Monday, February 7, 2011

Hug ASCENT mentee and Harrah’s scholarship recipient wants to inspire others

University of Nevada, Reno 18-year-old freshman and nursing major Charel Elwell never gave up on her dream to attend college, even after she became pregnant before her junior year in high school at Hug.

“I took the whole year off,” Elwell explained. “I took PLATO classes (online), came back my senior year, got help from my ASCENT mentor and graduated with my class. ASCENT gave me the extra push and inspiration to finish school and go to college.”

The ASCENT mentoring program, a partnership of Hug High and the University of Nevada, Reno, assists students in reaching their goal of obtaining a college education by pairing University and community mentors with high school mentees.An initial training session for those interested in serving as mentors will be held at Hug at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 4. At 3:30 p.m., mentors will be matched with students.

ASCENT, which stands for All Students College Educated in Nevada Today, has gone through several changes in the last year. Monika Mala, a Nevada graduate, has recently been hired as the ASCENT coordinator and is housed at Hug. Harrah’s Foundation has awarded another $20,000, in addition to the original scholarship grant of $80,000, to qualified ASCENT graduates, eligible to receive a one-time amount from $500 to $1,500 toward college. These scholarships have already been awarded to more than 30 ASCENT students, including Elwell, who received an ASCENT scholarship for $500 and four other scholarships.

Mentors commit up to three hours a month with their high school mentees, discussing college aspirations and offering guidance on college applications, financial goals and scholarship and career opportunities. Many of the students will be the first in their families to attend a university.

“My mentor has some doctors in her family, so she gave me nursing tips, proofread essays and reminded me of deadlines,” Elwell said. “I had challenges to get here, but I now want to give a girl going through a similar situation the inspiration to do what I’m doing, to not give up because there are so many girls who do.”

On Friday, Elwell will be paired with a Hug High sophomore who has also had a baby in high school.

Those interested in becoming a mentor are encouraged to complete an application online at . For more information about the ASCENT program, visit or contact Mala at or 775-327-5643.