Students helping students graduate at Dixie State University

St. George, Utah (ABC4 Utah) -A statewide trend shows that many college students who start school don’t finish, and efforts are being made to change those statistics.

"Especially the first time I got an A on a test, I was like: Yay, my brain still works,” said Dixie State University student Hillarie Kennedy.

Kennedy got an A in her math class. It's a big step for this single mom of three boys who came back to finish college after taking a 22-year-break.

“My husband passed four years ago to cancer so that was part of what drove me into really thinking about coming back,” said Kennedy.

But  the thought was overwhelming. She didn't know where to begin. Her friend Sylvia Bradshaw, a Dixie State employee helped her through the process.

"We went and visited the counselor. Then took her to financial aid. Then took her across the street into the book store,” said Bradshaw, Director of Sponsored Programs at DSU.

Statewide, 27% of the population start college and never finish. In Washington County that number jumps to 30%.”

“We tend to marry younger, we tend to have families younger, so we have a large population that has some college and no degree to show for the learning that they have,” said Bradshaw.

Bradshaw and others wanted to see change, so they started the initiative:  ‘Bring a Friend to Finish’ or ‘BFF’, encouraging students to help someone else come back to finish their degree. The program is now being used throughout the state.

Such an accomplishment to be able to do that as a returning adult, to be able to accomplish something that feels unattainable,” said Andrea Brown,  the President of UHESSA.

"66 percent of the jobs will require a degree or certification of some sort, so the Governors goal is to have 66 percent of the population to have a degree or a certification by the year 2020,” said Bradshaw.

"It really felt good. It really boosted my self esteem and it made a difference for me because I thought I can do this,” said Kennedy.

Dixie State University's graduation is this Friday. The youngest person graduating is 15-years-old. The oldest person graduating is 65-years-old.

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