encourage and support their friends and associates to complete their degrees.”
Last academic year while she was serving as the UHESA president, Bradshaw shared how she and friend Cristina Perez made a pact in 2009 to return to school together. At the time, Bradshaw was working as a part-time math secretary at Dixie State and introduced Perez to Jonathan Morrell, Director of TRiO Student Support Services. As a single mother of six and a nontraditional, first-generation student, Perez qualified for the support services program to which she credits her educational success.
“Jonathan Morrell was amazing. He helped create a graduation plan so I knew what I had to do each semester to graduate,” Perez said. “They taught me study skills and wouldn’t let me ever give up.”
Perez excelled at Dixie State and went on to invite her sister to return to school. The sisters finished college together and walked alongside one another at graduation. Since then, several of their children and family members have enrolled in institutions of higher education.
“The program is propelled by the success story of Cristina Perez,” Bradshaw said. “She is a champion mother first and foremost. Seeing her family follow in her educational footsteps reflects the generational payoff of her persistence and dedication.”
UHESA is continuing to encourage employees at all of Utah’s public colleges and universities to help friends return to college and earn degrees — a charge Dixie State President Richard “Biff” Williams is taking seriously. Both he and his wife, Kristin, have brought friends to Dixie State to finish their degrees.
“Education can change the course of individuals’ lives,” President Williams said. “By supporting and encouraging our friends, each one of us can help others accomplish their educational goals and realize their career dreams.”
The Utah’s American Graduate Champion program connects individuals to resources that support academic and career success and demonstrates that there are many pathways to accomplishing goals. The program is part of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s national project American Graduate, which partners public television and radio stations with at-risk schools to improve high school graduation rates.