NPC names 15 to All-AZ Academic Team

January 6, 2016 by Anonymous

Tuition waivers, valued at over $300,000, will be awarded to 15 All-Arizona Academic Team students from Northland Pioneer College to complete their bachelor’s degrees at one of Arizona three public universities. The Arizona Board of Regents awards the waivers, for up to 60 credits, to encourage the state’s top scholars to finish their education.

Receiving tuition waivers will be NPC students:

Team members will also receive scholarships from NPC and are automatically considered for additional All-USA Academic Team scholarships.

NPC nominees, along with 65 other top scholars from the state’s other community colleges, will be honored at a luncheon on Thursday, March 3, in Mesa. NPC can nominate two students from each campus and center location to the All-Arizona team. A student must have taken a class at or originating from that location to be considered for one of the two nominations. To be eligible for nomination, a student must have accumulative 3.5 or high grade point average, be working toward an associate degree, and demonstrate college or community volunteerism and leadership.

For the past 21 years Arizona has separately recognized the state’s top two-year college students as a part of the 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. A complete list of past NPC recipients of the All-Arizona Academic Team honor can be viewed online.

Morgan Black
Morgan Black

Morgan Black is committed to graduating debt-free with his bachelor’s degree in Health Sciences from Northern Arizona University. “I didn’t see the need to fulfill general education requirements at a university that would cost three times as much. I have also loved the intimate contact that I get with my professors, being able to ask one-on-one questions. This has been huge in my learning process,” noted Black. “Attending a community college first before attending a university is one suggestion that I highly recommend for everyone considering a higher education.”

“I love the workings of the human body and how it can recuperate through exercise and healthy dieting. Just like an exercise and diet program requires balance, I’ve had to create my own balanced ‘life exercise and diet program’ consisting of a healthy serving of family, 14 credit grams of school protein, a couple reps of service and topped with a metabolically-enhanced work ethic,” explained Black. That’s driving the Utah transplant’s long-term educational goal to receive his doctorate in Physical Therapy and eventually own or run his own practice, adapting PT/exercise techniques to meet the needs of individual patients.

Black is currently an administrative assistant to NPC’s Director of Enrollment Services and is also a Student Government Association senator. He and his wife and two children reside in Holbrook.

Eloy Carranza Jr.
Eloy Carranza Jr.

Having a better understanding of chemistry and geology has made Eloy Carranza Jr. a better engineering technician for his employer, Western Technologies. The moisture content of field soil compaction tests is vital to future structural stability. “After taking geology and chemistry (at NPC) I am now able to explain to my fellow technicians why adding moisture to a soil has a huge impact on how well the contractor is able to achieve compact specifications,” explained Carranza. “It is especially important with clay soils due to their ability to swell when water is added. Ensuring that the soil is at optimum moisture means the chances of significant swelling become diminished, reducing the potential for building damage or even complete foundation failure.”

Carranza is working on his Associate of Science degree at NPC, completing prerequisites for transferring to Arizona State University to study civil engineering. He plans to use his degree and work experience to find a position in project management, before pursuing his master’s degree in engineering. His dream is to someday open his own testing firm, “taking people who have little experience as a testing technician and training them to become something they may have never known they could be.”

A half-marathon runner, Carranza would like to volunteer with an outdoor club geared to teens. “A person in their teenage years is more susceptible to making poor life choices. I would want to guide them using my own past experiences, all while enjoying many beautiful scenic sites.” He and his wife, an ER nurse, reside in Whiteriver.

Mark Crump
Mark Crump

Mark Crump opted for a construction career right out of high school, becoming a foreman by age 19 and achieving financial independence by 40. Then the stock market crashed, and he was forced into bankruptcy. “Losing everything in your 50s forces a person to examine their life and reassess what is truly important,” noted Crump. He now considers deciding to attend college in his 50s one of those significant events.

“When you haven’t been in a classroom in 36 years, many things enter your mind,” Crump explained. “Can I still learn? Can I keep up with the curriculum and the rigors of full-time college atop full-time employment and the responsibilities of marriage, which has no time constraints?” Until October, he was actually working two full-time jobs. His NPC studies led him into a new career, working the IT help desk at White Mountain Regional Regional Center in Springerville.

With the support of his wife, who has been handicapped the past few years and requires assistance in various aspects of her daily life and physical therapy, Crump is now the first in his family to obtain a college degree. In the fall semester he finished requirements for an Associate of Business degree and will complete an Associate of Science degree in May.

Crump has become an inspiration to others to complete their education, whether a GED, real estate license or a college degree. He plans to complete his bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, with an information technology minor at Northern Arizona University and looks forward to helping small businesses, particularly in the healthcare sector, with their technology needs. He plans to continue his education until he achieves a master’s degree so that he can teach at the community college level. “With any luck at all, I hope to be as inspiring to some of them as some of my instructors have been to me,” added Crump. The Crumps make their home in Eagar.

Rachel Hancock
Rachel Hancock

“I absolutely love teaching and working with young children,” explains Rachel Hancock, who works as a paraprofessional kindergarten aid at Taylor Elementary School. “When I first started working for the school district six years ago I never had plans to attend college. Three years ago I realized this job was the perfect fit for me and started taking night classes at NPC.”

She finished requirements for her Associate of Arts in Elementary Education degree during the just-ended fall semester and will be starting her studies toward a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Northern Arizona University this spring. When she completes her bachelor’s degree she hopes to get a teaching position at her current elementary school. “I would like to continue my schooling and work on my master’s degree,” noted Hancock. “My ultimate goal of becoming a teacher will put me in a position to become an influence for good.”

Studying about mental illness in some of her NPC classes has helped her cope with the tragic loss of her brother, and better prepared her to counsel others in similar situations. “I have gained a better understanding of how to work with children who are struggling with mental disabilities, and I have discovered different techniques I can use to help them progress,” explained Hancock.

Hancock plans to continue being involved with her children in 4-H, where she serves as a steer group leader, and in volunteer leadership roles at her church. The Hancocks reside in Taylor.

Christine Harper
Christine Harper

Christine Harper admits she only did what was required – nothing more – while attending three different high schools her senior year. And three attempts at college only resulted in a pile of debt. “I spent thousands of dollars pulling myself, and my credit, out of the hole of debt I had accumulated,” noted Harper. But on her fourth attempt at college, “something clicked. I found professors that dug into my brain, and made me think. I found assignments that increased in interest and at the completion of my first semester I realized I had achieved a 4.0 GPA. I was hooked.”

Learning to follow through has changed her life. “I did not keep my 4.0, but I am proud to say I earned every grade I got and hold few regrets.” While studying at NPC “my husband and I paid off school debt, credit card debt and a string of small stuff like cell phone charges and defaulted water bills. We also came off welfare. We saved money and dove into the biggest debt of our lives – we bought a house – so our three kids would not have to share a room in a tiny mobile home that was literally falling apart,” explains Harper.

Her dedication to school spilled over to the job. She had intended to stay for six months before moving to greener pastures. She has now been employed as a waitress in Greer for four years, and plans to continue while she works on her bachelor’s degree in geography at Arizona State University, starting this spring. “My long-term goal is to learn geography hands-on in many different fields: forestry, urban development, natural resources and weather patterns,” remarked Harper. Knowledgeable in GIS systems, she hopes to find employment in a federal or state agency, such as the Forest Service or Arizona Game and Fish. The Harpers reside in Springerville.

Tristadawn Ison
Tristadawn Ison

If she keeps going at her current pace, you’ll be calling Tristadawn Ison doctor in four years or less. In May, the Show Low High School senior will receive her Medical Assistant (MDA) associate’s degree from NPC before she accepts her high school diploma. Then in the fall it’s off to the University of Arizona for pre-med studies toward her life goal of becoming a surgeon. She plans to work as an MDA to pay the extra expenses not covered by her All-Arizona tuition waiver.

Juggling high school and college classes hasn’t been easy. Online high school, evening and summer college classes were required to reach her goal. “The first class I took was a challenge, but I learned so much about what to expect in the rest of my courses,” noted Ison. “These experiences, being that they were mainly about medicine, encouraged me to open up and try new things. I started to see how I could benefit my community with the basic knowledge that I’d received. Since then, I volunteer as much as I can, participating in teen court, tutoring, helping with my local blood drive and even volunteering at the hospital,” she continued.

Ison took advantage of courses offered through the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), which covers college tuition and textbooks for many of the classes she needed for her MDA degree. She utilized NPC’s College Bound scholarship for the general education classes that were not available through NAVIT.

“An associate degree may seem easy and small to some. It might even be something that one would consider unnecessary. To me, it was the first step to contribute to the world. Earning my associate’s has shown me the advantages of helping society, both near and abroad,” added Ison. “I have constantly felt a need to help others as much as I could and that is the main reason I chose to be in the medical field.”

Ashley McLaws
Ashley McLaws

Ashley McLaws is already applying lessons learned in her education classes to her role as a preschool aid. In her classes she has “learned a lot about the kind of kids I work with. My studies helped me to know what is normal for preschoolers and to know what they are likely to need help with,” she noted. “Knowing what is normal for different types of children has helped me feel more comfortable around them and interact with them in a normal manner. I think knowing how to interact with children is a very important skill that comes from knowledge of children and experience.”

She also gained a better understanding of IEP’s — something she needed in preschool up through high school. “When I started college, we figured I would need that same help there too, but I managed to do well without it. The accommodations were like a crutch to me and when I let go of it, I gained confidence in my abilities. Remembering that time keeps me motivated to exceed the expectations that were placed on me,” added McLaws.

Music has also become an important part of her life. McLaws started playing the flute in fifth grade, adding piano, accordion and singing in the choir in later years. “Music has helped me overcome my stage fright and be proud of who I am. There is always something new to learn in music and it has been a gift that makes people happy. Even though I am not going into the music field as a career path, it will always play a big role in my life.”

McLaws plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Northern Arizona University, with the goal of teaching in the lower elementary grades.

Savannah Meritt
Savannah Meritt

In one of her psychology classes, Savannah Meritt learned that swimming helps slow the effects of Alzheimer’s. So she encouraged an aunt, who is showing signs of the illness, to start swimming. “She can now remember things longer and doesn’t forget as often that she has already told me something,” remarked Meritt.

She is completing her general education courses, working toward an NPC Associate of Arts degree before transferring next fall to Northern Arizona University. While currently uncertain about her major, her long-term educational goal is to obtain her master’s degree or doctorate in order to be a psychiatrist, or a small business owner. “I really just want to make a lot of money and donate a bunch of it to people who need it,” noted Meritt.

A first-generation college student and President’s Scholars, Meritt is motivated by “music, family and the want to help others.” She enjoys theatre production, “backstage, not on,” and hopes to take a theatre class in the future.

Trysta Meyer
Trysta Meyer

Trysta Meyer grew up as an athlete who excelled on the soccer field and in the classroom, often tutoring other students who were struggling with things she had solved with ease. Then a fourth concussion caused memory loss and learning disabilities across the board. “I wasn’t the star student anymore. In fact, I didn’t know how to form sentences or even multiply 2 times 2,” Meyer explained.

After several special education classes, Meyer recognized the amount of time the teachers put into her to get her back on track. Now she is well on her way to completing her Associate of Arts degree in Elementary Education at NPC, with plans to continue her studies in the fall at Arizona State University. Her goal is to become a kindergarten teacher, and to coach varsity sports, especially soccer, at the high school level. Meyer also wants to add a physical therapy degree, so that she can treat injuries with confidence.

Techniques learned in her NPC Diversity in Education class with instructor Dr. Sandra Johnson are the basis for a lot of her coaching abilities. “This inspirational woman has made it clear to me what it means to teach in such a diverse world,” noted Meyer. “She taught the class that everyone learns at different rates, with different styles, and special understandings. Coaching allows me to apply these principles to a real life situation.”

Meyer hopes “to one day become a teacher who can spark her classroom into a learning group by applying everything That I have learned at Northland Pioneer College. After all, I just want everyone to understand.”

Toni Odom
Toni Odom

Toni Odom started taking classes at NPC to gain a better understanding of business concepts. As a small town entrepreneur and hardware store manager, she needed to intelligently communicate with franchise executives, her accountant, government agencies and other business owners.

When the economy failed in 2008, Odom struggled to keep the business going. Still she became more involved in the community, donating time and materials to the local schools and senior center and was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce. But budget cuts to the governmental agencies that made up over half of her business, soon took their toll and she had to close the business. “I am very proud of the work that I did in Saint Johns. I could not have done it without the local college and all they did to support me.”

Now Odom is completing her Associate of Arts degree, with plans to acquire a bachelor’s degree in Public Management and Policy from Arizona State University. “I will probably pursue a master’s degree, but am eager to move into a place where education is something I immerse myself in strictly for the enjoyment of it,” explained Odom.

Currently a human resources technician for Apache County, Odom has also worked as a juvenile detention officer for the county. “I am on a path to work into a position in government that would allow me to affect public policy in ways that would support education for our children and families in the future,” continued Odom. “I know that community college has helped me in so many ways and I am eager to make sure that these institutions have a stable funding source in the future.”

Odom has witnessed many young people at the detention center that just needed a support system. She wants to become a foster parent for teens, to help fill the shortage of families willing to take in these young people.

Cary Pearson
Cary Pearson

Cary Pearson describes himself as an underachiever in high school. Rather than concentrate on school, he elected to spend more hours at his fast food job. “I was working a lot of overtime to only make ends meet and was living well below the poverty level,” noted Pearson. After a decade out of the classroom, his family finally convinced him to enroll at NPC. “College has transformed my life and has shown me what I am capable of achieving,” he continued.

At NPC, Pearson is completing courses for his Associate of Science degree, with plans to pursue a Computer Technology bachelor’s degree in the fall at Northern Arizona University. “I plan on being a career student, and maybe eventually earn a master’s or doctorate degree,” explained Pearson. His short-term career goal is to get hired locally as a computer technician. “I eventually hope to become a high-level computer programmer, or an administrator in the tech field.”

As part of his computer science studies at NPC Pearson is doing an internship in the college’s IT department. While assisting with the replacement of a printer, he was able to use what he had learned in his networking classes to solve an issue with the installation at one of NPC’s remote locations. The install went smoothly until the computer and directly-connected printer would not connect. The other techs agreed to give Pearson’s idea of creating a small local network a try. “Voila, success. Not only could the computer that we were trying to connect to start printing, but all of the PCs in the building could access it. It was the first time in the internship where I felt like I had really accomplished something that the other techs actually needed some help with,” Pearson noted.

Pearson hopes to join some friends in working with local youth, enabling better access to opportunities that would help the youth succeed in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) areas of academics.

Erica Pullin
Erica Pullin

With knowledge, comes the responsibility to attempt to correct a situation – especially when it involves the education of young children. As the spouse of a high school teacher, mother of three young boys and an elementary education student at NPC, Erica Pullin observed first-hand inadequacies at a local elementary school. To improve parent involvement and communication with school officials, she started a Parent in Education organization, re-opened the school store with donations from local businesses and actively fought to correct problems in the school’s operation. “The students didn’t have physical education, art or music. They needed something to help motivate them.”

Pullin especially believed the school was not meeting requirements for special education instruction. She even launched a petition drive to have the principal removed. “I knew students didn’t have a voice about the quality of their education and needed someone to speak on their behalf,” explained Pullin. “Multiple hours were spent attending school board meetings, contacting B.I.E. headquarters in Albuquerque, and numerous talks with the Educational Line Officer.” Pressure from Pullin and other parents eventually led to the principal’s resignation.

“I had learned through my education classes that interaction with parents of any school is imperative, as well as having an enriched learning environment,” noted Pullin. Even after the change in principal, Pullin was unhappy with the school’s learning environment and chose to enroll her three boys in Arizona Virtual Academy. “I have been their learning coach now for three grades. My responsibilities are similar to a primary teacher. We complete the daily lesson/lab for each subject together, then they take an online assessment or write an essay. If they understand the lesson after the virtual lecture and my guidance, they have me administer the assessment,” explained Pullin. “It has been a rewarding role. I get to spend my days helping to educate them and then set the example of academic importance by continuing my education at night.”

Pullin will start working on her bachelor’s degree in elementary education this fall through Northern Arizona University, with plans to also complete her master’s degree.

Lori Rothlisberg
Lori Rothlisberger

Lori Rothlisberger is following in her family’s tradition of helping others by studying to become a registered nurse. “My grandmother, Laura, was a nurse in Prescott for about 40 years and when I was in high school, my mom was an EMT in St. Johns. I have always admired them and their choice to help others,” she noted. “I want to be an RN because I enjoy helping people and it is a perfect way to help my community.”

Cheerleader is another term that describes Rothlisberger. Whether she is encouraging her fellow nursing students in her role as class president, organizing an ice cream social or parade for the St. Johns community, or promoting organ donation at regional health fairs, her enthusiasm spills over to those around her. “Volunteerism is in my blood.” She has also helped at vaccination clinics, coached T-ball, served as a Cub Scout leader, trained new Boys Scout leaders, served as vice president of the St. Johns Chamber of Commerce for six years, and organized teaching and mentoring opportunities of future nursing students. “The success of my community has always been very important to me,” added Rothlisberger.

She is a first generation college student. “Our youngest (of four children) was a junior in high school when I decided to go back to college. The classes for the (nursing) program are really tough. But I know that I will be successful.” Rothlisberger plans to continue her studies this fall toward her Bachelor of Science Nursing degree at either Northern Arizona University or Arizona State University. “NPC has an amazing nursing program, one of the best in the state, and their graduation rate is very high. Ultimately, I would like to be a traveling nurse. That will come later when I have lots of experience working as a nurse.”

Although from St. Johns, Rothlisberger is representing the Springerville/Eagar Center on this year’s team because she has taken classes at that location.

Ted Seipp
Ted Seipp

Ted Seipp was an “A” student through elementary, junior high – where he was the valedictorian – and high school. He is continuing that excellence at NPC in the calculus, science and language classes required for his NPC Associate of Science degree. In addition to his full class load, he also works 15 to 20 hours per week as a restaurant server and volunteers as the assistant athletic coach at Concho Elementary School during football and basketball season.

“Seipp was a valuable asset as an assistant coach. We utilized his creativity and abilities to challenge our athletes,” noted Concho coach Bryan Molck. “He was able to motivate them to perform on higher levels and encouraged them to challenge their own abilities. He was a positive role model to these athletes by showing them how a little extra effort and hard work can benefit.”

Whether working with young athletes, leading a study group, or tutoring math and chemistry one-on-one, Seipp relies on the “character attributes of patience, cooperation, communication, confidence and knowledge, traits which I have developed or refined during my community college career,” he explained. “One of my college assignments was a comprehensive research paper on the prevention of concussions, traumatic brain injury and other sports injuries. I have used the knowledge I gained to guide my philosophy of coaching.”

Seipp recounts he has always been motivated to obtain a degree in the sciences. He plans to continue his education at the University of Arizona in the fall, pursuing a civil or software engineering bachelor’s degree. “My short-term goal would be to work as an entry-level software engineer or as an engineering consultant. My long-term goal would be in a higher-level software designing position at a reputable company, or as a major consultant at Salt River Project.”

His brother, a freelance political consultant, has always been his role model. “I want to continue helping out at my local church and elementary school, with a long-term volunteer goal of making large financial contributions to reputable charities, and lending a hand in physical projects as well.”

Ariel Shirley
Ariel Shirley

As a teenager, Ariel Shirley “felt a deep sadness and desire to help fix the atrocities of embezzlement and corruption in Navajo government,” launching her on the path to become a lawyer and represent the Diné in Washington, D.C. A first-generation college student, Shirley says she was raised primarily by her mother “who taught me her altruistic qualities. As a result, I give back as much as I can.”

Shirley is president of NPC’s multi-cultural Eagle Club, serves as a Student Government Association Senator and also participates with the Outdoor Club. While serving a summer internship in Flagstaff, she volunteered with the Humane Society, caring for the shelter cats. “I just want to make a difference on campus. And in return, I develop my leadership skills and learn what it means to be a leader,” she remarked.

A President’s Scholars and recipient of the Martia A. Smith Art Scholarship, last summer Shirley was chosen as one of only eight students from throughout the United States to participate in a prestigious psychological research internship at Northern Arizona University. Paired with a mentor who had conducted social class studies in Russia and Africa, Shirley conducted her own research in the psychological aspect of social class. “At the end of the program, I was one of two students who were accepted into the international conference in Hawaii. My research I did this summer will be displayed to various faculties from around the world, and researchers in various fields of study,” remarked Shirley.

Shirley is planning to continue her education in the fall at the University of Arizona, majoring in political science and pre-law. “I want to be a role model for my sister and younger family members. My long-term goal is to graduate with my Juris Doctor in tribal law and/or intellectual property. My goal is to give back to my Navajo people and fight for those without a voice. I want to be the difference and make my community and state a better place. Eventually, I will return to my political science roots and run for a elected office position, maybe as a U.S. Senator,” added Shirley.

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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