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Northwest Missouri State University


News Release

Feb. 28, 2015

Northwest TRIO programs honor Kenkel, achievers

Northwest Missouri State University’s TRIO program honored three alumni Friday evening with the prestigious TRIO Achiever award, and Phil Kenkel, who is retiring after 28 years with the University’s TRIO program, was celebrated as a TRIO Champion award recipient.

The celebration at Northwest’s B.D. Owens Library featured inspirational messages from TRIO alumni and included a review of the TRIO program’s history at Northwest. A series of breakout sessions also focused on the topics of becoming actively engaged individuals, creating a positive impact on others and empowering for the future. 

TRIO is a federally recognized educational outreach program designed for students with disadvantaged backgrounds. It serves as an umbrella organization for Northwest programs consisting of Student Support Services, Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science. Collectively, the programs seek to motivate and support students to overcome class, social and cultural academic barriers to accessing and succeeding in higher education.

Melissa Grace (center), a 2015 TRIO Achiever recipient, is pictured with current and former TRIO staff members (left to right) Karen Hixon, Kenna Johnson, Denise Jasinski and Phil Kenkel during Northwest’s TRIO Day celebration Friday. Hixon authored the first grant to secure funding for the Upward Bound programming at Northwest and hired Kenkel as an Upward Bound counselor. Kenkel is retiring this spring as the director of TRIO programs at Northwest, having served the program for 28 years.

Melissa Grace (center), a 2015 TRIO Achiever recipient, is pictured with current and former TRIO staff members (left to right) Karen Hixon, Kenna Johnson, Denise Jasinski and Phil Kenkel during Northwest’s TRIO Day celebration Friday. Hixon authored the first grant to secure funding for the Upward Bound programming at Northwest and hired Kenkel as an Upward Bound counselor. Kenkel is retiring this spring as the director of TRIO programs at Northwest, having served the program for 28 years.

Kenkel, who is retiring as director of TRIO programs at Northwest, began his career as an Upward Bound counselor and also served as Upward Bound director and Student Support Services director.

“It’s a big world out there,” Kenkel told the gathering of TRIO students, alumni, staff and their families. “There’s great things to do out there, and the thing that kept me coming to work every day was knowing that all of you have that opportunity to be successful. All of you can be standing up here in the future, getting a TRIO Achiever award because you’re fully capable. The talent I see on daily basis is truly outstanding.”

Dr. Joni Adkins, assistant professor of mathematics, computer science and information systems at Northwest and an alumna of Northwest’s first Upward Bound cohort, nominated Kenkel for the honor, calling him a consistently positive influence who has touched the lives of countless students and staff.

“He has served as a mentor to many who have since left TRIO and now are working in other positions,” Adkins said. “I’m one of them. There’s no doubt that my time working with Phil and others in TRIO programs influenced my attitude and commitment to helping students from all backgrounds achieve their post-secondary goals. … TRiO programs at Northwest would not be where they are today without Phil Kenkel’s dedication and leadership.”

Presenting the award with Adkins, Kenna Johnson, the director of Northwest’s Talent Development Center, praised Kenkel for empowering Upward Bound students to dream and confidently pursue their educational and career goals.

“Phil has truly left his mark on the TRIO programs at Northwest Missouri State,” Johnson said. “Phil’s work, his tireless advocacy for TRIO-eligible students to be able to access a post-secondary education has always been and will remain rooted in his deep and abiding belief in the transformative nature of education and the life-changing trajectory that comes with earning a college education.”

Northwest TRIO staff also recognized Terry Blue, Melissa (Farley) Grace and Lt. Col. Carl Pawling with Achiever awards. Achiever nominees must have successfully completed a post-secondary program of study resulting in a baccalaureate or terminal degree from an accredited institution of higher education and are considered to be of high stature in their field.

During their remarks, the honorees reflected on the values they developed by participating in Upward Bound and the impacts the program had on developing them into well-rounded individuals and helping them be successful in their careers.

Blue, a Holcomb, Mo., native and alumnus of the 2001 Upward Bound Math and Science summer program, went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Missouri-Rolla and was awarded the Academy of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineers Student Excellence Award. He embarked on a career in oil refining, working as a fixed equipment engineer in Beaumont, Texas, and most recently as an inspection engineer for Chevron Energy and Technology Company.

“I was exposed to more challenging math and science curriculum than what I was used to, and I was able to experience things that I had previously not been able to experience,” Blue said. “I was surrounded by other kids with the same types of challenges and the same types of backgrounds that I had, but we all had similar motivations and similar interests. Upward Bound Math and Science really helped us set a foundation of lifelong learning that I’ve been able to carry through my career.”

Grace is 1992 graduate of West Nodaway R-1 High School, and she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and early childhood from Northwest in 1996. She participated in Upward Bound throughout her high school career and remained connected with Student Support Services as a Northwest student, serving as a student assistant for the program. In 2004, she completed her Master of Science degree in reading curriculum and instruction at Northwest and is in her 18th year of teaching in the West Nodaway School District.

“As an alumna of these programs, I continue to value their importance, try to stay informed of their progress and advocate for their continuation,” she said. “All of my experiences with TRIO have been immensely positive ones, and I know that so many students have and will continue to benefit as I did.”

Pawling graduated from King City R-1 High school and completed his Bachelor of Science degree at Missouri-Rolla in 1999. He then went on to work as a missile defense operations analyst at the Air Force Operational Test and Operational Center in New Mexico. Currently, he is chief of the Air Campaign Analyses Branch, A9, Air Force Studies, Analyses and Assessments at U.S. Air Force headquarters in Washington, D.C. Pawling participated in Upward Bound and Upward Bound Math and Science programs at Northwest and in St. Louis during his high school years.

“Each of these programs provided unique experiences that served as stepping stones to propel me to where I am today,” he said. “The Upward Bound program at Northwest helped me to appreciate the value of post-secondary education and gave me the opportunity to experience the college environment while I was still in high school. The Upward Bound Math and Science program at St Louis University opened my eyes to areas of science and experimentation and quite unexpectedly improved my writing skills at a young age. The Upward Bound Math and Science program at Northwest enlightened me to new areas of mathematics, of which I had been previously unaware and continued to study when I went on to college.”

TRIO was founded in 1964 when President Lyndon Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act, giving birth to Upward Bound as an experimental program. Today, more than 1,000 colleges, universities and community entities host more than 2,700 different TRIO programs, which serve about 840,000 students nationwide and help them become prepared, motivated and excited about attaining a college degree.

Student Support Services, which was launched at Northwest in 1988, includes a variety of campus programs dedicated to helping students meet their academic needs and successfully complete their undergraduate degrees. The office offers a variety of resources, including peer mentors who have intricate knowledge of what it takes to be academically successful during college and are available to meet with students in need of assistance.

Northwest’s Upward Bound, founded in 1986, has helped hundreds of high school students realize their goals of attending college and finding success. The program annually serves 80 high school students from seven high schools in northwest Missouri: King City, Maryville, Northeast Nodaway, Rock Port, Stanberry, Tarkio and West Nodaway. Open to students who, are in their freshman year of high school or older, Upward Bound is designed to help students build self-confidence while preparing them for the academic, social and cultural challenges of college life.

During the school year, Upward Bound students gather on the Northwest campus once a month to participate in workshops, college visits and other learning opportunities. A field tutor also meets with students weekly at their home school. Students also spend six weeks living on campus during the summer while participating in a variety of classes and activities designed to prepare them for college success.

Upward Bound Math and Science, founded at Northwest in 1990, is a six-week, hands-on summer learning experience for eligible high school students who are interested in careers in a math or science field. The life-enhancing college-prep program helps students explore math, science and technology topics that many of their peers might never experience while exposing them to a university campus and reducing anxieties about college. Northwest’s program draws students from 18 high schools throughout Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, who live in campus residence halls while receiving instruction from skilled college and high school faculty.


For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager
mhorn@nwmissouri.edu | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468