9 named to 2014 All-AZ Academic Team

December 6, 2013 by Anonymous

Full tuition waivers to Arizona’s three public universities will be awarded to nine Northland Pioneer College students to complete their bachelor’s degrees as nominees to the All-Arizona, All-USA Academic Team program, co-sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK), Follet Higher Education Group, the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and USA Today. This will be the 19th year Arizona has separately recognized the state’s top two-year college students.

Representing NPC will be Christina Scott-Ford from the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus; Karah Flake and Rachael Murphy from the Show Low – White Mountain Campus; Stephanie Adams and Kyle Nowell from the Snowflake/Taylor – Silver Creek Campus; Michelle Johnson and Julie Peck from the Saint Johns Center; Cody Elliott from the Springerville/Eagar Center; and Sterling West from the Winslow – Little Colorado Campus. Team members will also receive scholarships from NPC.

This year’s nominees will be honored at a luncheon Feb. 19 in Mesa, along with over 60 other top scholars from the state’s other community colleges.

Stephanie Adams
Stephanie Adams

“I realized when I was young that I wanted an education that would teach me how to help others. I knew I wanted to ease suffering wherever I could,” noted Stephanie Adams. A victim of several forms of abuse as a child, Adams has struggled through deep feelings of worthlessness, and learned to accept and understand herself.

“I have a deep personal understanding of how overwhelming emotional pain can be, and the level of support and compassion it takes to overcome,” she continued. She has learned that emotional pain is an intricate part of most areas of nursing. “I am excited to be moving forward with my goal to become a well-educated and highly-qualified nurse because I know it will help me take my past and use it to help others.”

While her educational quest has taken a decade, Adams continues to demonstrate the importance of honesty and appropriate boundaries to her four sons after divorcing their father. “The hours I spend pursuing my education or working at a mental health hospital are teaching me the skills I need to serve my community effectively and provide for my family, By using the healing power of service, along with empowerment, strong religious values, quality family time and self-esteem building, the results I’ve seen are four amazing young boys who are all that I could hope for.”

Adams is undecided on whether to continue her nursing studies at Northern Arizona University or Arizona State University. Her long-term goal is to earn a master’s degree in either nursing or counseling.

Cody Elliott
Cody Elliott

Civil engineering requires the use of higher mathematics, such as calculus, geometry and trigonometry. To better prepare for his educational goal Cody Elliott elected to complete additional higher mathematics courses at NPC before enrolling at Northern Arizona University next fall.

Elliott already has his Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in welding, earned while still in high school. He was recognized on the President’s List, from fall 2010 through spring 2012 and was named the 2012 AAS Outstanding Graduate for his perfect 4.0 Grade Point Average (GPA).

Home-schooled since fourth grade, Elliott began taking NPC/NAVIT welding classes his junior year of high school. He served as welding class president and represented the program at the annual SkillsUSA competitions, placing in the Top 15 welders in the state.

“SkillsUSA competition is a unique environment,” noted Elliott. “Competitors are challenged by equipment they are not necessarily used to working with. There is also the energy that comes from wanting to do your best, for both yourself and the organization you are representing.” Meeting the competition’s criteria allows “you to see how you measure up to the world – on top for the time being or what you must do to stand with the greats,” he added.

“My experience at SkillsUSA, representing NPC, brought me to the conclusion that I am a product and producer from one of the leading educational programs in the Western United States.” Elliott is now utilizing those welding skills full-time, while strengthening his mathematics skills.

Elliott’s faith gives him the strength needed to accomplish his goals. He serves as sound technician and head usher at his church, and completed a short-term mission trip to Russia during the summer of 2012. He would like to “visit Alaska, Australia, and Argentina, in that order, and drive a truck in Alaska and Australia.” His long-term goals are to become a civil engineer, and perhaps own his own firm, and design custom semi-trucks.

Karah Flake
Karah Flake

As President of the 2014 Nursing Class, Karah Flake takes the responsibility seriously. In addition to attending monthly nursing faculty meetings and addressing student needs and issues, she helps herself and her fellow students by recording lectures, making study guide sheets, writes mock test questions, and produces graphs and notecards. These are distributed to 49 other students and even first-year students are asking for copies.

“This endeavor also helps ‘cement’ the information into my brain,” explains Flake. “This takes hours of my time, but I am finding when a fellow classmate is struggling and I give them my study guides, they improve their test scores. I have a study buddy who is attending Nursing School at 58 years old tell me how much learning he gets from these study guides and how valuable they have become to him to study for the (National Council Licensing Examination) NCLEX.”

Staying organized is the key for Flake. She juggles studying with the responsibilities of being a mom to three active youngsters under age 10, a home-based photography business to supplement the family’s income, teaching two weekly youth classes at her church, a monthly service project with her children in her hometown of Snowflake, and helping the NPC Phi Theta Kappa chapter with community service projects.

“I want to set a good example for my children by showing them a good work ethic and the importance of an education,” Flake explained. A microbiology class research project on childhood vaccinations not only enlightened her, as a parent, but also reinforced her desire to educate her future patients. “We are in the education system for so long before we ‘graduate’ and get a job. That project alone inspired me to never stop learning. I hope to build upon what I have learned to become the best nurse that I can be.”

While still undecided on whether to enroll next fall at NAU or ASU, Flake’s long-term goal is to earn her master’s degree and become a nurse practitioner.

Michelle Johnson
Michelle Johnson

A leader’s passion, not position, leads to success. Michelle Johnson has applied this axiom from John Maxwell in her second-year nursing class. While not directly seeking a leadership role, she saw the need and stepped forward to provide direction and support for a class group assignment.

“As the leader, I provided others with the direction needed. But I also acted as part of the team, completing my own assignment, and doing my part to bring the presentation together,” Johnson explained. “My team and I were the only ones in the class to receive a 100% for their presentation.”

Taking on leadership responsibilities is not new to Johnson. She was student body secretary at Fredonia (AZ) High School, and helped organize the 2011 St. Johns Pioneer Days Rodeo. She has also served as a head basketball coach, organizing practices and mentoring players, and Young Woman Advisor in her church, preparing lessons to help build character, realize values and prepare for adulthood and marriage.

“I have learned to use my resources, as well as lead with diligence,” Johnson continued. “With this, I gained a greater sense of knowledge in the leadership role.”

Johnson is already applying her healthcare skills. She is a tech at Summit Regional Medical Center and a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) at Pineview’s mental health facility. But her most important job is being a wife and mother. “That is the job I love and appreciate, and put it first. I love caring for my kids and husband.”

The first in her family to enroll in college, Johnson would like to work in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) or Medical Surgical Department after obtaining her RN. Her long-term goal is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) – a career CNN Money named as one of the Best Jobs in 2012. She is undecided on whether to attend NAU or ASU in the fall.

Rachael Murphy
Rachael Murphy

An unexpected pregnancy may have delayed the educational plans of Rachael Murphy, but now she is striding toward her first goal to eventually become a high school English teacher. In May, she will receive her Associate of Arts (AA) degree with an English emphasis. Then she and her husband and two sons plan to re-locate to Mesa, to take advantage of an opportunity to further his career, and she will continue her studies through NAU’s distance learning program. Her goal is to obtain her master’s degree in Secondary English Education.

Murphy comes from a large family, with three brothers, three half-siblings and eight stepsiblings. “My father always emphasized my education,” she noted. But his unexpected death “crushed me knowing he would never witness me getting my degree. This helped me realize that I not only wanted to continue going (to college) because I wanted to better myself, but also because I wanted to set an example for my children.”

Her example extends beyond the classroom, where she has a perfect 4.0 GPA. For over a year, she has volunteered at the DOGhouse Thrift Shop, sorting clothing donations re-sold to benefit the Humane Society of the White Mountains. “It has been an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience, even during the winter when the temperature in the warehouse falls below freezing.” She has met and become friends with many of the other volunteers who devote their free time to helping at the DOGhouse. She has also helped with the annual Happy Tails Auction and BBQ, which also benefits the Humane Society.

Through several of her NPC classes, she learned the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling. “Thrift stores provide a way for community members to recycle their unwanted clothing instead of discarding and wasting it,” she concluded.

Murphy is training for a January marathon while balancing caring for her family with time spent studying and volunteering.

Kyle Nowell
Kyle Nowell

Combining concepts learned in the classroom with a fondness for animals, Kyle Nowell created a television program on City4, the local government access channel, which has significantly increased the number of adoptions from the Show Low animal shelter. Working with the no-kill shelter organization has also provided opportunities for his fellow Student Government Association (SGA) officers to help at the facility.

Nowell works part-time for City4 as a video technician, doing extensive camera work and editing for three shows. While brainstorming ideas for new shows focusing on the community, he presented his idea for spotlighting pets from the city’s shelter that were need of a home. With the enthusiastic support of the shelter organization’s president, he designed a set and logo. The program now features at least four pets a month, and provides information about the shelter and issues faced by pets, including weather, travel and illness.

“The positive results of the show exceeded my original expectations,” explains Nowell. “People are calling the shelter asking to adopt animals they have seen on the show. Fostering and adoptions have increased significantly.”

Nowell is an outdoor enthusiast, producing a weekly City4 show focusing on local trails and activities, and is a new member of NPC’s Outdoor Club. He also serves as SGA vice president and on the College Council, helping to decide college policy on behalf of students and faculty.

A President’s Scholar and Performing Arts Scholarship recipient, Nowell has appeared in several joint NPC and White Mountain Regional Theater productions, including the world premiere of Coeur d’Alene by local playwright Lisa Jayne. For his lead role performance portraying Mayor Steve Judy in the play, which addressed questions of human rights and racism, he has been nominated for a Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Irene Ryan Scholarship. He plays to continue his theatrical studies at the University of Arizona, with the career goal of becoming an on-stage performer.

Julie Peck
Julie Peck

“Saying I was petrified of college would be a huge understatement,” explains Julie Peck on her decision to resume her education at age 34. “School had always been difficult for me.” She had graduated from high school with a low GPA. “The teacher’s reports all said I was lazy and could do better. No matter how hard I tried, my brain could not absorb the information being taught.”

Her mother insisted she attend beauty school. “I didn’t want to go. Surprisingly to everyone, I not only succeeded, but I excelled in this trade.” After working as a cosmetologist for 20 years, Peck decided to finish cosmetology instructor’s school and then go on to obtain an associate degree. “This started me on a love of learning that has blessed my life.” She is a first-generation college student.

About the same time she decided to go back to school, her husband lost his kidneys and was put on dialysis. As his caregiver, she drove him to appointments, sat for days at his bedside, cleaned his wounds after four major surgeries and was his dialysis aid, monitoring his weight and vital signs, maintaining medications and emptying his dialyzer solution. “Doing these duties while working full time, being a mom to my two children, and going to college was, to say the least, very difficult. However, it taught me how strong the human spirit is when it is tested. Oddly enough, I am pleased I had this opportunity in my life because I can tell my children and students anything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

For the past four years Peck has been teaching cosmetology students at NPC’s St. Johns Center. “Ironically, my struggles with learning are also quite common with the students I teach. They come with a beat down attitude and tell me ‘I’m too dumb to take tests or finish any scholastic projects.’ I am able to share with them the things I learned through my college experience,” Peck notes. “I encourage them to keep going.”

She also encourages her students to give back to their communities. She organized holiday canned food drives for the past three years, collecting around $500 of non-perishable items each year for the local food bank. She got the NPC Cosmetology students involved in the Locks of Love program, where free haircuts are offered to clients willing to donate 10-inches of hair used to create free wigs for cancer patients.

Working with three local schools, cosmetology students build a basket of free goodies, including hygiene products, warm socks, gloves and other items, and provide free salon services to a king or queen for a day. “This demonstrates to my students how a small act of kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life,” Peck added.

In addition to working full-time for NPC, she is also taking classes from both NPC and ASU. She will use her tuition waiver to complete her degree in operational management from ASU. She hopes to eventually earn her master’s degree, possibly in communications, and return to oversee the NPC cosmetology department or work in human resources.

Her 14-year-old daughter Kylie is a high school freshman, who is a soccer player and active in her church’s youth group. Son Kaeden is in sixth grade, plays football every Saturday in a traveling city league and is also active in church group. “I try to catch as many of their games as I can. Being their mom is my greatest honor in life, and my favorite thing to do.”

Christina Scott-Ford
Christina Scott-Ford

“My life has been a bumpy road. I didn’t have a lot of structure growing up, and education was never really a priority in my family,” commented Christina Scott-Ford. “I try to provide the exact opposite for my children, providing structure and making clear the importance of a good education.”

Her three grown sons all graduated for her. “I am so proud of them for that! It was a challenge trying to teach them the value of education when I didn’t even have my own. I used the ‘learn from my mistakes’ technique; luckily, it worked!”

Six free credits after obtaining her GED from NPC launched Scott-Ford’s college career. “That very thing gave me the opportunity to begin to change my life.” She immediately enrolled in summer classes and has taken classes every semester since. She was named to the President’s List, for maintaining a 4.0 GPA in the spring 2013 semester. She is on track to complete her Associate of Business (ABus) in December 2014, and then plans to re-locate to the Valley to continue her studies at ASU. Her long-term goal is to obtain her MBA and work in human resources.

Seven years ago she was diagnosed with insulin dependent juvenile diabetes. “I have chosen to find strength in the challenge, and will do whatever it takes to make my dreams come true. I know this means hard work, dedication, drive and ambition – all of which I will use to my advantage in achieving my goals.”

Scott-Ford is a federal work-study in the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus Library and serves as vice president of NPC’s multi-cultural Eagle Club. The club organized a tour of the NAU campus earlier this year, with plans to do similar trips to ASU and UofA later this spring. She helped organize a Veteran’s Day flag-raising ceremony to honor those who are or have served this country. The Eagle Club is also gathering petition signature to have the City of Holbrook participate in a recycling program.

She volunteers in her nine-year-old daughter’s school, helping with vision and hearing screening tests and an upcoming Santa’s workshop, and her AWANA church youth group. “I have a very supportive husband, who is a tremendous help with our daughter. My family is very supportive of my education.”

Sterling West
Sterling West

“For all of my life, I have had a passion for service. All of my goals, short- and long-term, revolve around service, to my nation, my faith and humankind,” notes Sterling West. During the second semester of his senior year in high school he enlisted in the Marine Corps to “follow through with this sense of service that is so deeply engrained within me. Unfortunately, before I shipped out to boot camp, I discovered I had asthma and would not be able to be a Marine.”

Still wanting to serve his country, West decided to pursue a career in foreign affairs and enrolled at NPC. “While in high school, I did not take my studies seriously and was not prepared for college-level work,” notes West. After dropping out and taking remedial courses instead, he tried again and will complete his Associate of Arts (AA) degree in May.

West plans to transfer to the University of Arizona in the fall to complete his bachelor’s degree, and then plans to enroll in a Russian Master of Arts program. “For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be an intelligence officer in one of our nation’s intelligence agencies, such as the CIA or NSA.” If that doesn’t work out, West plans to follow another childhood calling – to become a full-time missionary to either the Russian Federation or a former Soviet Republic.

His NPC classes sparked an interest in America’s political process. West volunteered to serve on the Navajo County Election Board during the 2012 Presidential Election. “I now had first-hand experience with the political process and was better able to articulate my beliefs in my classes. Also, my experiences encouraged me to become politically active in my community and campus. As a result I became a Student Government Association Senator, representing the Winslow campus.” He helped organize a voter registration drive and is working with fellow students to restore a Hopi Transit System vital to many NPC students.

“Attending college forced me to interact on a daily basis with a diverse group of individuals, and, as a result, I grew an appreciation for diversity that I was lacking beforehand,” concluded West.

A complete list of past NPC recipients of the All-Arizona Academic Team honor can be viewed online.

Northland Pioneer College serves the residents of Navajo and Apache counties through four regional campuses and five centers with a variety of educational options for academic, career and technical and personal enrichment. NPC supports each student’s educational goals through affordable tuition, small class sizes and caring, professional instructors. For more information about NPC programs and services,  call (800) 266-7845.

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