From the work of Kathy Leese, ’20; Renee Kennedy, ’18, and Irene Bilal-Engle, ’19, STRENGTH, the club for non-traditional students, was formed during the fall semester.
“[We] got acquainted and started talking about the need for a non-traditional student organization that would be a group that would support non-traditional students on campus, welcome new non-traditional students and be a bridge with the traditional students,” Leese said.
According to Leese, STRENGTH is an acronym “that represents the fact that non-traditional students have often overcome a lot of odds to go back for their degree. We feel the name of our group represents what we see in our students, which is determination, hard work [and] a desire not only to earn a degree, but to do it with honors and to do it from a place of strength.”
Although the group was created for Wittenberg’s non-traditional students, the club is open to any student.
“We are there to support all of the students, whether they are traditional or non-traditional,” Leese said. “We enjoy encouraging all students and seeing that they achieve their goals. We want everyone who comes here to feel like they are part of the Witt community.”
The club took over a year to form, as the group struggled to find the right people to talk with to get the organization rolling.
“The paperwork was not difficult, but it was learning where to go and who to talk to that was more challenging,” Leese said.
STRENGTH spoke with both Wittenberg President Michael Frandsen and Dean of Students Casey Gill to figure out the path they needed to take to become an official Wittenberg organization.
“We had to follow the same procedure as any other student group and had to prepare a constitution and other materials [to] turn it into the proper officials,” Leese said. “Earlier this year, we were excited to learn that Student Senate approved our organization as an official Witt recognized group.”
Non-traditional students have faced a few setbacks on Wittenberg’s campus, but have begun to conquer them this past academic year.
“For example, this fall was the first time that non-traditional students were able to get a mailbox in the Student Center,” Leese said. “It took time to figure out that we can stay on campus in bad weather and not risk trying to drive home. Only recently, thanks to Beth Hallauer’s encouragement, were non-traditional students starting to be invited to join Witt’s Honors Program.”
Because non-traditional students do not pay the Student Activity Fee like traditional students, STRENGTH can only apply for money from Tiger Fund – at least for the time being.
“We want to do our own fundraising and that will take a little time, but it will help to have access to funds and we are grateful,” Leese said.
The non-traditional students have offered to begin paying a portion of the fee, but it is unknown whether that will actually happen or not.
“We want to be a contributing part of the Witt community,” Leese said.
To kick off their fundraising for the spring, STRENGTH is hosting a “Love Your Pet” photo contest for Valentine’s Day. Students and faculty have until Feb. 11 to submit photos of their pet to English professor D’Arcy Fallon’s office. On Feb. 12 and 13, students can pay $1 per vote for their favorite pet. The winner will receive a basket full of goodies for their pet, and 10 percent of the proceeds will be donated to a local animal shelter or rescue.
In March, STRENGTH will be hosting a concert night in the C.D.R. featuring Witt Free, a group of Witt professors that perform classic rock, and singer Maia Grandy, ’21. More details on the event will be released in the coming weeks.
“I think the current image of non-traditional students on campus is changing in a good way,” Leese said. “I think because there are not many non-traditional students on campus yet, we are still a surprise when we walk in the first of the semester. But traditional students are mostly good about being accepting and welcoming.”
“We hope non-traditional students will be seen as students like everyone else, and that no one will care if we are older or anything,” Leese said. “We want to be a Witt student like everyone else. We are proud Witt students.”