NPC salutes our outstanding graduates who support and promote life-long learning!
See our current award winner on the alumni page.
Cindy Stirling – Fall 2018
An Open Personality with a Small Town Heart that is Rare to Find
Article by Dennis Durband,
NPC Marketing Staff Writer
Cindy Stirling has been acknowledged as one of the premiere traveling makeup artists and licensed hairstylists in the U.S. and internationally. Working with high-profile production organizations for television and film and alongside top-tier photographers and weddings, she is considered among the elite in her field and is consistently booked for high-end private lessons, photo-shoots and weddings. Living the dream of a young girl in Lakeside who had a passion for cosmetology and who got her start at Northland Pioneer College (NPC), Stirling is the recipient of the NPC Outstanding Alumnus Award for the fall 2018 semester.
“Clients say Stirling is not only talented, but her genuine and caring nature creates a memorable experience because she is a pleasure to work with. She has an open personality with a small town heart that is rare to find," says the person who nominated Stirling for the award, Chloe Fagotti, her former instructor and the current chair of the NPC Cosmetology Department.
Among Stirling’s clients are the Daytime Emmy Awards program, a Sesame Street Documentary to be aired in theaters 2019, on HBO and 20/20; Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson); Freddie Prinz Jr.; CBS Sports sportscasters; CBS Corporation; 20th Century Fox; Xbox live; The Simpson’s at Comic Con-San Diego; reality TV celebrities; published fitness cover models for Women’s health and fitness magazine; and a VIP experience concert tour by Taylor Swift, just to name a few. Stirling’s work has taken her to Italy, France, Fiji, Mexico and locations around the U.S. and Canada.
“Cosmetology is my passion, and I always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up,” Stirling says. “I knew that someday I would move to California to follow that dream.” But first she needed the right education. During her last two years at Blue Ridge High School (2002-2004), she studied cosmetology at NPC as a NAVIT (Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology) student.
Stirling rates her NPC education and the cosmetology faculty as “incredible.” Instructors Fagotti, Stormi Finch and Theresa Parker all had a profound impact on her. “Because of their devotion to education, I can proudly hold up this Outstanding Alumnus Award as a mark of my achievement. They’ve inspired me to continually strive to improve in my craft and to inspire future students to follow their dreams,” she says.
As a young cosmetologist, Stirling started her career at a Scottsdale salon. At the age of 20 she ran her own salon studio business while also working part-time at MAC Cosmetics. In 2008, Stirling transferred with MAC Cosmetics to San Diego. Then in 2012 she took a leap of faith and Cindy Stirling Makeup & Hair was born. With the help of two supportive clients — photographer Steven Wetherbee and San Diego/Los Angeles TV personality Taylor Baldwin — the business skyrocketed.
Now, Stirling’s services are in high demand and clients book her well in advance. “I’m literally working every single day in the summer, and during wedding season I maybe get one day off a month,” Stirling says.
Giving back and supporting higher education are major priorities for Stirling. She has done volunteer work at a girls’ orphanage in Nepal for the Unatti Foundation. And she’s been a guest instructor for NPC cosmetology students. “NPC students reach out to me on social media, and it feels wonderful knowing that I’m giving back and hopefully inspiring them. None of my success would have been possible without the education I received from the NPC Cosmetology Department through the NAVIT program. I have the utmost love and gratitude for each stage of my education and career. Without it I wouldn’t be where I am today. My message for current students is this: what you want exists, don’t settle until you get it.”
Stirling also thanks her parents, Gene and Valerie Stirling, of Lakeside (owners of Stirling Fence Inc.) and her late grandmother Elaine Stirling. “They instilled in me what it means to be an entrepreneur and business owner.”
Stirling will be out of the country on November 20, when NPC's District Governing Board will recognize her during its next regular meeting in Holbrook. Accepting the award on her behalf will be her parents. Cindy will receive a plaque, a certificate for three free credits at NPC and a one-year pass to all events at the college's Performing Arts Center.
Dr. Chet Adams – Spring 2018
Don't Give Up On Your Dream
Article and photograph by Dennis Durband,
NPC Marketing Staff Writer
SHOW LOW – Achieving one's career goal isn't always a straight, smooth road. Dr. Chet Adams encountered twists and turns on his journey to dental school, but he persisted in the pursuit of his dream. Today he is serving the dental needs of people in the White Mountains and heavily engaged in service to his local and other communities. He is also the winner of the Northland Pioneer College (NPC) Outstanding Alumnus Award for the spring 2018 semester.
Adams excelled academically while attending NPC from 2003-2004 and during subsequent summer terms while also working on his bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University (NAU). He earned a bachelor's in biomedical science and minored in Spanish and chemistry, graduating from NAU in 2007.
The son of Show Low dentist Dr. Trent Adams, Chet grew up with an interest in serving in the medical field. He was initially focused on ophthalmology, but ultimately decided to move toward dentistry. While studying at NPC, he gained valuable experience working in his father's dental office.
Looking back on his NPC education, Dr. Adams calls it “priceless. NPC was one of the places that taught me how to study and how to communicate with teachers who were willing and open to help me out. If I had it to do all over again I'd start with NPC in a heartbeat.”
Adams' dental school dream didn't happen right away. He applied to dental schools, but it took a few years before he gained acceptance. Diverted temporarily to other fields of employment, he never lost sight of his ultimate career destination.
For three years, Adams ran the diabetes education program at North Country HealthCare in Flagstaff. He taught classes, counseled people and conducted diabetes screenings in communities spanning from Springerville to Bullhead City.
In 2008-2009 Adams worked as a substitute teacher in the Mesa School District. It was during this time that a faculty member at A.T. Still University mentored him and helped him sharpen his approach to the dental school application process. In 2012, at the age of 30, Adams was accepted for admission to the Arizona School of Dentistry and Oral Health. He graduated in 2016 and received the Student Award of Merit for his work in esthetics from the American Academy of Esthetic Dentistry.
In July of 2016, he began working full-time with his father at Adams Family Dental. Chet is a member of both the Arizona Dental Association and the American Dental Association. “My satisfaction level with dentistry is a 10,” he says. “I'm very happy with what I'm doing. We have a great staff to work with,” including his wife Shelly, a dental hygienist and former NPC student as well. “Having my dad as a mentor is great and I have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of patients with language barriers. I enjoy serving the under-served.”
Dr. Adams has made two visits to Mexico and, working 12-14 hours a day, provided free dentistry to hundreds of patients. He is also a Boy Scout leader and engaged in community service projects. By attending monthly meetings of the White Mountains Study Club, Dr. Adams and colleagues in his field stay current on innovations in dentistry and discuss opportunities to meet the dental needs of the community.
Julia Barton, a dental hygienist at Adams Family Dental and the mother of five current and former NPC students, nominated Chet for the Outstanding Alumnus Award. “Dr. Adams is a wonderful dentist and truly exhibits his gratitude for the education that has gotten him to where he is today, back in his hometown and giving back to his community,” she said.
Dr. Adams encourages people to persist in the pursuit of their dreams, and says, “If what you're doing isn't working, make changes. If you have a hard time succeeding, don't be afraid to change strategies to achieve your goals. Be grateful for the support you get from friends, family and teachers.”
NPC's District Governing Board honored Dr. Chet Adams during its regular meeting in Holbrook on May 15. He also received a plaque, a certificate for three free credits at NPC and a one-year pass to all events at the college's Performing Arts Center.
Rusty Williams – Fall 2017
Teaching Others About Perseverance
Rusty Williams mentored many fellow students in his time as a college student, and though he’s moved on to his career now he’s still investing in the academic success of college students. As one who strongly supports and promotes life-long learning, Williams is the recipient of NPC’s Fall 2017 Outstanding Alumni award. This high achiever also overcame a life-threatening car accident and inspires those around him.
A 2015 NPC graduate, Williams is working as an environmental protection technician at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in Yuma. On a part-time basis, he also tutors math, biology and science students at Arizona Western College.
At the age of 17, Williams was seriously injured in a car accident near his hometown of Heber. He spent six months in a burn center, three months of which were in an induced coma and a lengthy time in physical therapy, enduring more than 40 surgeries. Williams’ right arm was amputated above the elbow due to fourth-degree burns and, aside from half a thumb, all the fingers on his left hand were amputated. He says it took a while to adapt, but amazingly, this traumatic series of events was not enough to deter him from moving forward with his life and education.
Through Ashford University’s online program, Williams accrued 39 credit hours of business education. He gained membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Also during this time, he helped his step-son with homework and realized the fulfilment that comes with helping students who need course work assistance.
In 2014, Williams enrolled at NPC as a science student. He thrived in his classes and was a dependable work study student. He received a Supporting Educational Endeavors for Degrees in Science scholarship.
Williams said three NPC instructors made a significant impact on his education – Patricia Lopez in biology, Thomas Hodgkins in chemistry and Gary Mack in mathematics. Lopez recalls that “Despite considerable physical limitations, Rusty completed all of the science labs, mostly surpassing his peers in performance.” Hodgkins said, “Rusty was an excellent student in CHM 151 and an above average student in CHM 152. I found him to be a very hard worker who refused to let his disability get in the way of his excellent academic progress.”
“No matter what the task as a Federal Work Study student at NPC, Rusty always approached each assignment with a genuine happiness to help out,” said Hallie Lucas, administrative assistant for learning.
After completing his Associate of Science degree at NPC, Williams went on to earn an Associate degree in Environmental Science at Arizona Western College with a 3.86 grade-point average.
Transferring to Northern Arizona University, Williams earned a bachelor's degree in environmental science with Magna Cum Laude distinction in May 2017. He tutored more than 100 students and received an outstanding academic achievement award. He also created a reference for students in a chemistry class and became a supplemental instruction leader in chemistry.
In the summer of 2016, Williams interned with BOR. Within a few months, he gained a full-time job with that organization as an environmental protection technician. His duties include ensuring BOR's activities are in compliance with state and federal laws, overseeing emergency preparedness in case of hazardous material releases and providing project research assistance for senior employees.
Williams is planning to work with child burn survivors to encourage them with his positive attitude. “I'm just a person who never gives up,” he says. “It's part of my personality. I'm a very dedicated individual.”
The NPC Outstanding Alumni award came as a surprise to Williams, who said, “I'm very happy to receive this honor. It's for people promoting education, and I really enjoy helping students understand and get the help they need with their classes.”
Williams is far from through with his education. He hopes to pursue a master's or doctoral degree in an ecology-related area like environmental engineering or environmental chemistry.
Four members of the NPC faculty and staff nominated Williams for the Outstanding Alumni award. They are Lopez and Lucas; Sandy Manor, coordinator of Disability Resource & Access; and Colleen Readel, administrative assistant for student services. They wrote: “We believe that Rusty has a profound effect on everyone who has the privilege of meeting and getting to know him. He is a walking, breathing example to never give up and to pursue your dreams. Among his many amazing qualities are persistence, determination, integrity and kindness. He's a hard worker and a person who meets challenges head-on.”
NPC's District Governing Board honored Williams during its November 21, 2017 regular meeting in Holbrook. He will also receive a plaque, a certificate for three free credits at NPC and a one-year pass to all Performing Arts Center events.
Darrin Reed – Spring 2017
“I don’t need any award, I’m just doing my job.”
That’s what Darrin Reed, a 1996 graduate of Northland Pioneer College’s Police Academy, told his wife Cathy about a year ago when she suggested nominating him for the alumni honor. His humble response was no surprise to Cathy, or to those who have worked with or met the Show Low Police Officer.
NPC honors the legacy of Officer Reed, who was killed in the line of duty while responding to a disturbance call on November 8, 2016, just three months before his planned retirement after 20 years of dedicated public service.
Being in law enforcement was Darrin’s “dream job,” attainable only because of the NPC Police Academy. Fulfilling the dream didn’t come without sacrifices. While attending the academy, Darrin worked nights as a security guard at the Snowflake paper mill. He also purchased his own equipment and paid his own tuition. Today, many agencies provide the equipment and tuition for NPC’s Northeastern Arizona Law Enforcement Training Academy (NALETA) cadets.
After graduating in June 1996, he joined the Navajo County Sheriff’s Office, serving over the next 10 years as a deputy and patrol sergeant. In 2006, he joined the Show Low Police Department.
During his career, he served as a patrol officer, patrol sergeant, criminal investigator, child crimes investigator, driving instructor, field training officer, background investigator and general instructor. He also served on the Major Crimes and Apprehension Team. His in-depth investigations and proper documentation ensured criminals did not walk away from the consequences of their crimes.
Treating people with respect and honesty was a hallmark of Darrin’s professionalism. “He actually had people thank him for putting them in jail, because it caused them to turn their lives around,” recounts Cathy, who enjoyed 26 years with Darrin. The two had met in a Show Low bowling league six years before Darrin enrolled in the NPC Academy.
Spending time with his family was a very important part of Darrin’s life. Whether it was a little thing like wagging his tail lights as he left for work, or including his son Chance in a ride-along, he always made sure his family knew how much they were loved. “Knowing that the last words we said to each other were ‘I love you’ brings some sense of peace to me,” adds Cathy. “Darrin lived by those words, making sure every day that we knew how much he loved us.”
Chance had the opportunity to do almost 150 ride-alongs with his dad during his five years as a Police Cadet and Explorer. “He believed people should take full responsibility for their actions. Several times suspects would request Darrin, because of the respect he gave them in previous encounters,” Chance said. “He hated the crime but respected the person. He would always encourage them to take care of themselves.”
Chance continues, “He was a walking dictionary. Other officers would come to him with questions about statutes, or people. He seemed to know everyone in the area.”
Following in his father’s footsteps is a possibility for Chance, who has already received level one welding credentials and a welding Certificate of Applied Science through NPC and is currently in NPC’s Industrial Maintenance & Operations (IMO) program. “Both would be good ‘fallback’ careers since police officers don’t get paid that well,” he says.
Over the years, Darrin’s impact on our communities was recognized with numerous letters of commendation and awards. But none was greater than the support shown as officers escorted his body back from Tucson and during his funeral procession. “It has been truly heartwarming to see so many people show their respect to Darrin in so many ways, from lining the streets from Tucson all the way home, to candlelight vigils, fundraisers and well wishes,” remarks Cathy. “Seeing Darrin being honored for the selfless man that he was allowed me to see, even through this tragedy, the compassion and love from all of you,” notes Cathy.
“Always hold Darrin’s values of fairness, honesty and integrity in high regard and never forget the legacy that he left behind, for all we are given is time — our legacy is what we do with it,” concludes Cathy.
Amie Rodgers – Fall 2016
She Really Is A Maverick
Bored White Mountain teenager Amie Rodgers once thought the city life would be her future. She eventually changed her mind, gladly returned to Show Low and is now one of the community’s greatest advocates. The publisher of The Maverick magazine is the recipient of the Fall 2016 NPC Outstanding Alumnus Award.
While attending Blue Ridge High School, Amie's family moved to Iowa. She attended a community college there and then returned to Arizona. She resumed her studies at Estrella Community College in Goodyear, AZ, and then moved back to Show Low. Rodgers attended NPC as a university transfer student, from 2001 – 2005. And she earned a bachelor's degree – with magna cum laude honors – in public agency service at Northern Arizona University.
While attending NPC and later on NAU, Rodgers went to work for a locally owned weekly newspaper called the Maverick. The publication was later sold to a company in Mesa that produced publications for home owners' associations. Rodgers continued to work for the company until it went out of business and ownership of The Maverick reverted back to its founder, Kevin Birnbaum and Rodgers became a 49-percent co-owner of The Maverick. Although Birnbaum had been trying to position The Maverick to become Show Low's leading newspaper, Rodgers urged him to change directions.
“Instead of competing for a piece of the same pie, why not bake another pie?” Rodgers recalls asking. Rather than re-creating the wheel by focusing on news reporting, The Maverick began serving readers a monthly stream of stories on the local good life, area activities, local dining, and coverage of the arts, culture, home and garden, family and much more. The new Maverick became "Your Guide to High Country Living.” Rodgers said, “I saw that people appreciated the stories we offered, and I was surprised it hadn't been done here before.”
The Birnbaum-Rodgers partnership ended in 2008 when he sold his share of the magazine to Rodgers. He moved to Las Vegas and started a multimedia company there. She now runs the magazine along with her brother Travis, a graphic designer.
Rodgers has dedicated herself to long work weeks covering the community. She is inspired by the good taking place and says she “lives vicariously, so to speak,” through these activities. "Every day we are in business we can partake in people's good work,” she says. “Hopefully, as a tourism community and a feel good organization, we inspire people to appreciate our community. My favorite thing is when we write a story about somebody it is as if we are holding a mirror up to them. They are seeing themselves and are absolutely blown away and thrilled, and they can appreciate their own work because we put it into words and share it with the community. They realize they are doing good things and appreciate us sharing it with our readers. It's also nice when we hear from advertisers who support the magazine and when they get new business as a result."
Rodgers' work has made a big hit with the chambers of commerce. In 2009, the Show Low Chamber of Commerce presented her the entrepreneur of year award. In 2011, the Pinetop-Lakeside Chamber of Commerce recognized her as the businesswoman of the year.
Each month The Maverick rolls off the press and is available in the White Mountain communities and Payson area as a free publication distributed in more than 150 locations. Copies of The Maverick Magazine are also distributed in 70-plus locations in the Phoenix area. Rodgers says, "We have an ever growing subscribership in the Valley as well as around the Southwest. I love that people dealing with the rat race of living in a metropolitan area can read the magazine and dream of how much they love being up here."
Betsyann Wilson, executive director of NPC Friends and Family, nominated Rodgers for the alumni award. She said Amie strives to help the people of the White Mountain communities better themselves.
“Amie is an outstanding role model, especially to girls and women of all ages.” Wilson said. “She is a true community advocate. Through the medium of The Maverick, Amie gives of herself through participation in various community and civic organizations. She is a consummate giver whose actions illustrate the value she places in her neighbors everywhere. Amie is a great asset to the White Mountains, and I am so proud she is an alumna of NPC!”
An outstanding student at NPC, Rodgers was most influenced by former art department director Lee Sweetman, whom she calls “a truly amazing woman.”
Rodgers says, “I've always had a lot of respect for NPC. I had started community college in Iowa, but the price of education here is far less expensive. NPC is so affordable. I sometimes wonder if the people of the White Mountains appreciate how much NPC has to offer. It was a natural fit for me. It was perfect. And for my bachelor's degree, I didn't have to leave town or go to Flagstaff. I did televised classes for NAU at the NPC Show Low campus for two years.”
The college's District Governing Board honored Rodgers during its November 15 regular meeting in Holbrook. She also received a plaque and a certificate for three free credits at NPC and a one-year pass to all Performing Arts Center events.
Julie Vasher – Spring 2016
Improving Maternal Care
Northland Pioneer College Class of 1995 Nursing Graduate Julie Vasher and her California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative (CMQCC) colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine are working with hospitals in California, nationally and internationally to improve obstetrical care and reduce maternal mortality and morbidity by implementing the latest best clinical practices for patient treatment. NPC is honoring her accomplishments and contributions to her communities as the Spring 2016 Outstanding Alumnus.
“The United States is not the best at maternity care. In fact, we are among the worst of developed nations,” explains Vasher. “Healthy People 2020 has a goal to reduce maternal mortality in the U.S. to 11.4 per 100,000 live births. When this goal was set in 2007, the U.S. mortality rate was 12.7. Since that time, the U.S. has reached a rate of 22.0 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (2013 data),” she continued.
In contrast, California peaked at 14.0 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. “Since the implementation of the Collaborative’s work, California has decreased its rate of maternal mortality to 7.0 – well below the Healthy People 2020 goal. But we still have work to do,” added Vasher.
Vasher, the “Clinical Implementation Lead” for the Collaborative, earned her Doctor of Nurse Practice (DNP) degree from Vanderbilt University; her bachelor’s and master’s nursing degrees from California State University – Dominquez Hills; is licensed and board-certified as a Parent/Child Clinical Nurse Specialist; and certified in Inpatient Obstetric Nursing and Fetal Monitoring. As a Clinical Nurse Specialist, or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, Vasher functions in five roles to improve patient care – Expert in Clinical Practice, Educator, Leader, Researcher and Consultant. Vasher explained a DNP is designed to train nurses to hasten the implementation of identified clinical best practices from research to bedside – where it can really impact patient outcomes. “My capstone project for my DNP focused on patient education on hypertension in pregnancy and future cardiovascular risks.”
“The Implementation Lead position capitalizes on my background as a Clinical Nurse Specialist and my work as a DNP to identify best practices and help hospitals implement these in their facilities,” explained Vasher. “I provide guidance on an individual hospital level as needed, but mostly in a larger capacity. I speak at many conferences and gatherings on our work and how to overcome barriers to implement best clinical practice.”
The current Collaborative is working with 125 California hospitals to improve outcomes related to OB Hemorrhage and Preeclampsia (hypertension in pregnancy). The Collaborative developed various CMQCC toolkits, which are downloaded every day across the country and internationally, with over 6,000 downloads of the OB Hemorrhage kits and over 7,000 of the Preeclampsia toolkit. “Very soon, (expected release is April 2016) we will start our next initiative to reduce the Primary Cesarean Rate,” said Vasher. | Learn more about the Collaborative’s work and toolkits at www.cmqcc.org.
Born in Anaheim, California, Julie’s family re-located to Show Low when she was 8. Her parents, Roy and Pat Abbott, and brother Wayne Abbott, still reside in the Snowflake/Taylor area. Her sister, Kay, passed away in 2002, but her brother-in-law, Daryl Seymore, “who is still a member of my family,” resides in Show Low. She is married to Andrew Vasher, son of former NPC President Dr. Marvin Vasher. Together they have six children, ranging in age from 31 to 13. “We are lucky to have eight of the cutest and smartest grandkids! Our married kids are spread out in Utah, Texas and the Netherlands. We have two children at home and currently reside in Salinas, near the Monterey coast of California.”
“My kids and husband are involved heavily in athletics, so between the months of November and March, I spend a good deal of time in a gym. The basketball kind, not the working-out kind!” She also enjoys traveling for fun and spending time with family and grandkids.
A graduate of Show Low High School, all she ever wanted to be was a mom. She describes herself as “a late bloomer. After four children, I felt a need to gain more education and embark on a career serving others. That sounds altruistic, but I really wanted to be a nurse, but didn’t know if I could.”
Her cousin, Nancy Montgomery (also a Class of 1995 Nursing graduate) was working on her prerequisites to enter NPC’s new Nursing program and convinced Julie to enroll in the program with her. “I wasn’t very savvy to know about the BRN requirements, I just wanted to start.”
Even though the program was just in its second year, “we had great instructors – JoAnn Crownover and Kathryn Nicolet – who provided a great foundation and education.”
After receiving her Associate Degree in Nursing, Vasher worked at San Luis Regional Medical Center in Alamosa, Colorado, before returning to the White Mountains a year later to work in the float pool of general nurses at Navapache Regional Medical Center (now Summit Healthcare). She would later start specializing in obstetrics while working in Sonora, California, and has been in OB since 1997.
“NPC helped me to embrace the principals of lifelong learning. As a nontraditional student – in my 30s with four kids – they made it achievable. I believe their commitment to students created a visible path to continued learning and the desire to achieve all I could,” noted Vasher.
What advice would she give to current NPC Nursing students? “Nursing is a livelong pursuit. The American Nurse Association Code of Ethics commits registered nurses to always pursue new knowledge. It is not enough to obtain an RN license and punch a clock. Nurses should always be evolving, changing and improving.”
She continues, “As the most trusted profession in the United States, nurses have a responsibility to themselves and patients to open themselves to new ideas. With each educational pursuit, I learned more about the true art and science of nursing and the impact we all can have. Keep going, learn more, do more!”
What is Vasher’s next project? “More collaborative work focused on decreasing the primary cesarean rate. We now know how important it is to avoid the first cesarean to avoid future problems of morbidity and mortality with women. Cesarean sections are a great blessing for many to ensure maternal and newborn health, but, unfortunately, a good number of these are not necessary. Our next toolkit and collaborative are called Supporting Vaginal Birth and Reducing Primary Cesareans.”
Her work and speaking schedule would not allow Vasher to attend the recognition ceremony. As the Outstanding Alumnus for the Spring 2016 Semester, Vasher will receive mementos of the college, a crystal eagle plaque, and a transferrable gift certificate for three credits tuition.
Jason Harvey – Fall 2015
He's A Science Guy
Watching Bill Nye, the Science Guy and other similar television shows instilled a love of science in Jason Harvey, who is now sharing that passion with Apache children at Cradleboard Elementary School in Whiteriver as their Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) instructor. He also serves as a caseworker for highly at-risk youth, from Kindergarten through 5th grade. Jason’s selection as the Fall 2015 Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus recognizes his commitment to education and service to our communities.
“I love doing science projects. I would watch Bill Nye and then try out the experiments on my own,” said Jason. He now guides the children at Cradleboard as they employ the scientific method – developing a hypothesis, researching and measuring results. He described a recent hot air balloon project, where the pupils used different materials for the balloon fabric, then presented their results/findings to the class using PowerPoint and other computer-aided programs. “We found a laundry bag made the best balloon. We’d hold it over the larger Bunsen burner and watch it fill up with air, then shoot to the roof of the gym when it was released.”
Harvey was also involved in last spring’s highly successful Innovation Nation event at the Chief Alchesay Center, highlighting STEM opportunities. “We have representatives from several colleges and universities, and the military explain the many STEM career opportunities. The Blue Ridge Robotics Club also brought their ‘bots and really impressed the kids.”
Having good science and math classes, regardless of career choice, “helps get yourself organized. You learn the step-by-step process of developing a hypothesis and measuring the outcomes, that can be applied to life.”
Jason admits he struggled with math at Blue Ridge High School. But when he enrolled in Gary Mack’s math classes at NPC, “the lights turned on.” Jason would spend hours talking and working with Mack as his teaching aid. As an NPC President’s Scholar, he appreciated the way instructor Ron Goulet encouraged him to “think outside the box.”
After earning his Associate of Arts degree from NPC in 2007, Jason transferred to NAU’s main campus in Flagstaff, where he continued his involvement with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, begun while a ‘Big’ at Blue Ridge working with two ‘Littles.’ He recounts a 2009 experience working a very shy Hispanic boy. “We had a kickball game between the ‘Bigs” and ‘Littles.’ I could tell he was having a hard time getting into the game. So when it was my turn to kick, I swung my leg and fell on my back. The look on his face and seeing him laugh was priceless. After that, he started talking to me more … and my clumsiness gave him something to talk about with the other ‘Littles’.”
While at NAU, Jason joined the Black Student Union, building ties with people of a culture outside of his own Cherokee/Apache/Caucasian background.
But working two jobs and going to college full-time didn’t work for Jason, so he returned to the White Mountains, landing a job here his first day back through a friend from drama class in high school. However, he didn’t give up on his education, enrolling in the online Bachelor of Liberal Studies program through ASU, completing degree requirements in December 2014. He is weighing the cost of additional student loans versus potential increased lifetime income to obtain a master’s in childhood counseling.
Jason has an affinity with troubled youth. He grew up in a poor, rough neighborhood of Houston before his family relocated to the White Mountains after his freshman year in high school. “I enjoy working with kids with rough backgrounds and dysfunctional families, helping to get them on track.” This past summer, he commuted from his home near Hondah to Cibecue for a day camp. “The kids wanted to hike and do lots of things outdoors. They really gave me a workout,” said Jason, as he subconsciously rubbed his legs.
Jason also worked at NPC’s Whiteriver Center as a The Learning Cornerstone (TLC) aide in 2012-13, working with adults on GED preparation.
When he is not teaching or working with kids, Jason enjoys taking his dog for a walk or run in the wilderness area along the Rim Road by his home. He enjoys slowing down and just enjoying the serenity. He recounts frequently encountering herds of elk or deer and other wildlife. “There is so much to see and enjoy, if you just take the time to look and reflect.”
He is taking up archery, but still considers himself very much a novice. “I’m more likely to shoot out the tire on my vehicle than hit the intended target,” he says with a smile.
But he does enjoy creating ceramics, brought out in him in NPC classes with Lee Sweetman, Perry Wray and Dale Larson. He smiled widely when told he would receive a gift certificate good for three NPC credits and that Wray was still teaching ceramic classes.
In addition to the tuition certificate, Jason will also receive other mementos from the college, a plaque and a pass to NPC Performing Arts events.
David Singer – Spring 2015
A Window Into Education
From wondering if a degree was even a possibility, to now teaching and pursuing a doctorate, David Singer is the Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus for the 2015 Spring Semester.
In 2001, Singer would look across the street from his workplace and observe the construction of the new Holbrook NPC campus. “As I watched from the window across the street,” said Singer, “I often thought about continuing my education and would wonder where an education would take me.” Years after those initial impressions on obtaining a degree, Singer, along with his wife Patty, decided to attend NPC full-time in the Fall 2004 semester.
Balancing the demands of being full-time students and full-time parents for two developmentally disabled children, Singer remembers the challenges that came from making the decision to pursue a degree. “I was age 47 when I first started in 2004, I was truly a ‘second-chancer.’ And while we had to play give-and-take in our careers and education, we knew it was for our collective greater good.”
Still, amidst a busy life attending NPC, Singer was able to maintain a perfect 4.0 GPA and was an active member of Phi Theta Kappa, organizing a Christmas Toy Drive and School Supply drive with Patty. This helped both Singers receive All-Arizona Academic Team honors in 2007 to continue their educations.
An avid photographer, 40 of David’s digital and film photographs were featured in a solo-artist show at the Painted Desert Campus Library in Fall 2005. “I had a widely-diverse selection of themes to present to the community, from the digitally-abstracted American Indian dancers to the soulfully-tender eyes of my daughter, to the Blue Ridge Reservoir fantasy to the sepia-tone historic imagery of Northern Arizona. This diversity is part of what made the exhibition a success,” noted David, describing the exhibit.
David graduated from NPC in May 2007 with his degree in Computer Technology. Eager to put his degree to use, Singer was hired at NPC as a Support Center Operator and Audiovisual Technician. “[Being an employee at NPC] was my first opportunity to actually make a difference and help support other students in their educations,” recalls Singer.
As he was able to interact with students and develop relationships with staff and faculty at NPC, Singer was impressed by the diversity and environment at a community college and enjoyed the opportunities to assist others that were once in his position. This work experience instilled a desire to one day become an instructor himself, but Singer knew that more education and training would be required.
After gaining more work experience, Singer went on to obtain his bachelor’s in Computer Technology at Northern Arizona University. Not stopping at a Bachelor’s degree, Singer also enrolled in graduate courses from the Online Harvard University Extension School and was also admitted to the Pennsylvania State University Online Software Engineering Program, where he eventually received his Master’s degree. Singer is now looking for opportunities to begin a doctorate degree program is his discipline.
In 2013, Singer was able to reach his goal of becoming an instructor and now works at Rio Salado College as a Certified Instructional Assistant to teach Microsoft Office, HTML and Windows Operating Systems to online students. Singer also teaches basic computer skills to senior citizens and enjoys the opportunity to assist and support the diverse student population at Rio Salado College.
As Singer continues teaching at Rio Salado, he expresses his gratitude for the experiences he had at NPC and hopes his story can help inspire others. “I never would have thought that back in 2001 and looking through that window would have led me toward the goal of becoming a college instructor. I know there are many current and potential students who have stories similar to mine and I just want to say to them that no matter how hard it may seem at the time, the end results are well worth it!”
Tracy Ison – Fall 2014
Children Are Always Her First Priority
At 16, Tracy Ison was faced with a difficult decision; she was starting a new family, was newly-married, and needed to decide between finishing high school and keeping her family as her top priority. Ison chose her family, and made the difficult sacrifice of not finishing high school. “You know, I always wanted to be a mom,” said Ison. “That’s been my priority my whole life, so it was easy for me to decide that that’s what I wanted to be.” After her decision, Ison began the career of being a home childcare provider, opening her own business to help provide for her family.
After years of gaining experience and knowledge in childcare, Ison came in contact with Claude Endfield, program coordinator and professor in Early Childhood Education at Northland Pioneer College (NPC). Ison credits Endfield for “starting it all” and being the biggest help in obtaining the degrees and certifications she earned.
Endfield first introduced Ison to NPC by recommending that Ison take advantage of a free workshop sponsored by NPC. After Ison attended the workshop, she consulted Endfield further on how to continue her education. “As I got closer and closer to getting my GED® and my degree, I knew I wanted to finish what I started so that I could be that example to my kids. I knew I wanted my kids to finish high school and then get degrees of their own, so I knew I had to start… for them.”
Endfield was always there encouraging Ison. “After that first training I took at NPC, Claude told me ‘you know, you can get your GED®,’ and then after that I took the test and got my GED®! And she was still there telling me ‘you know you only have to do a little bit more to get your CDA,’ and then ‘you only have to do a little bit more to get your associate’s,’ always telling me about trainings and new certifications that I was able to do. She helped me to keep going further and further.” That support helped Ison earn her GED®, her Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, and then her associate degree in Childhood Education at NPC. Now with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Prescott College, Ison takes pride in being the first college graduate on both sides of her family and is proud to apply what she has learned at NPC to her business of childcare.
After obtaining her degrees, Ison has remained in the White Mountains area and now has one of the highest rated, state-licensed group childcare homes in Navajo and Apache counties. While still running her at-home business, Ison applied for, and was designated as a Quality First Family Child Care home by the First Things First Navajo-Apache Regional Partnership council for Navajo and Apache counties. She is the only home with that distinction in the White Mountains and has earned a 4 out of 5 star rating from the partnership. As a result of being in this project, Ison has been able to apply what she has learned from NPC and has made many improvements to her home-based childcare setting. Although Ison is now qualified to teach in the public school system, she has decided to continue to operate her family childcare business to meet local needs for safe, quality childcare in the White Mountains.
Ison also acknowledges that this journey has not been easy. Balancing her busy schedule of work, school and family definitely made Ison question at times whether it was all worth it. “There were days when I wanted to give up, but my kids were always my motivation,” said Ison. “I can think of one day when I just had no time, and I started crying and was just thinking ‘I can’t do this. I can’t work full time, go to school, and have a family.’ But it was my daughter who told me ‘don’t give up, I’ll do extra chores, I’ll help with anything you need, you just can’t quit now.’ It was then that I realized this was worth it because I was definitely doing this for them too.”
Ison enjoys seeing that many of her goals have been fulfilled, especially as her own children have all graduated or are on track to graduate from high school. One daughter has since gone on to obtain an associate’s degree in cosmetology and is now working toward receiving her own CDA. Another daughter in high school plans to go to college to pursue a degree to eventually become a surgeon. Seeing her daughters preparing for college and taking college courses, Ison also feels the need to go back to school to try and receive her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education. However, when Ison goes back to school, she’ll have a slightly different focus once she receives her degree. “I’ve received so much help myself, I want to give back and help teach other adults how to take care of younger kids.” While Ison has yet to decide which school to attend to pursue her master’s degree, she continues to improve her childcare business and eagerly waits to see what the future will hold.
Sara Greenwood – Spring 2014
A Great Investment
“I knew that I wanted to turn around and invest into the community because the community invested in me,” said Sara Greenwood, recipient of Northland Pioneer College’s Spring 2014 Outstanding Alumni Award. Nominated for her outstanding service and work in the medical profession, Greenwood has been able to give back to the community by helping save lives in local hospitals and train future nurses from NPC.
Her interest in the medical field started early as Greenwood was influenced by one of her favorite TV shows growing up. “I remember that my family had an older TV, you know, with the antenna and 13 channels, and so really all I could watch was ‘MASH’ when I was a kid. ‘MASH’ was so medically oriented and I think that’s what put the seed in my brain of what I wanted to do.”
Growing up in Holbrook, Greenwood’s family had a passion for restoring cars. Greenwood credits the project of restoring a ’55 Chevy as what kept her out of trouble and focused on keeping up with her studies. Greenwood graduated from Holbrook High School and made staying local and avoiding debt her top priorities in deciding which college to attend. After finding the Nursing program at NPC, Greenwood was ready to fulfill her childhood dream and enter into the medical field.
She completed much of her coursework at the NPC campus in Winslow, and was also able to work in a variety of environments and situations as she completed the NPC Nursing Program. “I did a lot of my clinicals at Flagstaff Medical Center,” explains Greenwood, “I really got a well-rounded education as I even did clinicals at the prison. When we worked there, we got a really good understanding of what Public Health can be.”
As she strived to complete her training at NPC, Greenwood is thankful for the advisers and instructors that helped motivate her to finish. “I had great advisers at NPC and (professor) Nancy Williams was probably my favorite. I really related to her success and her teaching was a great example to me.”
After she graduated from NPC, Greenwood decided to support her husband and move to where his job needed him to be. Her husband works for the railroad, so Greenwood found herself moving to different locations, but was able to put her credentials to good use. Greenwood was accepted to every medical facility where she applied and worked at various locations throughout Arizona and Wyoming, including many facilities in the Phoenix area such as Scottsdale Osborn and Good Samaritan.
After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Grand Canyon University and with more work experience, Greenwood was asked to become an instructor of clinicals at Flagstaff Medical Center, educating NPC students to become nurses.
Peg Erdman, dean of nursing and allied health programs, nominated Greenwood and credited her as being a great example of “growing our own.” Greenwood said, “Sometimes you see other instructors being more concerned about their career or their future, but I have this invested interest in the local students and a love for the community there.” In thinking of her time teaching at NPC, Greenwood again reflected back to when Nancy Williams influenced her. “I really wanted to invest in the students and the community just like Nancy Williams. I wanted to be like her-the instructor that really helped others.”
Greenwood in particular, enjoyed the style of training that’s found at NPC. “At NPC, I was able to help in giving the ‘meat and potatoes’ of nursing. Some programs focus more on nursing theory, but NPC really helped nurses know the fundamentals of being a nurse. The students were prepared, they knew the fundamentals and were ready to have patients in their care.”
While Greenwood enjoyed being an educator, she found herself desiring to return to what she first loved and went back to being a staff nurse. Greenwood currently works in the ER at Summit Healthcare in Show Low. Explaining her decision to transition from being an instructor back to being a nurse, Greenwood said “a nursing degree can take you into a variety of things, like being an educator or being in management, but I studied nursing to become a nurse. I’m sure I’ll probably deviate now and again in the future, but right now it’s so nice taking care of patients and it’s something I really enjoy.”
Now that her family has settled in Show Low, Greenwood doesn’t see her family relocating anytime soon. When asked about lessons learned or advice for others Greenwood states that “generally any worthy endeavor takes time and it always takes one step at a time. I think some people get frustrated and want success to happen overnight. I look back at when I was going to NPC and realize that I was able to work and pay in cash for my school and left without any debt. That means a lot to me.... I now realize that taking the little steps at NPC really helped prepare me for my whole career.”
Terry Yazzie – Fall 2013
Inspiring Others To Believe In Themselves
“I do not think of myself as a role model, because I am one of the people,” said Terry Yazzie when describing how he demonstrates the need for a GED or higher education to his fellow Diné. “I try to instill the importance of an education, using my background as an example to influence them to believe in themselves.”
Yazzie, a 1994 NPC graduate, is giving back to his hometown of Jeddito and to the Diné through a new Adult Basic Education (ABE) program at the Window Rock campus of Diné College. He was named NPC's Outstanding Alumnus for Fall 2013 for his continued lifelong learning and service to his community. The college's District Governing Board honored Yazzie during its Dec. 17, 2013 regular meeting in Holbrook.
Born to the Tlizilani and for the Kiyaa aani (Towering House) clans, Yazzie was born at Keams Canyon and raised in Jeddito. He has fond memories of his days in the Keams Canyon Boarding School and Jeddito Public School. Even in high school in Ganado, he “didn’t fit in, and did not put forth my best effort,” not realizing the value of an education. “Maybe it was due to being in a controlled environment with many rules to follow,” Yazzie said.
Curiosity brought Yazzie to NPC in the summer of 1992 from his home in Jeddito to “find out what college was all about.” Yazzie recalls his first meeting with NPC staff member, now dean, Peggy Belknap. “She advised me through the entirety of my degree program at NPC.” Other staff members and instructors “really comforted me and made me feel I belonged here.” He also found academic freedom that “hooked me for the rest of my life, unleashing my potential and desire for learning,” he said.
He recalls seeing the college’s former Holbrook campus on Hermosa Drive and thinking “The campus is small. The library is small. There will not be a lot of folks. I probably will not be required to do a lot of research and writing here. I was dead wrong!” His first semester, all five of his classes required research papers. “I learned what academic stress really was at that time.”
His first class was with English instructor Donna Ashcraft. “There was so much diversity in the classroom, with basketball players from back east, and other students, unlike at my high school. I was a little shocked.”
After that first three-hour class, he was “hooked for the rest of my life. Curiosity got the best of me, and I’m glad it did.” He remembers how welcoming Donna's classroom environment was. “She left an impression of being a person that cared about her students and she made me believe in myself,” he said. That first English class “turned into my educational journey leading up to my Master of Arts program,” Yazzie told the board. “Education can be infectious. In Donna’s English class I learned it is okay to question the author and the theories presented, unlike in high school where everything was etched in stone,” he added.
At NPC “I learned what poverty means for the first time in my life. I came from the Navajo Nation with nothing but the clothes on my back,” Yazzie said. “John Deaton taught me there were far worst places around the world in his Sociology classes. I had the opportunity to work out of my poverty.”
“I am thankful I had many wonderful teachers, such as Dr. Marvin Vasher, Jill Diemer, John Deaton, Dr. Arvin Palmer, Dr. Gene Luke, and many more who taught me to be a better person through education.” Louella Nahsonhoya, a former NPC center manager and Board member, guided him to become an academic adviser.
He credits NPC instructors Virginia Arthur (his former geometry teacher at Ganado High School) and Angie James with sparking his interest in Adult Basic Education. “Virginia and Angie influenced me to be an ABE instructor, helping other students succeed just like how the NPC staff guided me through the early years of my education. I was truly blessed to meet and learn from an amazing group of people. They valued education and it made me want to learn more,” Yazzie said.
“All of my instructors had so much knowledge, I wanted to be like them. But I realized that we all have unique perspectives so I had to define my own perspectives. I needed to come up with my own intellectual school in academia and I think I am coming close to it. NPC laid the foundation for my academic journey. This is where it all started,” he continued.
While still an NPC student, and later while working on his Bachelor of Science degree in history from NAU (received in 1996), Yazzie served as an academic tutor and administrative assistant at NPC. In 2000, he became an NPC associate faculty member, teaching pre-college and GED courses in reading, writing and mathematics and providing placement testing and advising for students.
Today, he is applying the models used by NPC’s ABE program and Diné College – Shiprock in creating the program at Diné College – Window Rock. The Shiprock program, under Yazzie’s supervisor Thomas Bennett, was recognized on Oct. 26, 2013 as the outstanding adult education program in New Mexico. “It was a great honor to witness and be a part of the recognition,” noted Yazzie. “I am honored to work with an amazing group of colleagues – Jacqueline, Jesse, Judith and Chris.”
“The biggest challenge I see is the student not believing in themselves. My fellow Diné are very bright people and the students I work with all need second chances,” he said. “They have found a reason to make the effort and to make their dreams come true,” he continued. “I have seen the changes made and the dreams are being fulfilled.”
“I see a lot of myself in the students and I think back to 1992 and I try to create the atmosphere that turned my life around. I teach what I was taught here at NPC,” he told the board members.
Today, he is applying the models used by NPC’s ABE program and Diné College – Shiprock in creating the program at Diné College – Window Rock. The Shiprock program, under Yazzie’s supervisor Thomas Bennett, was recognized on Oct. 26, 2013 as the outstanding adult education program in New Mexico. “It was a great honor to witness and be a part of the recognition,” noted Yazzie. “I am honored to work with an amazing group of colleagues – Jacqueline, Jesse, Judith and Chris.”
“The biggest challenge I see is the student not believing in themselves. My fellow Diné are very bright people and the students I work with all need second chances,” he said.
“They have found a reason to make the effort and to make their dreams come true,” he continued. “I have seen the changes made and the dreams are being fulfilled.
“I see a lot of myself in the students and I think back to 1992 and I try to create the atmosphere that turned my life around. I teach what I was taught here at NPC,” he told the board members.
Yazzie works as their instructor, mentor and coach. “It takes hard work, commitment and determination on the part of the students. For me, it is exhausting, but incredibly rewarding when they earn their diplomas. It is my job to ensure that they put forth their best efforts and to learn as much as possible,” he explained.
Before becoming Adult Education Coordinator and instructor at the Window Rock campus, Yazzie served as an academic adviser/coordinator at Diné’s Ganado campus.
“Education made me a better person. I believe I learned to be objective and to think before I make a decision,” he continued.
“My late mother’s vision for me reached fruition when I earned my Master of Arts degree in American Indian Studies from Prescott College in 2012. Northland Pioneer College laid a solid foundation for me that I cherish,” Yazzie said. He also credits his older sister, Lorraine, who “ventured outside of our comfort zone to attend college in Colorado. The women of my family have been there to push me and I am grateful for their support.”
His service to his fellow Diné is not limited to education. Earlier this year he was elected President of the Jeddito Chapter, a Navajo Nation island surrounded by the Hopi Reservation. He had previously served as a planning aide for the chapter, gathering demographic data that resulted in a $300,000+ grant to extend power lines to 27 homes and implemented an advanced GPS system to support emergency medical access to rural homes.
Yazzie enjoys photography, reading and “old music from the 1960s, 70s and 80s in many genre,” finding comfort in the music. “I love cars, particularly sports cars, and college basketball and football.” But his greatest passions are discovering “historical documents concerning trading posts in Navajo history and collecting old Pepsi and Coke cans.”
In nominating Yazzie for the Outstanding Alumnus Award, Ann Hilliard wrote, “Mr. Yazzie is a career educator who demonstrates a commitment to lifelong learning and intellectual growth.”
Amelia Flores – Spring 2013
Preserving Native Language and Culture
A desire to better meet the needs of her people led Amelia Flores on a long and productive journey. Beginning as long ago as 1970, Flores, a Mohave Indian and enrolled member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes (CRIT), began work in a variety of positions for the Tribes, primarily in the tribal museum located in Parker, Arizona. Forty-three years later, she serves as an executive officer of the nine-member Tribal Council, the CRIT governing body.
As Northland Pioneer College played a pivotal role in helping her achieve her goal, the college’s District Governing Board, at its April 16 meeting, honored Flores as the NPC Outstanding Alumnus for Spring 2013. Marketing Director Ann Hess, right, presented the award.
The Colorado River Indian Tribes is a 430-square-mile Native American reservation created by the Federal Government in 1865. Initially it included only two tribes, the Mohave and the Chemehuevi, who had lived in the area for centuries. It later incorporated the Hopi and Navajo peoples who had been relocated by the U.S. government to the reservation. CRIT currently has 3,500-4,000 active members.
Flores was named director of the CRIT library/archives in 1984. As she grew in her job she says, “I saw the need to obtain a more professional and academic education to help me preserve the cultural and linguistic heritage of my people.” Her dedication to accomplishing that task began at Arizona Western College (AWC) where she enrolled as a general studies student to gain a broad educational background. After completing over 40 course credits she also enrolled at Northland Pioneer College to earn an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Library Media Technology. Even given the complication of living in her hometown of Parker (south of Lake Havasu City), Flores earned her AAS from NPC in just two years. “It was difficult at times and involved a great deal of independent study with monthly travel to NPC’s Winslow campus, but it all came together in the end!” In fact, Flores graduated from both AWC and NPC in the same year, 1997.
This was just the beginning of her educational journey. She continued by graduating summa cum laude from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree in 2005; in 2008 she earned a Masters in linguistics from the University of Arizona.
Additionally, throughout her career, Flores has donated time to serving on numerous boards and commissions in both civic and professional arenas. She currently is one of five members of the Parker Unified School District Board and is also an elder for Parker Valley United Presbyterian Church. She recently stepped down after a four-year term as a council member of the Colorado River Indian Tribes Regional Partnership First Things First. She relinquished this position in order to stand for election for the CRIT Tribal Council saying, “I hated to give it up. Serving and speaking on behalf of our young children is so important, but there’s simply not time to do everything.”
Flores was serving as the Northern Arizona Regional representative for the Arizona Library Association, an association she still maintains, where she became acquainted with her alumnus award nominator, NPC librarian Deborah Holbrook. In her letter of nomination, Holbrook says, “While I did know her from her work in Arizona, I now see… that the Arizona connection was only the tip of the iceberg in her important work to preserve native language and culture.” Holbrook is referencing the acclaim Flores has received for her work in preserving the language and culture of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. In 2007, the CRIT library, under her direction, was awarded the Guardian of Language, Memory and Lifeways Medal of Honor presented by the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums, an award established to identify and recognize organizations and individuals who serve as outstanding examples of how indigenous archives, libraries, and museums contribute to the vitality and cultural sovereignty of Native nations.
The following year she received the “Revitalization, Implementation and Preservation of Tribal Language Award,” awarded at the annual Yuman Family Language Summit held to celebrate the culture and traditions of the Yuman Nation, an area encompassing Native American tribes from Southern California to the Grand Canyon to northern Baja, Mexico.
In 2012, the Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International again honored Flores and the CRIT collections with the Archives Institutional Excellence Award for demonstration of “a significant commitment to the preservation and use of documentary heritage.”
Flores’ life is a reflection of how incremental accomplishments add up to great achievements. She says she feels NPC and other community colleges are good starting points for Native American and other students from rural communities who may be overwhelmed by large universities and cities. Starting at schools like NPC where classes are more personal and the atmosphere generally provides a greater degree of support, can offer a solid educational footing. “You start by passing one test and say, ‘I did that; I can do that.’ And you go on, test-by-test, paper-by-paper, until you build the self-confidence and knowledge and experience that carry you forward through life.
Howard Carlson – Fall 2012
A Life Of Service
If you were to compile a list of major disasters, both human- and natural-caused, over the past four decades, Northland Pioneer College Fire Science graduate Howard Carlson can probably say he was there. No, not as the event happened, but in the aftermath – part of the national Incident Management Team charged with returning life to near normalcy.
Carlson’s unselfish service to his community was recognized at the Nov. 19 meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board when he was awarded the Outstanding Alumnus Award for Fall 2012.
For 33 days, he was part of the recovery team at the World Trade Center following the 9-11 attacks. In late September 2005, he was in the devastated Gulf Coast guiding recovery efforts after Hurricane Rita, the most intense tropical cyclone ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. In the spring of 2003, he was assigned to collect debris from the explosion of STS-107 – the space shuttle Columbia – in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas.
Sometimes the “incidents” were closer to home. On June 11, 2010, a small plane, loaded with fuel and four passengers, crashed into the Round Valley High School just a few short blocks from the fire station he helped design and build with his volunteer crew of firefighters.
As a Fire Management Officer (FMO) with the U.S. Forest Service and member of the Arizona All-Risk Management Team, Carlson has battled major wildland fires throughout the United States and closer to home, including Rodeo-Chediski, Three-Forks, Nuttal Complex, Potato, Shultz, and, in June-July 2011, Wallow that lapped at homes on the outskirts of his adopted community of Eagar.
How this Winslow native began a 32-year career with the U.S. Forest Service and 40+ years in the fire service is “the rest of the story.” After graduating from Winslow High, Carlson served a four-year enlistment in the Navy, with two of those years stationed in Japan. Upon discharge, he was offered a “temporary 30-day job planting trees for the Forest Service” that turned into a career. In 1978 while stationed at the Chevelon Ranger Station, approximately 42 miles south of Winslow, Carlson figured a few fire science classes would help him learn the best way to battle structure fires and with the paperwork.
“I’d get off work at 5, rush home where my wife Anna would have a sack meal ready for me to eat while driving to class in Winslow. The class would go from 6 until 10, then another hour’s drive back home. It made for some long days, but I got through it,” noted Carlson. He even carried a full load for a couple of semesters. Advisers convinced him to seek an associate degree. “There was the required ‘Career Awareness’ course. I kept telling them I didn’t need it – that I already knew I wanted to be a firefighter, but they made me take it anyway. The class proved I had chosen the right field,” he chuckled. He finished his degree in 1981 and is believed to be the first NPC student to earn a Fire Science Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree.
The NPC courses provided valuable management and report writing skills he still uses today. “I’ve never been good at English, but I still use the things from (Dr.) Gene Luke’s Technical Report Writing class in writing grants and reports.”
Shortly after completing his degree, Carlson transferred to the Springerville District as the Fire Management Officer. He volunteered with the Springerville Fire Department and was named the assistant chief in 1983. In 1985, he was asked to serve as the Eagar Fire Chief, going full-time shortly before his retirement from the USFS in 2001.
“The station was half of an old Quonset hut and we had a 1946 Sitgreaves engine (still used in parades) and a 1965 International engine. When the town sold the building out from around us, the Sitgreaves was stored in my carport and the other engine in the impound yard,” he recalls. When he became chief, the department had 10 volunteers, who would also train at his home.
In 1986, the volunteers built the first portion of the current station, adding on training rooms and larger equipment bays in recent years. Carlson’s was the first area department with fulltime crews, with paid firefighters also serving as the community’s parks maintenance crew. There are also 25 volunteers on the department.
“It is a win-win for us since the firefighters built the adjacent Ramsey Memorial Park,” which is loved by children of all ages. “We poured over 700 yards on concrete in the park,” noted the chief. “The park also helps reinforce our fire prevention efforts in the schools.”
He encourages his volunteers to complete the college’s Firefighter I and II courses, although it is a mixed blessing. “I love to see them do better, but it also means they will probably leave the area for better paying firefighter positions.”
With over 30 years of structural firefighting experience and 40+ in wildland fire suppression, Carlson tells those interested in a fire service career that it “requires dedication. You have to know the job well enough to be safe,” he emphasized. “Training is most important to keeping yourself out of trouble. It is a lot of work, but it is also very rewarding.”
Early next year, Carlson will be retiring as Chief of the Eagar Fire Department, closing another chapter in his 40+-year career in the fire service. He plans to return to his hometown of Winslow, to be closer to his two brothers and son, who is a Department of Public Safety officer in Flagstaff. A grown daughter lives in Colorado and works in the medical field. For now, he does not plan to give up the Incident Management job, although this past summer he turned down over 17 calls.
“It’s time to relinquish the reins. It has been a rewarding 40+ years. I have no regrets,” added Carlson.
“I’ve known Howard for over 20 years. He’s the kind of guy who just wants to get the job done and done right the first time,” wrote Mary Nuttall, who nominated Carlson for the NPC Alumnus Award. “It is not about the praise and recognition he receives, although he accepts humbly and it is well deserved. When he does accept recognition it is usually for the ‘Team’ and everyone who helped him,” she continued. Nuttall has been with the Eagar Fire Department for 18 years, the last six as a paid firefighter/administrative assistant. “This is one of the best jobs I have or ever will have and that is because of the Boss – Howard Carlson.”
Melissa Webb, manager of NPC’s Springerville/Eagar Center who assisted with Carlson’s nomination, said “Howard is an integral part of our community, always sharing any recognition with his firefighters and now’s our chance to recognize the influence he has had on others, in part due to his degree from NPC.”
Justin Tafoya – Spring 2012
Healthcare Information Highway
Justin Tafoya, a 2008 graduate of Northland Pioneer College’s nursing program who is now giving back to his community and nation as a Commissioned Health Corps Officer stationed at the Indian Health Services (IHS) Hospital in Whiteriver, was honored as the Spring 2012 Outstanding Alumnus during the June 19 regular meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board in Holbrook.
As a Public Health Nurse (PHN) Tafoya serves on the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Coalition; ensures immunization standards and requirements are met for White Mountain Apache Tribal members; provides Basic Life Support (BLS) instruction to hospital staff and tribal community members; and serves as one of the coordinators for communicable disease (TB) and sexually-transmitted infections surveillance and treatment program.
Tafoya also demonstrates commitment to lifelong learning, attaining his Bachelor of Science – Nursing (BSN) degree through Grand Canyon University and is currently working on his MSN in informatics from GCU. He promotes education in his patients, their families, and encourages students to pursue nursing and health sciences careers.
Academics were not always Justin’s top priority. After four years of playing baseball for Blue Ridge High School, he enlisted in the Air Force, where he learned aircraft maintenance skills. During a duty tour in Japan, the need for more education “finally sank in.” After his enlistment and back in Phoenix unable to find a job, Justin decided to return to the White Mountains and use his veterans’ educational benefits to enroll at NPC. “It is so beautiful here. It was nice to come back home.”
He qualified for NPC’s President’s Scholars program and had the opportunity to visit New York City with his classmates and instructor Ron Goulet. “The opportunity to visit New York City allowed us (the students) to experience significant worldly icons first-hand that we were only able to read about. The camaraderie of the students was the best. We developed friendships, especially with my wife and Scott Gibson, a co-worker at Whiteriver, that will last a lifetime.” The low cost and how “easy the professors are to get along with” have made him a strong advocate for NPC. Nursing and Allied Health Dean Peg Erdman frequently invites Tafoya back to talk to students about having an impact on their communities.
Nursing Faculty member Carol Stewart nominated Justin for the award and presented the plaque during the Governing Board meeting.
Over the past year he has worked with Slade Flitton to introduce a closed-circuit patient education channel at the Whiteriver Hospital, which is expected to launch in the next 3 to 6 months using the model at the Shiprock, N.M., IHS facility. “The 3- to 5-minute up-to-date education videos would be done by community members and would be highly influenced by local health needs.” Videos would be broadcast to patients 24/7.
A step-by-step instructional brochure on Electronic Health Records he developed for the Family Care Unit and Emergency Department nursing staff received national recognition. It has now been adopted for use by other IHS service units and professions.
Tafoya is also involved in implementing social media both locally and nationally. Shortly after joining the IHS in 2008, Justin traveled to the IHS headquarters in Rockville, MD, to participate in a focus group on utilizing social media as a recruitment and retention tool. The group’s suggestions were presented to the Director of Indian Health Services.
Locally he is working with Whiteriver Hospital CEO Michelle Martinez to incorporate social media, such as Facebook, into the healthcare environment for rapid dissemination of health-related information to staff and community members.
As a member of the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) Coalition, Tafoya was tasked as part of a three-member team in 2011 that developed a flip chart used to educate Head Start and elementary school children in Arizona on the tick-bore disease. There have been several RMSF-related deaths on the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache reservations and he is actively involved in prevention education and distribution of dog flea collars and pesticide granules to tribal members in collaboration with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). “The (flea) collars are only good for up to three months and the granules up to one month, so it is an ongoing challenge to reach tribal members and stop the spread of ticks and the disease.”
That effort is sometimes hampered by his role as sexually-transmitted infections surveillance and treatment coordinator. “People tend to scatter when they see me coming,” he notes with a slight chuckle in his voice. In that role he is part private investigator, but restricted by privacy rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). “There has been a four times increase in the number of Gonorrhea cases on the reservation from 2010 to 2011, especially among 14- to 27-year-olds.” He sponsors Recovery Sessions education and speaks frequently to high school juniors and seniors about the consequences of their actions. He is also working on developing a statistical baseline to be used in the HIV-prevention efforts.
As a commissioned PHN, he is also part of the Rapid Deployment Force 5 Team that can be called out with 12 hours notice to assist in the event of a natural disaster. “I have a ‘go bag’ ready, especially with tornado and hurricane seasons approaching. We have been activated for deployment this July to perform a Community Health and Service Mission (CHASM) in South Dakota.”
Justin is a devoted family man, spending quality time with his wife, Amy, and one-year-old daughter Kinsley.
Amy is also a 2008 NPC nursing graduate and utilized an All-Arizona Academic Team tuition waiver to complete her BSN at Arizona State. She is a Level 2 special skills nurse in the OB Unit at Summit Regional Medical Center. She, too, speaks highly of NPC’s professors and the encouragement students receive to give back to their communities.
Justin is also an archery enthusiast – both he and Amy have early archery elk hunt permits – and participates in many of the White Mountain Bowhunters activities. “Kinsley has already been to more (bow) shoots than most adults,” he quips.
“Sometimes it is the little things in life that you need to take note of,” he added.
Jonathan Nez – Fall 2011
You Can Achieve Your Dreams
A well-known county figure attended the NPC District Governing Board December 13 meeting: Navajo County District One Supervisor, Jonathan Nez. The occasion of the supervisor’s appearance was his nomination as the Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus for Fall 2011.
Myrtle Dayzie-Grey, NPC Kayenta Center adviser, nominated Nez for the honor, citing his leadership for his people in both Navajo County and the Navajo Nation.
Jonathan Michael Nez is Navajo. He is of the ‘Ashííhí (Salt) Clan, born for the Ta’neeszahnii (Tangle/Badlands) Clan. His maternal grandfather’s clan is the Tódíchii’nii (Bitter Water). Táchii’nii (Red Running into the Water) is the clan of his paternal grandfather. Nez was born in Tuba City and raised in Shonto and Kayenta. He was a 1993 graduate of Monument Valley High School and now lives in Shonto in northwestern Navajo County.
Education figures prominently in the Nez family. He met his wife Phefelia Herbert at NAU where she was earning a Bachelor of Science degree; she is now pursuing her master’s degree in public administration. They are the parents of a new learner, a 3-year-old son, as well as two teens, a 17-year-old daughter and a 14-year-old son; both are students at Monument Valley High School.
In addition to his current position as a Navajo County supervisor, Nez is a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, the governing body of the vast Navajo Nation. He represents an area encompassing the Shonto, Inscription House, Navajo Mountain and Oljato chapters (two in Arizona and two in Utah). He also manages to find time to sit on a number of boards and commissions. In the words of his nominator, “Nez is a true civil servant for his people and members of Navajo County outside the Navajo Nation.”
Dayzie-Grey recalls him coming to her office in the fall of 2001 seeking to complete an Associate of Arts degree in political science. He had taken classes from NPC in 1993-94 and 1996 as well as earning credits from Diné College, NAU and Pima Community College so needed five more courses to fulfill his degree requirements. He completed those in just one semester, even earning membership in the international two-year college honorary society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). He graduated from NPC with “High Distinction” in 2001 and immediately went on to earn his Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in political science at NAU in 2002.
Shortly thereafter, Nez began his political career by first being active in local tribal government. He says he was inspired to his calling by the stories he heard as a child about his grandfather, H.T. Donald, who was a Navajo Nation Council delegate from Shonto. “My grandfather was known for his generosity and compassion… I grew up with stories and people sharing with me how he helped the people. I felt I wanted to help out my community and, with guidance from my grandma, started from the bottom.”
Nez often mentions in his speeches that he is a graduate of Northland Pioneer College saying, “If I can do it, anyone can do it.” But it is more than that; Nez is a man motivated by a desire to finish what he starts and that has included getting an education and now means devoting himself to the service to the Navajo people.
Paul Holbrook – Spring 2011
Going The Distance For Education
Dr. Paul M. Holbrook, well-known Flagstaff educator, was honored at the April 19 meeting of the Northland Pioneer College District Governing Board as the NPC Outstanding Alumnus for Spring 2011.
Holbrook didn’t consider a career in education until after leaving a 20-year career in business. “I decided I wanted to go back to school to teach. I knew I needed a master’s degree to teach community college and I had to start somewhere. We were living in Holbrook at the time, so it made sense to enroll at NPC.”
That was in 1991; by 1993, Holbrook had earned his Associate of General Studies (AGS) with an emphasis in business, and it turned out that his experience at NPC changed the direction of his life. “It was an ideal culture for what I thought it would be like to teach in the classroom. I discovered the fun part of community college was the diversity of students.”
In rapid-fire succession, he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Business (BSBA) with an emphasis in Finance and a Masters of Business Administration in Management (MBA) from Northern Arizona University.
In 1995, Holbrook began teaching business and computer information system (CIS) classes for NPC at the St. Johns and Springerville/Eagar Centers. He then taught at Winslow and at Keams Canyon (now the Hopi Center), and was recognized for his efforts and named department chair for the NPC CIS program.
Holbrook, son of a government contractor whose career required frequent family moves, jokingly says, “I was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, but raised everywhere. I’d lived in 13 different states by the time I was in seventh grade!” After marrying his ninth grade sweetheart (Debbie Holbrook, NPC librarian and his proud alumni award nominator) he wanted to stay put raising his own children. He managed to get his two daughters all the way through just one school district (Holbrook Unified), but did have to interrupt his son’s schooling once in 1998 when he took a position at Coconino Community College (CCC). Since 1999, he has served as CCC’s department chair for both Business and Education programs.
After an interval of about 4–5 years, Holbrook returned to school again – this time to earn his Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix. Equipped with these credentials and a decade of experience, Holbrook began to expand his vision of making educational opportunity more accessible through technology.
As Holbrook likes to remind others, Coconino is the second largest geographical county in the nation, and residents in remote locations in the county often have little access to education. As a stunning example he cites his work with the Havasupai tribe in Supai, Arizona. Locations in the United States rarely get more remote than the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Holbrook has to drive an hour and a half just to reach the locale to board the helicopter that will take him into the Canyon. After several visits to consult with tribal representatives and train Head Start employees to earn required federal certification, he says the time is near where Supai students will be able to take classes right in the village through computer and interactive television technology.
Holbrook’s other accomplishments include staging a breakout presentation on instructional technologies with his next presentation at the National Institute for Staff and Organization Development (NISOD). Also, as a member of a Flagstaff volunteer group, Alliance for Children’s Early Success (ACES), he has helped develop Kinder Camp, a program with the aim of accelerating instructional success for children entering kindergarten. He also serves as a board member of the Arizona Natural History Association (ANHA) where he uses his business expertise to provide leadership and recommendations for operating the non-profit business.
How does this accomplished educator relax? “I have two passions,” says Holbrook. “Bowling and hockey.” He has bowled four 300-games in his life and even won the 1998 Arizona State All-Events Champion Tour.
Hockey is the passion he shares with his wife and son, a junior at Flagstaff High School. Holbrook watches as his son plays for the high school, and the family also attends and/or views as many professional and college games as possible.
Travel is also a pleasure that he and wife Debbie indulge. He hopes they will be able to enjoy more of this activity following his retirement in 2014. “We have traveled much of our lives, but there are many more places in the world to see and people to get to know.”
From his years as an educator, Holbrook understands that learning does not always come easily. For those considering whether or not to attend college he offers this: “Gaining an education is a journey almost always filled with dead ends, disillusionment and difficulty. You never know until you fight through these obstacles how wonderful the opportunities are that education provides you. In achieving a graduate degree, you are furthering knowledge in order to help society. What better thing can you do?”
Erik & Amy Ramsay – December 2010
Erik and Amy Ramsay were just friends when both attended school together at Snowflake High School. But both got better acquainted while attending NPC where friendship blossomed into love and, eventually, into marriage.
Amy Ramsay (née Bushman) had made a deal with her parents while in junior high: If they allowed her to skip the 8th grade, when it came time for college she would attend NPC.
“As it turned out,” says Amy, “Their reasoning that NPC was close to home and affordable was absolutely right. And the financial aid benefits were a huge incentive.” She graduated high school and enrolled in NPC in the spring of 2004, at the age of 16.
Erik, three years older than Amy, and a Snowflake High School graduate in 2002, took a similar path, but for a different reason. Because he knew he was going to the Philippines on a mission for his church the following year, he wanted to stay close to home until then.
Both Erik and Amy grew close as each worked a variety of jobs at the college’s Silver Creek Campus to supplement the scholarships each had been awarded. (Erik was the recipient of a President’s Scholar Scholarship and a performing arts scholarship; Amy had a performing arts scholarship.)
Erik left NPC in 2003 to complete his two-year mission, returning to the college in 2005. He and Amy married in 2006 and Amy also graduated in December. Erik went on to graduate in spring of 2007. Both students earned Associate of Arts (AA) degrees, in addition to both being “distinguished graduates.” During their years at NPC, both Erik and Amy were inducted into Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges. Erik, a talented artist, worked as an editor for the college’s student fine arts and literary magazine, Northern Flight. Amy was a member of the Northland Master Chorale and appeared in a number of NPC play productions, including Radium Girls. Erik also had roles in several NPC productions.
Amy and Erik both were eager to cite NPC instructors who helped and encouraged them while at NPC. These include: “Dr. Mike” (Mike Solomonson), speech & theatre; Cynthia Hutton, biology; Barry Richins, Spanish; Andrew Hazzard, geography, history and anthropology; and Barbara Hockabout, English). “They are all amazing teachers and wonderful people,” say the couple.
Following NPC, the Ramsays headed for BYU-Hawaii, where both earned bachelor’s degrees in 2009. Erik graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) and was a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the oldest and largest collegiate honor society. Amy graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in History, was also a member of Phi Kappa Phi, and Phi Alpha Theta, the History Honor Society.
Erik joined the Air Force with a six-year enlistment obligation. They are now stationed in California, where he is attending the Defense Language Institute to learn Arabic and become a cryptologic linguist.
Both Erik and Amy are active in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, teaching primary classes on Sundays and Amy does compassionate service for the Church’s Relief Society. She is also enjoying homemaking and being Mom to their 3-year old daughter, Avery. “I know I’m blessed to be able to have this role in my life right now. But in the future I hope to become a teacher. I’ve had some wonderful teachers in my life and I’d like to pass on what I’ve learned from their examples.”
Erik has several options to choose from for the future: continue his military career or re-enter civilian life and also become an educator. In any event this outstanding couple represent a bright future, not only for themselves, but also for the country and communities in which they live.
Dustin Benavides – October 2010
The term, “Renaissance man” was coined to describe someone with broad intellectual interests who is accomplished in areas of both the arts and the sciences. At its Oct. 19 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing presented its Outstanding Alumnus Award to someone who easily fits that description.
Dustin P. Benavides, of Whiteriver, an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe, began taking both mathematics and English classes at NPC in 2000 while still a student at Alchesay High School. Following graduation from Alchesay, Dustin headed to the University of Arizona, intent on studying bioinformatics, the application of information technology and computer science to the field of molecular biology.
Health issues forced Dustin to return home, but while regaining his health he began taking courses at NPC. “It was right there; I could walk [to the Whiteriver center] from my house.” Eventually his range expanded. He began taking every class that interested him, whether at Silver Creek campus in Snowflake, White Mountain in Show Low or the center in Springerville/Eagar.
These classes ranged from the computer courses being taught by friend and teacher, Jeannie McCabe, to higher mathematics under the instruction of Barry Graham and vocal music classes of the direction of professor Julie Anna Holtan. In 2005, he was inducted into the International Community College Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK).
He acted in NPC theatre productions (three plays to date), sang with the Northland Master Chorale and was also involved in the Student Government Association. Starting out as the representative from the Whiteriver Center, he became vice-president and, eventually, SGA president. Dustin says of those times, “I enjoyed SGA immensely, and felt especially good about my part in helping initiate the SGA talent show.”
Dustin currently works at the NPC Whiteriver Center, where he is practically a one-man band. He is the center’s only tutor, covering all subjects. (He says, “I’ve been at NPC long enough, and taken so many classes I can just about tutor anything!”) He is also a “registration assistant,” front office clerk and library staff member. To top things off, he has his “fun job,” lab aide in the business classroom where he helps up to 40 students with their business/computer studies.
Dustin received his nomination as an outstanding alumnus from three different folks: music professor, Julie Anna Holtan, center adviser/library technician, A.J. Taylor; and Whiteriver interim center manager, Rhoda Ashley. Their letter of nomination reads, in part, “Dustin is always a joy who is very creative and extremely encouraging and helpful to his peers and co-workers, as well as community members.”
Beyond the workplace, Dustin enjoys reading, writing unusual prose pieces and is “big into music.” He continues to perform with the NPC Master Chorale and, as a self-described mathematics and computer nerd, confesses to “an unholy obsession with prime numbers!”
His goals for the future involve pursuing bachelor and master degrees in a mathematics field in order to become a diabetes researcher.
As an outstanding alumni Dustin receives a plaque, three-credit-hour tuition gift certificate, NPC merchandise and a pass to NPC Performing Arts events.
Ronald Bishop – September 2010
A Head Of The Curve
"NPC helped shape where I am today," businessman Ronald G. Bishop Jr. told members of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board after receiving the September Outstanding NPC Alumnus Award at the Sept. 21, 210 meeting in Holbrook.
Bishop, a Show Low resident, works with his father operating The Home Source, a local Cavco manufactured housing dealership and land packaging business.
Long a high achiever, Bishop got a jump-start on earning college credits while attending Mogollon High School where he took advantage of dual enrollment math and science courses. And as a result of graduating near the top of his high school class in 2001, he earned a prestigious NPC President’s Scholarship.
While at NPC, Bishop was vice president of the college chapter of the international honor society, Phi Theta Kappa. He graduated in 2003 with an Associate of Business (ABus) degree and during his final year received an All-Arizona Academic Team scholarship. This statewide honor meant a full tuition-waiver to an Arizona university of his choice for completing his bachelor’s degree. Bishop selected ASU, graduating in December 2005 with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in finance with a minor in justice studies.
Bishop has not always lived in the White Mountains. His first decade was spent in Houston before his family moved to Phoenix; and after NPC he attended ASU in the Valley. Yet when it came time to settle down, he opted to leave the big city. “I wanted a better quality of life,” he explains. He married his high school sweetheart, Kathi, and they chose Show Low as the community in which to live and raise their two young daughters.
Bishop realized the importance of family during the time he was at NPC and took part in the Heber-Overgaard community clean-up effort in the wake of the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire. In a biographical piece written to accompany his All-Arizona Academic Team application he said, “Dealing with the aftermath of the wildfire has changed my outlook on life. I know now, more than ever, that family is THE most important thing. It is not having fast cars or nice houses, but having family.”
Bishop has been working at The Home Source business with his father for four years now and is currently manager of sales. He says working with his dad gives him an even greater appreciation of family: “We have more leeway and more flexibility working with each other.” And despite the economy, he adds, “business has been better this year than last.”
Bishop took the majority of his classes in the interactive audio/video classroom at the small NPC Heber Center. For science classes requiring hands-on lab assignments he attended the White Mountain Campus in Show Low. “Overall,” he says, “I enjoyed NPC, the teachers, the offerings. There was so much value in using the school as a vehicle to get in my basics and find out what I wanted to do and not waste time or money at a university.”
For now, Bishop is content with life, but has a goal of retiring by the time he’s 40! “I’m investigating opportunities to see what the next chapter of my life will hold. But I do know that investing in yourself is the best investment there is, and I can’t say enough about the worth of getting an education. And NPC? Well, it was a great place to start!”
Lorraine Benally – August 2010
At its Aug. 17 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board awarded the Northland Pioneer College outstanding alumnus award to a well-known, well-loved, longtime NPC employee, Lorraine Benally.
Lorraine manages the NPC Kayenta Center and was busy registering students and was unable to attend the meeting. She, with the help of academic adviser, Myrtle Dayzie-Grey, attend to the facility’s interactive audio and video systems, schedule face-to-face and distance education classes, monitor tests, troubleshoot for faculty, and counsel, encourage and smooth the way for an average 100 students enrolled at the busy center each semester.
Dayzie-Grey (at right in photo) nominated her for the outstanding alum honor citing the many extra lengths Lorraine goes to on behalf of students, from recruiting faculty for a much needed course to helping students obtain financial aid to simply being available to staff and students Mondays through Fridays, 12 hours a day. “Student service is in Lorraine’s bones. She will do any and everything possible to accommodate a student’s needs,” Myrtle said in her letter of nomination.
“It can be a 24-7 job,” admits Lorraine; “there’s always something happening.” She even can find it hard to get her errands done without having to deal with NPC issues at the store or the post office. Last week, at the chiropractor’s office, she was asked if she were “that NPC lady?” When she admitted she was, she had to spend part of her visit explaining why the Kayenta Center had been closed for the summer.
It’s easy to see why Lorraine might be regarded as the “NPC Lady.” She first began attending classes “off and on” at the old NPC center building in Kayenta when she was still at Monument Valley High School in 1977. In the spring of 1994, when she was a regular NPC student, the then-center manager asked Lorraine if she might be interested in a position as a Federal Work Study (FWS) student. “I thought it might be nice to work around the place a while, so I took it,” Lorraine recalls. By fall of that same year, she was hired to be the center’s academic adviser. Five years later she became the manager, and is still at it today!
Lorraine was born in and raised in Kayenta and lives there today. She is a single mother of four, two daughters and two sons, and the proud grandmother of one with another grandbaby due in October. Raising her kids, (“Making sure they went to school and got jobs”) were top priorities over the years. Now that all are educated and gainfully employed, Lorraine is considering taking more time for herself. “I’ve got 20 credit hours at NAU and I’d like to finally get my bachelor’s degree.” (She earned two NPC degrees: An Associate of Arts (AA) in Social Work in 1997 and an Associate of Applied Science AAS in Human Services in 1998.) “For my work at NPC, I’d like to get a degree in public administration.”
As a “lifelong” student herself, Lorraine encourages students to start out, as she did, at a community college like NPC. “But they should keep on going until they reach a goal of a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. They shouldn’t do what I did and interrupt their goals.”
Once she gets her students headed down the pathway to a good education she adds, “I always ask them to come back and teach for NPC!”
With the many responsibilities in her life, it’s easy to see why the favorite activity of the “NPC Lady” is getting away to sheep camp where she cares for her mixed herd of sheep and goats and three ‘rez’ dogs’. “It’s good to go to camp when life becomes overwhelming; taking a drive on the scenic road to Black Mesa gives me time to think and clear my thoughts. And the animals are always very appreciative of my visit!”
Rita & Brenda Allison – June 2010
Sisters In Education
At its June 15 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board named not one, but two, Outstanding Alumnae of the Month: Rita Ann Allison and Brenda Ann Allison.
The sisters come from a family of six children, three boys and three girls. They are of the Red Running into the Water People Clan born for the Bitter Water Clan. They were born and raised in Leupp, Arizona, a community located near the southwestern corner of the Navajo Reservation.
Rita, older than her sister by two years, went to Leupp K-8 Public School. At her commencement she earned “most athletic award” honors. She went on to attend East Flag Junior High for one year and for grades 10 through 12 attended Coconino High School. She played varsity basketball and during her senior year was awarded the “Stan Townsend Athletic Award.” Because of her athletic prowess, she was drawn to NPC that, at the time, had a thriving girls’ basketball program. She graduated NPC in 1990 with an Associate of General Studies (AGS) degree.
Brenda’s early life greatly mirrors that of her older sister. She, too, attended Leupp, East Flag and Coconino. She elected to attend NPC because, pointing to her big sister, “She was there.” During her two years at NPC, Brenda managed the boys’ basketball team.
The two sisters attended Painted Desert Campus while at NPC and, laughingly recall their experiences as dormitory students. “Dormitories then were the motels in Holbrook,” says Brenda. “We lived at the Sun and Sand and ate at the Plainsman Restaurant. The closest thing to home was probably Claude’s house,” Rita jokes, referring to NPC instructor and ECD program head, Claude Endfield. “We used to cook for her. She liked it,” said Rita. “Well, she said she did!” commented Brenda. In fact, it was Endfield who nominated the fun-loving sisters for the Outstanding Alum award.
Rita continued her education at Northern Arizona University earning a Bachelor of Education degree and teaching certificate in 1995. That’s when she began the career she still pursues fifteen years later as a physical education and health teacher in the Leupp Schools, Inc. Rita also continued on with grad school while she worked, graduating with distinction from NAU with a Master’s of Education in Bilingual and Multicultural Education in spring of 2005.
Brenda graduated from NPC in 1992 with an Associate of Science degree, and a few years later headed to Polson, Montana to attend Salish Kootenai’ College where she earned an Associate of Science in Nursing. She returned to Arizona, married and became the mother of two children, a boy and a girl. While her husband is working out of state, she is currently living in Leupp with her two children, her dad, sister Rita and another niece. When she returns to the Valley, in addition to being a self-described “domestic engineer,” she is an on-call certified nurse assistant in a facility caring for elderly psychiatric patients.
A favorite activity shared by the two sisters is annual participation in the “Climb to Conquer Cancer,” a seven-mile hike up the San Francisco peaks outside of Flagstaff. They do the climb in honor of their mother whom they lost in November 2005. Brenda is also a talented seamstress who enjoys making star-pattern quilts and handbags. Rita is a cookout/grilling fanatic (“any kind of weather”) and both confess to being nuts about bingo!
While Rita thinks students who are considering what to do after high school should “do what they want and not what others want them to do,” Brenda offers a caution. “You need your education. Anymore, no one is going to hire someone with only a GED or high school diploma.” However, both agree that starting at NPC is a good decision. Rita compares learning at NPC with NAU. “At NPC, there’s lots of teacher to student one-on-one. In a university class, you’re just one in a hundred.”
Both sisters expressed appreciation of Claude Endfield, “not only for nominating us for this award, but for her support even after we completed our education in Holbrook.”
Jody Raikowski – May 2010
Insure Your Education
After a long absence, Jody Raikowski says she is thankful to be “home” again in Arizona. Now living in Taylor, she is looking forward to eventual retirement and the opportunity to be of service to the area she loves.
Jody moved to Overgaard as a teen and grew to love the area as her own. She developed an appreciation of community service by watching her parents, Carlton & Etheline Whittle, who were actively involved in their church and doing volunteer work for the Silver Creek Senior Center and Lions Club.
Today, Jody works as a health insurance billing representative for Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center. She is mother to two grown daughters, Anita & Michelle, doting grandmother to three grandchildren ages 16, 13 and 11, and the fond “servant” of three miniature poodles. When not working at Summit, she loves reading, needlework and playing Scrabble® with the ladies at the Silver Creek Senior Center. She is an active member of Valley View Baptist Church and enjoys singing in the choir.
After graduation from Snowflake High, Jody started college at NAU, but withdrew early on. “I thought I was just not cut out to be a college student,” she says.
Yet, in his letter of nomination for Jody as the outstanding alumnus, NPC professor Barry Richins recalls her as, “a good scholar who was student of the month, a member of PTK, and involved with student government.”
Jody laughs about that. “Well, I was a stay-at-home-mom until I was 32 when I started at NPC.” Time can bring about change. Once enrolled, not only did she earn membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges, she also earned two associate degrees. In 1986 she graduated with an Associate of Arts in English and Communications. The following year she obtained her second associate degree in Business Management.
In 1987, Jody moved to Tonopah, Nevada, where she discovered the occupation that she has enjoyed for the past 23 years: insurance billing. “My business degree helped me get my foot in the door, and I just fell into a job that was the perfect thing for my life,” she adds. Still she is hopeful that in the next four years she will be able to fully retire and “serve the community as my parents taught me to do.”
Jody is an outspoken advocate for NPC and, on occasion, has offered unsolicited advice to prospective students, even while in line at the grocery store. “This little gal wanted to go on to a university right out of high school, but I told her how much smarter it would be to get a degree from NPC that transfers to the university. She’d save so much money in the long run!”
Jody was honored at the May 18, 2010 regular meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board in Holbrook.
Javan Tsosie – April 2010
A Love For Education
Javan Tsosie has lived his life in Dennehotso, a small community set in the far northwestern corner of Apache County on the Navajo Nation. He’s a graduate of Monument Valley High School and has been attending Northland Pioneer College since spring of 2007 at the Kayenta Center, about a 50-mile round trip from home.
During his time at NPC, he’s had instruction in only three face-to-face classes, those where the instructor is actually in the same classroom as the student. He is an outstanding example of NPC’s “distance education” programs, learning that takes place in interactive audio and video settings or through classes conducted via the Internet. He could have chosen other options, perhaps heading to Flagstaff or the Valley, but, he adds, “Sure, the school (NPC) was close by, but it just made more sense to start here rather than at university.”
The university will eventually figure in his future. He plans to head to Northern Arizona University when he completes his NPC Associate of Arts in Elementary Education (AAEE) degree. Yet, even with a large distance learning program, not all the classes he needs are available every semester at the Kayenta Center, and earning his AAEE may not be completed until next year.
In the meantime, this enthusiastic and well-spoken young man is taking advantage of another “educational” opportunity. He works part time as a teacher’s aide at Kayenta Primary School, a job in which he takes obvious pleasure and satisfaction. When asked his favorite activities, his immediate response was, “I like working with the students at KPS!”
As an aide, Javan tries to help the teachers in any way he can, grading papers, working directly with students when they need help, helping with bulletins, running copies. “Anything at all that the teacher’s might need,” he adds.
But Javan’s efforts don’t just end in the classroom. Kayenta Primary School principal, Jacqueline Benally, nominated Javan for the NPC award, not only for his willingness to faithfully perform his paid duties, but also because he volunteers his help in the school’s office as well. Ms. Benally says, “I call him one of my most faithful workers. He is always willing to help wherever he is needed. If he gives me his schedule, I can count on him to show up every day on that schedule whether it is on a time sheet or to volunteer.”
Javan says his hands-on experience with the students and staff at KPS has been incredibly enjoyable and helpful. And even as he tries to encourage students to learn and move ahead in the world, he says, “They encourage me, too. Over the past two years I’ve learned so much from them and the teachers.” The experiences he has enjoyed at KPS have solidified his goal of becoming an elementary school teacher. And when he achieves that goal, he says, “The first place I will apply is Kayenta Primary School!”
Javan adds that achieving his dream of becoming an elementary teacher wouldn’t be possible without the education he has received at Northland Pioneer College. “It’s given me the solid foundation I need to move ahead. I would recommend it to anyone.”
Javan was honored as an Outstanding Northland Pioneer College Alumnus during the April 19 monthly meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board.
Lindasue Landes – March 2010
Preserving Knowledge Is Power
At its March 16 meeting, the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board honored Show Low resident, Lindasue Landes, as an Outstanding Northland Pioneer College Alumna. The award is presented to those persons who have used their NPC degree or skills training to succeed in the pursuit of a career or educational goal.
It would be hard to find a more unexpected success story than that of the current NPC outstanding alum honoree. How often do you find a grandmother going back to school at a small, rural community college and within five years begin to earn a salary in the six figures? And if that isn’t unusual enough, her new career field is in an area dominated almost entirely by men – welding.
Landes, a third generation Arizonan, was one of 10 children born and raised on a dairy southwest of Phoenix in 1949. She says she learned to “farm weld” (mending broken equipment in a way that wasn’t necessarily pretty) from her three brothers.
She admits to being a terrible student in high school. “I had A.D.D. (attention deficit disorder) and made an art form of ditching.” It was only through the kindness of one of her teachers that she got a diploma, and Landes felt that going on to more schooling was not an option. She entered the work force, eventually earning her living as a sheet metal worker until her “retirement.”
Landes and her husband and family have lived in Show Low now for over 28 years. After her retirement as a full-time sheet metal worker, she says she grew bored and made the decision that changed her life; she took a welding class from NPC instructor and department chairman, Curtis Casey. She recalls, “Mr. Casey was so outstanding; I just kept taking his courses until there weren’t any more to take.”
In fact, it was Casey who nominated Landes for the outstanding alum award citing her unusual curiosity and ambition. He writes, “It wasn’t good enough to have passed the written test after a lecture, Lindasue was compelled to search out other subjects that caught her interest while studying the textbooks.” He added that when she had finished her core welding courses and picked his brain clean, he recommended that she go on to take courses at a national training institute to become a certified welding inspector.
Landes did just that and on her second try passed the American Welding Society certification exam to become a welding inspector.
Within six months she landed a job with Bureau Veritas, one of the largest inspection and assurance firms in the world providing services to virtually every kind of industrial construction and maintenance operation. Her position with Veritas involved inspecting Wal-Mart stores across America that had suffered structural damage as a result of floods, hurricanes and other disasters, and then assessing what went wrong and what didn’t.
Landes’ philosophy of work centers on honesty and integrity: “Never assume you know something, and if you don’t know something, say so (and then go find the answer), and document whatever you do.” Casey applauds this integrity, writing that Landes, “…is routinely courted by head hunters for her skills and ethics on the job. [And] because of her forthright work ethics, she can ‘write her own ticket’ on upcoming jobs.”
Landes agrees saying she can pretty much pick and choose her job opportunities, and has absolutely no plans for retirement saying, “Heck, no! Retirement’s a dirty word… We can now live on the hubby’s money and spend mine on saving for the grandchildren’s education.”
But Landes does take an occasional opportunity to bring balance to her demanding, seven-day a week, 12-hour-a-day jobs to indulge a passion for hunting and adventure. She and her husband have enjoyed an African safari and, in the summer of 2011, plan to visit the rugged terrain of Mongolia to hunt ibex, a species of wild goat.
Perhaps because of her difficulties with school in her early life, Landes says she can now see the wisdom of her own mother’s words about learning: “Everything can be taken away from you but your knowledge.” She is now a firm believer in education. “I tell my grandkids get every bit of education you can when you can.”
Whether or not they will attend NPC is a decision down the road, but in the meantime, her son Gary is following his mom’s lead and is in his second year in the college’s welding and metal arts classes, aiming for both experience in the field and earning his own national welding inspection certification.
It is obvious that Landes is genuinely sincere in her support for NPC and the welding program. “I tell folks that it may be hard to believe, but if it hadn’t been for this little college in this little town, I’d never have gotten where I am today. It changed my life.”
Laurel Endfield – February 2010
A Problem Solver
The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board honored Whiteriver Unified School District educator Laurel S. Endfield as an Outstanding Northland Pioneer College Alumnus at its Feb. 16 meeting. The award honors graduates who have used their NPC degree or skills training to succeed in the pursuit of a career or educational goal and are using this education to improve their communities. Susan Olsen, Snowflake/Taylor – Silver Creek Campus Manager, presented the award to Endfield (right).
Single mother of four and grandmother to one, Laurel is an enrolled member of the White Mountain Apache tribe and lives and works on the Fort Apache (White Mountain Apache) Reservation in the southern portion of Navajo County. With just a decade absence in the late 1980s/early 1990s while she lived and worked in Holbrook, Laurel calls the Fort Apache Reservation her lifetime home.
Laurel admits that her road to becoming an educator did not have an auspicious beginning. “I dropped out of school at 16 when my first child was due. The following year, though, I got my GED and then started at NPC in 1989.” Her mother, Claude Endfield, a well-known NPC instructor and member of NPC’s first graduating class, helped her see the benefits of a college education, especially at NPC as it had the programs she wanted and she didn’t have to leave the area and her family support group to gain an education.
Over the next several years, Laurel subsequently earned several degrees from NPC, an AAS in Family Care and an AAS in Early Childhood Management. She says the classes really helped her get started. “They seemed like they were made to make you successful!”
While Laurel says she has always worked (fast food service, maid, waitress) she took her first job in the education field as a teacher assistant with the Head Start program in Holbrook. Following that she became a family advocate at the Pinetop Head Start. She was then named manager of the NPC Whiteriver Center, a job she held for six years.
While she worked, Laurel was still going to school, earning both her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and Master of Education degrees from NAU.
In 1999, Laurel was one of 212 graduate students honored in the inaugural year of the Gates Millennium Scholarship program. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation initiated the program to promote academic excellence and provide significant financial aid for outstanding minority students. There were 63,000 applicants for the grants; Laurel was one of only 20 Native Americans and the first White Mountain Apache to be selected.
Knowing of her credentials, the administration at Whiteriver Unified asked Laurel if she would design a day care program for the district. Laurel developed a plan for the Alchesay Beginning Child Development (ABCD) Day Care program. Upon reviewing the plans, school officials asked Laurel to start the program and become its director. Today she oversees ABCD Day Care with more than 100 enrolled children.
ABCD is only one of many occupational hats that Laurel wears these days. She teaches the childhood development classes at Alchesay High School and this past spring was named to head the school’s Career & Technical Education Department. She also teaches classes at Yavapai Community College, NPC and Northern Arizona University.
In her efforts to improve life for her students and residents of the Fort Apache Reservation, Laurel also heads up the Alchesay High School chapter of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a national service organization with the family as its central focus. The group’s current project is “Locks of Love,” where students raise both money and hair donations for cancer patients.
Despite the many activities in her life, Laurel still continues to learn. She is currently writing her doctoral dissertation for Fielding Graduate University’s program, Educational Leadership & Change, and hopes to obtain her Ed.D. degree this summer.
As for the future, Laurel says, “I’m comfortable where I am. I thrive on challenge and there are so many concerns at Whiteriver there is always something new for me to solve.” She adds that she also discovered something about herself along the way. “Working with high school kids was not something I ever thought I’d do, but I’ve come to enjoy it. It is really rewarding.”
Acting as both teacher and role model to her students, Laurel offers this practical advice: “When it comes to succeeding in school, family support is the number one reason. Sometimes it’s a culture shock to go away to school, and that’s why starting at NPC can be good. You’ve got your family around to help and encourage you. I know that without the support of my mom and dad and my kids that none of my achievements would have been possible.”
Lisa Ault – November 2009
A Head For Business
Area entrepreneur and businesswoman Lisa Ault was honored by the Northland Pioneer College District Governing Board at its November 17 meeting as a Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus.
Susan Olsen, (left in photo) NPC Silver Creek Campus manager, nominated Ault for the honor and made the presentation. Olsen noted that the award represented an ideal fit for a person who took her talents and interests and combined them with education to establish not one, but three successful local businesses.
Ault, a lifelong Navajo County resident, was born in Holbrook, raised in Snowflake, and graduated from Snowflake High School in 1976. Following graduation she began taking business classes from Northland Pioneer College. She studied under the late Martin Grubb, noted NPC business instructor who manned a mobile computing van, taking his unique business classroom wherever it was needed. Later Ault studied under the tutelage of Mark Engle, director of the NPC Small Business Development Center. She says, “It’s remarkable, but Mark still remembers me by name and asks about my businesses after all these years.”
Always interested in creative expression, Ault has long enjoyed sewing, flower arranging, cooking and decorating. And she was always willing to help others with these tasks for their weddings and special occasions. In fact, she became so busy doing it her husband suggested, “You need to start a business.” And she did, operating a decorating and catering service from her garage for four years before adding the formal wedding elements to the business and opening her Bridal Fair shop in Show Low.
Despite family obligations, (she and her husband raised six children, 3 girls and 3 boys) Ault has successfully maintained both businesses for 29 years. While she modestly declines to give a reason for her success, community members who have known and worked with her over these many years credit Ault’s good taste, attention to detail, and outstanding customer service.
Despite her long term successes, Ault felt the stirrings of desire for something different in her life. In fall of 2006, she enrolled in the NPC Cosmetology Program. One year later she had completed the 1600 hours of training necessary to qualify for the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology licensure examination. She took and passed her test, received her license and, in 2008, opened a brand new business, the Cutting Edge Salon & Spa in Snowflake.
In addition to being the owner of Cutting Edge, Ault manages to find time as one of the stylists as well. “I like that part of the business where I get to see my customers all the time. At Bridal Fair I usually get to know them only the one time and then they’re gone.”
When asked what plans she has for the future, Ault is quick to answer, “Ten years and retirement!”
It’s an understandable wish for someone who has put so much time and effort into building her enterprises. But with her gift of creativity, talent for business and willingness to work hard, NPC may just see Lisa Ault again for another career change.
Autom Christensen – August 2009
Not Just A Job, But A Career
Northland Pioneer College cosmetology instructor Autom S. Christensen was honored as the college Outstanding Alumnus during the Aug. 18, 2009 meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board in Holbrook. Dr. Donald Richie, NPC’s Dean of Career and Technical Education, presented the award.
Married, with three sons ages 18, 15, and 10, Autom was born in Phoenix, but lived in Show Low as a child. She moved back to the Valley for a number of years where she lived “just about every place.” That situation changed when she became reluctant to let her young son play in the yard without feeling she had to watch him the whole time to make sure he was all right. She and her family made the decision to return “home” to Show Low.
Autom confesses to having a hobby her sons just hate. “I love to read, but when I pick up a book I just disappear!” Still her kids aren’t too jealous since a greater part of what little free time she has is taken up with supporting and attending their many sports activities.
As a young mom trying to develop some work skills, Autom became an NPC student in 1996, enrolling as a business major. As part of her financial aid package she was also employed in the college work study program. In 2000, after heavy duty persuasion on the part of department chair, Flo Finch, Autom became the work study for the NPC cosmetology department.
“That changed my life,” Autom says, “I kept up my business studies, but I found the cosmetology lab an almost addictive place to be with all its energy and excitement. And Flo was pushing me to enroll. I finally entered the cosmetology program in 2002.”
Even with the responsibilities of being a wife and mom and working, by then as a lab aide in the cosmetology department, Autom graduated from NPC two years later with two Associate of Applied Science degrees, one in General Business Management and one in Cosmetology.
She continued as a lab aide in the NPC program, but with her state cosmetology license in hand also took a position as a hair professional in a Show Low salon. After a year’s time she took her career another step forward by enrolling at NPC again – this time to become a certified cosmetology instructor.
Today Autom is a full-time faculty member on the NPC cosmetology team.
“It’s funny,” she says, “Ten years ago, I never even knew what I wanted to do, and I never would have imagined myself where I am today. But I love teaching; it is so fun, so rewarding.”
Autom also volunteers her time in a very special activity offered through the American Cancer Society called Look Good … Feel Better. Held at the NPC White Mountain Campus facility, professional cosmetologists help restore the self-esteem of women cancer patients who are undergoing chemo or radiation treatments. The cosmetologists introduce the women to new skin and hair regimes that help them deal with the negative changes caused by the cancer treatments. “Maybe it’s just something as simple as teaching them how to create natural looking eyebrows when they no longer have any,” Autom says, “But I think it helps.”
When asked what advice she might have for younger people about getting an education, Autom is positively exuberant. “I am the poster child for getting an education – living proof of finding a career, not just a job!” College can offer you a way to find your interest, get trained, and have a future doing something you’ll be happy doing, not just doing something to make a living.”
And NPC is happy to have Autom on staff. In fact, it was Flo Finch, head of the NPC Cosmetology Program, who nominated Autom for the alumnus award, labeling her an “intelligent and dedicated person who demands a lot from others and, most of all, herself, and who goes way over the call of duty with everything she does.”
Autom says she is humbled by Finch’s nomination. “Everybody I’ve ever encountered who works at NPC does the same thing I do, helping and encouraging the students to succeed. I am just proud to be part of that.”
Julie Jackson – May 2009
From The Heart
Summit Healthcare Medical Center employee Julia Ann Jackson was honored as an Outstanding Alumnus at the May 19th meeting of the Northland Pioneer College District Governing Board.
Jackson, better known as Julie, is a cardiac rehabilitation nurse. She says of her occupation, "It's the best job I've ever had. I worked in labor and delivery for 10 years and that was wonderful, but this is the best ever!"
Jackson says that the relationships she develops with her cardiac rehab patients are the reason. "The patients come in, afraid and confused, uncertain about the future. I work with them for 10 to 12 weeks to educate them and help them understand they can live normal, healthy lives again. During that time we get to know each other and we just develop fabulous relationships."
That was the case with one of Jackson's patients. Lynda Klingler, a longtime NPC employee who retired last year, recommended her for the Outstanding Alumnus Award based on her first-hand knowledge of Jackson's nursing skills. In her letter of nomination, Klingler said, "After suffering a heart attack in 2006, I was put in the rehabilitation program under her and her staff's competent care. She was so professional and caring, a real credit to NPC and the nursing program." Joining Klinger in congratulating Jackson, is Susan Olsen, Silver Creek Campus Manager and coordinator of the Alumnus Awards program.
Born in Phoenix, Jackson lived for a time during her teens and early twenties in Ventura, California. But in 1981, she and her husband made the move to the White Mountains after deciding it was a great place to raise a family. They now have two daughters, ages 26 and 18, and three grandbabies that Jackson says she doesn't get to see often enough.
Perhaps it was not getting to spend a lot of time with those grand kids that stirred a passion in Julie. While her nursing responsibilities consume much of her life, she says she has a dream of writing children's books. "It's my goal. I just know I can do it ... if only I can find the time."
Even as a child Julie always had a desire to reach out to others and help people, and felt nursing was the natural expression of this need. She was admitted to the young NPC Nursing Program in the early 1990s and was a member of the second graduating class of the program in 1995. It took her three and a half years to complete her studies since she was working and being a new mom during those years as well. Since then she has taken advanced courses from NAU in nursing, and this fall will be completing studies for her bachelor's degree through Grand Canyon University.
While most of Jackson's duties are at the MedicalCenter, she also undertakes professional activities beyond the hospital's walls. In 2008 she was the Eastern Arizona representative to the state chapter of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. She also performs hospital-sponsored outreach in the community by presenting lifestyle education classes for local groups and area high schools. The classes are noted for a unique holistic, stress relieving exercise based on what Jackson calls Sign Chi Do, a relaxing combination of balance and hand motions and the soothing words of an ancient Irish blessing.
She also takes the time during her sessions at the schools to encourage students to consider careers in healthcare. "It's an awesome field for young people to consider, there's so much diversity in care settings and there's just a growing need for so many different health services."
Her pep talks must work. Her daughter, who is graduating from Blue Ridge High School this month, will be entering NPC in the fall to begin her nursing program prerequisites. Jackson thinks it is smart decision. "The NPC Nursing Program has an extremely high NCLEX (the national nursing license exam) pass rate and the cost is reasonable. It's a great stepping stone."
Jackson is well-deserving of the Outstanding Alumnus Award as an example of how NPC improves lives, not just her own, but the lives of the many others that she has touched.
Donna Krieser – April 2009
Heber-Overgaard businesswoman, Donna Jean Krieser received the Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus Award at the April 22 monthly meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board.
Krieser was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin and lived there until 1991 when she and her husband, Fritz, purchased the Carquest Automotive Care Center in Overgaard. Shortly afterward, she began taking a class or two at NPC, but around 2001 became serious about earning a degree, and stepped up her studies. She went on to graduate in May of 2005 with not just one, but two, Associate of Applied Science degrees, General Business Management and Small Business Management.
"I tried to take one or two things from every class I took and apply them to our business. I wanted to utilize what I was learning," Krieser says.
If grades are a reflection of what she learned, that was a great deal. Her grade point average at NPC was 4.0, the highest possible. In 2002, she was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international honor society for community college students. In 2005 she was one of just five students from the graduating class to be named an NPC Honor Scholar. As one of the special honorees she even addressed the audience as part of the commencement ceremonies.
With her NPC degrees in hand, Krieser is continuing her education, now aiming for a bachelor's degree in business from Ottawa University. "And they accepted every one of my NPC credits!" she adds proudly.
Krieser was nominated as an Outstanding Alumnus by her supervisor at the NPC Heber Center, Mary Lou Schroeder, who comments, "I just can't say enough about Donna's drive to learn and then give to those around her. She's phenomenal."
Krieser could easily be labeled a modern Renaissance woman. In addition to being a fully vested, full-time person at Carquest, plus her studies for the bachelor's degree, she also works in the NPC Heber Center office and as a trained General Equivalency Degree (GED) examiner. She is a martial arts practitioner, holding a third-degree black belt in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu style of Japanese karate. And through the college, teaches classes in self-defense for women.
Community involvement also figures in Krieser's active life. She volunteers for the local Lions club where she is an officer and, for the past four years, has been in charge of the community-wide annual Lions Easter Egg Hunt. And she recently was named a Lions Melvin Jones Fellow, the highest recognition an individual Lion can achieve from the Lions Clubs International Foundation.
She still manages to find time to relax from this rigorous schedule with reading, crafts, enjoying her two dogs and a cat, and, when she can, getting away from it all on her Harley-Davidson 883L Sportster motorcycle.
When asked what advice she would give to others about going on to college, this accomplished woman recalls her father's words, "Higher education is worth it; it's something that no one can ever take away from you!"
Gary Polacca – March 2009
Principal Of Education
In her letter of nomination for the award of Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus, Professor Claude Endfield noted that Gary Polacca first began attending NPC in 1983 and graduated with an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Development in May of 1994. Gary says of those eleven years that things came up that often got in the way of taking classes. Yet, as he explains, "My father had been insistent that I accomplish many things for a better way of life, and I knew I had to achieve my goal of getting an education."
In turn, Gary has the highest admiration for his former instructor. "Claude would come to the Head Start schools (on the Hopi Reservation) and encourage us to keep at our work and studies. She's the one that pushed me, helping me become the person I am today. She has been a great asset in my life."
From his start in the 1980's as a Head Start teacher, Gary went on to become a substance abuse counselor at Polacca Day School, and from there earned his bachelor's degree from Prescott College and then a Master's degree from NAU. He was an elementary school teacher at both Second Mesa Day School and Polacca Day School, and now is the principal at the newly-built, two-year-old Second Mesa Day School facility.
Born at the Indian hospital in Keams Canyon, Gary spent his youngest years in the Hopi Village of Shungopavi, but in the mid 1950s moved to northern Utah where his parents were employed with the Intermountain Indian School in Brigham City, Utah. Unlike many Native American students in Indian boarding schools during this time, Gary was with his family while he attended Intermountain. After a dozen years in Utah, the family returned to Arizona where Gary graduated from Tuba City High School.
Gary says growing up away from the reservation was a likely inspiration for his entering the field of education. "I wanted children to realize another world exists beyond the world of the Hopi people, and that knowledge of what lies beyond our borders would help us control our own destiny."
For now Gary is intent that his school earn a 100 percent No Child Left Behind performance rating by 2014, although he thinks that will be incredibly difficult to do. Even so, since the NCLB was created in 2002, Second Mesa Day School has achieved Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) ratings every year, a significant achievement.
The school is imbued with his goals for educational attainment. A current program requires all teacher assistants at Second Mesa to take six hours of NPC education courses while Second Mesa pays for the tuition and the books for these classes. "We might be unique with this program," says Gary, "but we want our assistants to go on with their educations and get their bachelor degrees so they can then teach for us."
As for his personal educational goals, Gary says he is contemplating going for his doctorate in the near future. Where he will find time might be a problem. He is married and the father of eight ranging in age from 7 to 25. And he has another passion as well as education; he is a potter. An Internet search using his name reveals that he is not merely a hobbyist, but a noted artisan. He learned the art of pot making from his father, Thomas, who was a highly regarded potter, who, in turn, had been taught by his mother, Fannie Polacca, the daughter of the world renowned potter Nampeyo.
His accomplishments underscore the obvious reasons why Gary Polacca is being honored with the NPC Outstanding Alumnus Award. He has fully engaged in so many aspects of lifelong learning and then used that education to the benefit of his community and his people.
Robin Hendricks – January 2009
While a nursing student at Northland Pioneer College, 2004 - 2007, Winslow resident Robin Hendricks served as a science lab aide and helped tutor her fellow nursing students.
Now Robin is using her NPC degree as an obstetrics nurse at Flagstaff Medical Center to mentor new moms to care and feed their infants.
Robin's love of learning and sharing her knowledge was recognized with an Outstanding Alumnus Award presented during the Jan. 20, 2009 meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board.
Born and raised in Libby, Montana, Robin became interested in a medical career while serving as an Army medic at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. But when her four-year enlistment was up, she decided to study psychology instead, receiving her bachelor's degree from Utah State University.
While husband Berkley worked as a teacher at Pinon, Robin opted to stay home to care for their two sons, Landon (now 8) and Gideon (now 5) and to prepare for the birth of Wyatt (now 3). Getting by on a teacher's salary was getting difficult for the growing family.
"I considered going back to school to complete my master's in psychology. But a waitress makes more money and has better hours than a counselor," commented Robin. Berkley learned that NPC offered nurses' training in Winslow, so Robin applied, and was accepted into the program.
"Here I was, in my early 30s, returning to school. Wyatt was just 3 months old when I started my nursing studies. It was pretty grueling. But my instructors, especially Dr. (Jim) Jacob and Dana Jolly, got me through it," she said.
To supplement the family income, Robin became a science lab aide and tutored other students. If money were no object Robin says she would be a "lifetime student." When her boys are grown, the newest addition, Owen, is now 1, she wants to return to school to become a nurse practitioner.
"I really like being an OB nurse, taking care of the new moms, helping them breastfeed and care for their newborns. It is a happy place to work," she adds with a little lift to her voice. But you can also sense a desire to keep learning.
Her three-days-a-week schedule at FMC and Berkley's schedule as a GED instructor at the Arizona Department of Corrections facility in Winslow still allow plenty of time with family, one of Robin's favorite activities. She also enjoys crafts and crotchet and is very active in her church. She also volunteers in her sons' classrooms.
As an Outstanding Alumnus, Robin receives a three-credit-hour tuition gift certificate, which she hinted she might use to take a yoga class. "It's something I always wanted to do."
Jamison Bellucci – January 2009
Sailing & Education
Lifelong learning and graduating from college are family traditions for Northland Pioneer College alumnus Jamison Bellucci. You can hear the excitement in his voice as he talks about lifelong learning and his opportunity to get back into the classroom to complete his master's degree in world history.
Bellucci was presented an Outstanding Alumnus Award at the Jan. 20, 2009 meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board for continuing his education and for promoting lifelong learning.
"I've experienced how community colleges can change lives and I want to be a part, sharing my love for world history," he said. His mother, Karen Deaton, is retired after a long career as a special education elementary school teacher. Step-dad John Deaton has taught sociology and political science at NPC since 1979. His late father, Dominck, was a brick-layer and restaurant owner in Jamison's birthplace of Champaign, Illinois.
"Mom and John inspired me to become a teacher." An industrial accident is postponing his plans to traverse the globe in his own sailboat. But it is also giving him time to enter graduate school and complete his master's degree in world history.
After graduating from Blue Ridge High School in 1992, Bellucci followed in his older sister Jennifer's footsteps and enrolled at NPC to obtain his Associate of Arts degree in 1994. And his younger two siblings - Adam (an editor with the FOX television station in Tucson) and Ashley (currently an NPC nursing student) -followed in his footsteps.
"I always considered NPC as a stepping stone to my future educational goals. I received a quality education and my instructors inspired me to become a world history teacher at the community college level," commented Bellucci.
After two years at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and still undecided about a career, Jamison decided to travel the world for some "true life" experiences. After stops in Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, and several points in Europe, including Germany and Austria, he settled in Maui, Hawaii.
Sailing and the sea have dominated his life for the past dozen or so years. But there is an underlying desire to keep learning - to better himself from crewman to private charter boat captain, and to see, first-hand, the peoples of the world.
Starting as a crewman on the tourist "cattle" charter tours, he worked on his Merchant Marine license and landed a slot with a private charter service. He is now "Captain Bellucci," qualified to pilot up to 100 tons, mastering a 65-foot catamaran for private day sailing, whale-watching and diving trips out of Maui. Bellucci owns his own Columbia 36-foot sailboat, moving a step closer to the round-the-world voyage. He also completed his bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Hawaii in 2007. Last year he passed the real estate exam and is now a licensed realtor in Hawaii.
On one of those charters, the boat ran into bad weather, and Bellucci was injured while saving the $4 million craft for his boss. That injury, the resulting surgery and recovery time, brought him back to the White Mountains and family for the first time in nearly 14 years.
His physical therapists told him it would be a year or more for recovery. So he applied for graduate school at the University of Hawaii and plans to return to the classroom this fall. "Taking the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) was tough. I hadn't done (college) math for nearly 15 years. But my scores are high enough to get into the master's program." He's been accepted and will be moving from Maui to Honolulu.
Traversing the globe in your own sailboat is an impossible dream for most people. But it remains Number 1 on Bellucci's goals, right after he completes his master's degree in world history and while he is "still young and agile enough to climb the mast to untangle the sails or rigging."
Jonnel Acosta – November 2008
Eager To Learn
Navajo County Health Department Secretary Jonnel Denise Acosta was honored as the Northland Pioneer College Outstanding Alumnus during the Nov. 18, 2008 meeting of the Navajo County Community College District Governing Board in Holbrook.
Jonnel always knew she wanted to go to college. But being a high school dropout and single mom with two boys meant she had to work to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
A California native, Jonnel moved to the White Mountains 11 years ago. With no job skills, she knew she had to complete her GED if she was to get a decent-paying job. In 2004 she took the GED pre-test and easily passed the exam without taking any refresher classes.
Her public assistance caseworker recommended Jonnel for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) program at Northland Pioneer College. Participants earn 24 credits in this concentrated one-semester secretarial training program, attending class for four hours plus another 4 hours of internship each weekday. Jonnel interned at the Navajo County Health Department, where she was offered a full-time position upon completing the WIA program.
Eagar to learn, Jonnel found NPC instructors Tracy Chase and Linda Nobles to be "very approachable and friendly. If you needed help understanding something, they would work with you until you understood. They were willing to do whatever it took to see their students succeed," she said.
After completing certificates of proficiency in both medical and legal office procedures, Jonnel returned to NPC to complete two Associate of Applied Science degrees in those specializations. "Those last two semesters, I was taking classes, working full-time at the Health Department, plus two other part-time jobs, and caring for my two sons. You do what you have to do to get by," she stated.
"I've never seen such determination in a person!" commented Chase, who nominated her for the Outstanding Alumnus Award.
"My experience at NPC was great! I would definitely recommend it to others needing to improve their job skills," she added. "Today, on the job you never know too much."
After studying constantly for three-and-a-half years, Jonnel is taking a break from classes. But she'll be enrolling at NPC again, when time permits.
Work dominates her life. But she does enjoy horses, riding quads and spending time with sons Jason McLahlan, 22, and Brian McLahlan, 16.