5 named to All-Arizona Academic Team

December 14, 2010 by Anonymous

Five Northland Pioneer College students will be receiving tuition waivers from the Arizona Board of Regents to complete their bachelor's degrees at one of the three state public universities as members of the 2011 All-Arizona/All-USA Academic Team.

Representing NPC will be Angel Cerritos and Douglas Chlarson from the Snowflake/Taylor – Silver Creek Campus; Hope Francisco from the Springerville/Eagar Center; and Jon Griffith and Ryan Orr from the Show Low – White Mountain Campus. This year, 21 NPC students submitted online applications for the All-USA Academic Team program, co-sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK), the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and USA Today. This will be the 16th year Arizona has separately recognized the state’s top two-year college students.

Angel CerritosAngel Cerritos, is a Los Angeles transplant who had no plans to continue his education after graduating from high school. "I did not see myself in college, much less graduating," noted Cerritos. After moving to Snowflake, he decided to give college a chance. "I did not have the grades for a scholarship and my parents didn't have enough money to send me to a big university. I found NPC to be very affordable and after the first semester, I knew it was for me."

He was a federal work-study in the Silver Creek Campus office for two years, and now fills in occasionally as a temporary worker. Cerritos was actively involved in Student Government and helped organize several SGA-sponsored events, including a talent show and dance.

In August 2009, he set aside his college studies for a year and returned to the LA area as a volunteer 60 hours per week with the City Year Los Angeles non-profit organization, recruiting 150 kids from Watts and South Central for Saturday programs. He also organized service projects with area community organizations, including planting trees, sorting donations and general clean up with the Boys and Girls Club of East Los Angeles and the Housing Projects in Watts. "Our program won the best Young Heroes Program in the country award for the year," noted Cerritos.

This fall, he returned to the Snowflake campus, finishing the 13 credits needed for his Associate of Arts degree. He will be attending NAU this spring, working on his bachelor's degree in Anthropology. He was inducted into NPC's Alpha Gamma Tau chapter of Phi Theta Kappa on Dec. 3.

Douglas ChlarsonDouglas Chlarson returned to college in the fall of 2009 to re-train for a new career as a power plant operator and to prepare to earn his bachelor's degree, starting this spring, from NAU as a forestry genetic researcher. "I was a little rusty, having been out of school for a while. The faculty were accessible and helpful," Chlarson noted.

A recovering addict, Chlarson struggled to understand his disease until about four years ago when he attended a recovery group. "Having failed in many attempts to get sober, I had little hope in ever being able to get clean and be a fully functional human being." Through the group meetings, he learned how to free himself from the weight of addiction that had held him down. "I always wanted to finish my education, but wouldn't do what was necessary because is was 'too hard' in the condition I was in. I had to learn to balance the pursuit of my goals with my efforts to help those around me."

Now he has taken on the role of group leader, sharing "this wonderful gift and message of sobriety with others." He attends court hearings, writes letters to judges and probation officers, and has taken many calls at all hours from people needing help.

Chlarson is also a member of PTK.

Hope FranciscoHope Francisco is a senior at Round Valley High School who will be completing her associate's degree from NPC before receiving her high school diploma. She is also a candidate to be her high school class valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA – including an independent study calculus class. She also works 10 hours per week as a waitress and commutes to Show Low for many of her NPC classes.

Studying to become a family nurse practitioner, Francisco has been completing the general education and science prerequisites for admission to the nursing program at NAU. She considered applying to NPC's nursing program, but the prospect of getting away from home is too enticing.

A member of both PTK and the high school honor societies, Francisco received the Young Women in Excellence Award, the equivalent of an Eagle Scout ranking. She has helped with community clean-up efforts and was a secret granddaughter to elderly women in her church. This past Valentine's Day, while serving as an intern volunteer at the Round Valley Senior Center, she found a replacement piano for the center, arranged to have it moved to the facility and organized a special Valentine's Day party for the seniors. "I want to impact people's lives in a good way," she noted. "And service is the best way to do that."

Jon GriffithServing as a volunteer with an international organizations is one goal for Jon Griffith. While in high school he served as president of a local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (S.A.D.D.) and has raised funds as part of breast and prostate cancer awareness and for muscular dystrophy research. He is also an Eagle Scout and member of PTK and the National Honor Society.

Griffith is a President's Scholar completing his general education requirements at the Show Low – White Mountain Campus. He is earning credits toward an Associate of Science degree before transferring to the University of Arizona to study architecture and psychology. He is also investigating a Fulbright Scholarship, and service in other countries in his fields of study.

He was instrumental in showing a video about teen suicide, bullying and the impact of social media during a high school assembly. "The response to the video and assembly was overwhelming, students were crying and hugging each other, as well as expressing their sorrow and desires to be supportive to each other. Students talked about it the rest of the school year, and were generally more helpful to each other," noted Griffith.

"Teachers reported that the week of the assembly it was frequently one of the topics of discussion of their classes. The teachers also reported that after the assembly students were very touched and affected by the video and its message. The far-reaching impact is that these students learned a vital aspect of the essence of humanity and why it is crucial that we respect individuality and diversity," he continued. "I believe that this experience opened their minds to the variety of effects that hazing and bullying have on not only the individual but on the family and society as well."

Ryan OrrRyan Orr is using his musical and artistic talents to improve the learning environment at Jefferson Academy, a public charter school in Show Low. As an individual teacher's aide, he helps facilitate curriculum for particular students. "This past summer, the lead teacher expressed to me his interest in decorating a newly renovated building in such a way that the visual aspect of our environment would be colorful, exciting and inspiring," explains Orr. Using illustrations from the covers of classical literature, such as Hunchback of Notre Dame, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Secret Garden, he created a very colorful, adventurous mural. "Many studies in education have shown that a student's environment has a very immediate conscious and subliminal effect on their learning process. By creating this mural I was able to incorporate valuable elements of literature, the arts, and decorum to positively affect the experience of the students in our school."

Orr has also used his musical talents as part of the 2008 Show Low Cancer Benefit Walk and with NPC's student literary and fine arts magazine, Northern Flight. He was director of the Yellow Jacket Youth Center, from April 2006 to October 2007, conducting after-school programs for grade school children in the Blue Ridge School District. Orr also coached soccer at Show Low High School for the past two seasons, before resigning due to class schedule conflicts. A President's Scholar and member of Phi Theta Kappa, he plans to transfer to the University of Arizona in preparation for a career as an English professor.

NPC can nominate 18 students, up to two students from each of its nine locations, to the All-Arizona/All-USA Academic Team. The 2011 All-Arizona Academic Team includes over 60 outstanding Arizona community college students. A luncheon in their honor will be Wednesday, Feb. 23, at the Fiesta Resort and Conference Center in Tempe. The audience of over 300 will include family members or guests, university enrollment officers, community college presidents, chancellors, academic officers, governing board members and representatives of the Board of Regents. In addition to the tuition waivers from the Board of Regents, students also receive scholarship checks from their colleges. All-Arizona team members are automatically considered for the All-USA Academic Team, and additional scholarship and award opportunities.

Applications are made available in the fall for students graduating or completing degrees the following spring semester.