Passion for Helping Students Leads to National Recognition for EKU faculty member

Eufemia Didonato

Nov. 23—According to a press release from EKU, Everyone needs a person. Someone who mentors, scolds, encourages, influences, challenges, impacts.

Starr Wentzel gladly serves as that person for dozens of first-generation college students at Eastern Kentucky University.

Wentzel, director of EKU’s first-year courses and learning communities, was recently named Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience. Only 10 educators across the country are recognized each year.

“My reaction to learning I had received the First-Year Student Advocate was shock and excitement,” she said.

A fierce advocate for the first-generation student, Wentzel works daily to ensure that no student is left behind. She develops, coordinates, staffs and evaluates the university’s multiple student success seminars, designed specifically for the more than 2,500 first-year students who arrive at EKU each fall semester.

The courses are assisted by a group of first-year leaders, students she trains to provide guidance and support to students throughout the semester.

In addition to her efforts on behalf of the first-year courses, she works closely with academic advisors, financial aid counselors, residence hall personnel and other teams across campus to solve myriad problems for students.

This persistent dedication leads to a culture that prioritizes retention and student success.

“I work with so many amazing staff and faculty members who share my desire to constantly make improvements for our ever-changing student population,” Wentzel said. “I have so much to be thankful for in this job.”

Her goal is to help students have the best experience possible while at EKU. She knows not every student will respond to her efforts but she enjoys hearing the positive impact she is making. A student sent her such a note this past spring.

“I am glad our paths crossed. Even though it was only virtually, it had a significant impact on me and my life,” the student wrote to Wentzel. “Keep fighting the good fight because there are people like me out there that really need people like you.”

“It is a real honor for the University and a testament to Starr’s leadership that this recognition has come her way,” said Gill Hunter, assistant vice president for retention and graduation. “The specificity of the award matters — Starr exemplifies First Year Student Advocate. It’s a role she relishes, advocating for students while teaching them to navigate college and develop the resilience to advocate for themselves.”

“Working with first-year students is my passion. I want every student to feel they have a place and are welcome,” Wentzel said. “Having the opportunity to help make that happen makes my heart smile.”

St. Mark Catholic School releases endof-year schedule

St. Mark Catholic School recently sent out a press release detailing the remainder of the school year.


There will be no school Nov. 24, 25, or 26.


There will be no school Dec. 18 through Jan. 2 .

COMMunity Helpers

The school is also searching for “community helpers” to speak to students.

If you are a firefighter, a policeman, a mailman, a doctor, a dentist, a veterinarian, a mortician, an artist, a writer, or one of a million different helpers that God has placed in our wonderful community, St. Mark would love to invite you to come and talk to our students. If you are interested, please email Hannah Adams at [email protected]


St. Mark Catholic School’s Christmas Program will be held on Thursday evening, Dec. 16, at 6:30 p.m. Students are asked to be in their classrooms by 6 p.m. Students are asked to wear their Christmas best to the program. Afterwards, there will be a cookie social. You can sign up to be a cookie elf in the volunteer link below.


St. Mark is searching for one parent member for our school council. The council meets on the first Tuesday of each month in person or online. Next meeting is Jan. 4, at 6:30 p.m. Please call the school office if you are interested.


Please click on the following link to volunteer to work on St. Mark’a Christmas Parade Float on Dec. 3, and/or our Cookie Social on Dec. 16. The link is

Richmond Register Santa Letters

The Richmond Register will print Letters to Santa of each SECOND grade class in a special section of the paper on Dec. 23.

The deadline to deliver Santa Letters to the Register is Dec. 13 at 5 p.m. We can not guarantee letters received after that date will be in the paper. We highly encourage teachers to email the letters to [email protected]

In the subject line, please put Santa-[School Name]-Teacher. If sending multiple teachers make sure each document states which teacher’s class it is.

Homeschool students are encouraged to submit letters as well.

Did your student win an award? Does your school have an upcoming play / fundraiser / book fair? If you have news you wish to be featured in the Richmond Register’s Education Notebook, contact Blake Vickers at [email protected]

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