Pivotal Moments

Pivotal Moments Video Series


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True Stories of Self-Discovery and Overcoming Adversity

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you were faced with what felt like an impossible decision and no clear path forward? Identifying and overcoming these Pivotal Moments is what helps students work through challenges throughout their college careers. Helping students cope with these obstacles is our primary focus.

That’s why we collected true and inspirational stories from our students, faculty, staff and alumni – many of whom were faced with a similar situation you may find yourself in now.

Check out these amazing stories below!*

*Modeled after EAB collaboration









Unyielding Courage


Growing up on the Wind River Reservation in central Wyoming, Reinette Redbird Tendore’s family came before everything. But that dynamic typically leads to difficult transitions for Native American students, herself included, as they leave home and become acclimated to the college atmosphere.

However, Tendore’s college experience had challenges that went far beyond the far-from-home feeling. Tendore was pregnant when she arrived at UW and then gave birth to her son shortly after the fall semester, sending her into a world of self-reflection and uncertainty. But she never considered giving up on college, and certainly not on her newborn son.

Instead of looking at her situation as some sort of bad fortune, Tendore found motivation in it. After taking a year off to stay home with her child, she returned to UW with her son at her side and one thought on her mind.

After graduating from the University of Wyoming, all while being a full-time parent, Tendore knew she had found her home in Laramie. She now spends her days making sure Native American students have adequate resources on campus – specifically at UW’s Native American Center. It’s her life’s mission, which was shaped by her own unique UW experience.

“Some of those challenges and struggles I experienced as a young mom, but also as a college student, I would never take back. I don’t have any regrets though my college experience and career, because my son is who guided me. Any young woman, when they get pregnant at 17, 18, their lives aren’t over. It’s just beginning.”




“No matter what comes our way, we can get through it.”

Students walking on campus with snow on ground





Strongly Resilient


Graduating college had always been his mother’s expectation growing up, but getting to that point was far from easy for Lucus Hansen.

After failing out of multiple colleges and later discovering that his father was severely ill, Hansen knew he had to give it one more shot – and the University of Wyoming was where he got that last chance. But his journey at UW also started out with failure, as he struggled with classes in the first year and was quickly placed on academic probation.

That’s when Hansen decided to stop taking on the challenges of college all by himself, and soon, failure began to turn into success. It all started to turn around when he reached out to a student support organization, and everything started to change. With resources now on his side, Hansen climbed the ranks from academic probation to Honor Roll, to then becoming an Honors student the following year. All of a sudden, he felt like he had college figured out – a foreign concept up to that point.

Seeking out resources and finding success became so enjoyable that Hansen wasn’t ready to be done with college when it was time to graduate. So he kept pushing, decided attend graduate school at UW and is now teaching many of these lessons to current Pokes with the Upward Bound Program.

“The success motivated me. … Getting in touch with resources and finding success really made me feel like I belonged. In order to succeed you have to fail, And when you get comfortable with that, it’s like, ‘I want every resource, what else is there?’”

“In order to succeed, you have to fail.”

Campus building with an Aspen tree in foreground





Unshakeable Determination


By the time Chrissie Henschler was on the brink of giving up on college, refusing to fail was already part of who she was. As a young girl who was diagnosed with dyslexia, learning things the first time around was always a challenge for her – which also made the college world a big challenge.

Henschler found a safe haven in the University of Wyoming, but the first couple years turned out to be a bumpy road. Some struggles, such as testing, were familiar, but she also had a hard time balancing academic obligations with a blossoming social life.

Fortunately, Henschler found people on campus she could lean on. Between a few key professors and advisers, Henschler not only became a successful student, but started to strive at UW. With newfound mentors, Henschler graduated with flying colors and soon returned to ranks of the brown and gold for graduate school.

UW made a young woman with dyslexia and borderline test scores feel welcome when few other colleges did. It also provided her with the resources to succeed when she needed them the most.

“We all have those internal battles. ‘Am I nuts, am I good enough, am I capable enough?’ Battling with those struggles is a lot easier when you have somebody in your corner.”


“Battling with struggles is a lot easier when you have somebody in your corner.”

Up close leaves turn red in the fall





Unshakeable Determination


The road to college took a turn when Holly Fry’s ACT score fell short of achieving one of the most prestigious scholarships awarded by UW: The Trustees’ Scholars Award.

As a homeschooled senior, she was subject to different requirements to be eligible to receive this scholarship, including a score of 31 on her ACT. After multiple attempts, she fell short of the minimum score by a single point. Devastated, Fry began to think that college wasn’t in the cards for her knowing that her family couldn’t afford to assist her with paying for school.

Her doubt turned into hope when a helping hand came from her best friend’s mother, who encouraged her to look for other ways and try again. Fry applied for other scholarships. Her will to achieve her college dream strengthened and she wrote a letter to the UW president explaining her situation. A week later, she received a personal reply indicating he had waived her ACT requirement. And just like that, her path was back on track to attend UW.

This Pivotal Moment taught Fry that second chances do exist, and built the confidence she would need for other challenges she would face in college.

“If you find yourself struggling or going through a really hard time, people are there for your success. There are resources that people have come up with to help you. Go ahead and lean into them!”

“Never underestimate the power of a second try.”

A rainbow against the mountains after a rain storm







Truly Authentic


Terrance Butler came to the University of Wyoming to play for the Cowboy football team. The demands of a Division 1 athlete include balancing practice schedules, game nights and academics. His world was turned upside down as a junior when his mother had passed away while he was home for Thanksgiving.

It’s one of the most devastating situations a student could ever endure, and he knew he would have to lean on the support system he had in Laramie. Professor of Physical Education & Teacher Education Jayne Jenkins became a mentor for Butler early on in his college career. She challenged him academically and gave him the support he needed.

Jenkins flew to Butler’s hometown to be by his side, and reaffirmed a promise that she’d made to his mother: “We will get Terrance to graduation.”

Butler’s Pivotal Moment was the decision to ask his professor for help early in his college career. It eventually helped him endure and cope with one of his most tragic losses, and inspire him to continue in college through graduation.

“There’s going to have to be some sort of discomfort. My success was graduating from the University of Wyoming. You have done something that no one can ever away from you. That’s what it’s really about, don’t give up. There’s someone out there that needs you.”

“She challenged me. I needed that push and she gave me a kick. And ever since, she’s been in my life.”

A snowy mountain at sunrise








Unbendable Optimism


College wasn’t the typical four-year process for Alisa Rawson. Instead, she used her early years at UW as an exploratory period to figure out exactly what she wanted to study, and more importantly, what she wanted to pursue a career in. That turned out to be a blessing for Rawson.

As she began to explore what the University of Wyoming had to offer, Rawson happened upon opportunities such as study abroad that transformed her college experience. Soon, she was in Spain earning college credits and her Spanish degree. While it was an incredible experience, Rawson’s science background was what came to the forefront later in college and she worked her way into a molecular biology lab. However, she found that the solidarity of a lab wasn’t for her.

Her next attempt to find her passion was in the field of nutrition, and this time, she knew she was on the path to her future. Sometimes the right path doesn’t present itself right away, but Rawson never stopped seeking her passion at UW and she certainly found it.

“That pivotal moment was just looking forward. Okay, now I have this knowledge base, but really, where do I see myself? Where do I want to be working and in what kind of environment? You really have to look 3-5 years ahead and say, 'Is that really what I want to do?'”

“It’s never too late to change your mind.”

Students walking on a path by the Union

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