Tuition waivers, valued at over $300,000, will be awarded to 13 All-Arizona Academic Team students from Northland Pioneer College to complete their bachelor’s degrees at one of Arizona three public universities. The Arizona Board of Regents awards the waivers, for up to 60 credits, to encourage the state’s top scholars to finish their education.
Receiving tuition waivers will be NPC students:
- Talaina Fisher and Jayden Gubler representing the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus;
- Kimberly Baber and Barbara Hawkins representing the Winslow – Little Colorado Campus;
- Gavin McInelly and Teresa Wise representing the Show Low – White Mountain Campus;
- Edgar Acosta and Valon Standerfer representing the Snowflake/Taylor – Silver Creek Campus;
- Juliet Moreno and Amber Shepard representing the Saint Johns Center;
- Nicole Krouse and Sydney Miller representing the Springerville/Eagar Center;
- Lauren Burson representing the Whiteriver Center.
Team members will also receive scholarships from NPC and are automatically considered for additional All-USA Academic Team scholarships.
NPC nominees, along with over 60 other top scholars from the state’s other community colleges, will be honored at a luncheon on Thursday, March 9, in Mesa. NPC can nominate two students from each campus and center location to the All-Arizona team. A student must have taken a class at or originating from that location to be considered for one of the two nominations. To be eligible for nomination, a student must have accumulative 3.5 or high grade point average, be working toward an associate degree, and demonstrate college or community volunteerism and leadership.
Arizona, for the past 22 years, has separately recognized the state’s top two-year college students as a part of the All-USA Academic Team program, co-sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges, Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK), Follet Higher Education Group, the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation and USA Today. A complete list of past NPC recipients of the All-Arizona Academic Team honor can be viewed online.
As a first-generation college student, Edgar Acosta is determined to earn his M.B.A. without the burden of student loan debt. He is planning to earn his bachelor's degree in finance and marketing at Arizona State University, after taking every available accounting course offered at NPC. In May 2017, he will graduate from NPC with an Associate of Business degree and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Accounting.
“In October of 2016 Edgar organized and lead a team of NPC business students to the Arizona Community College Case Competition at the University of Arizona. Edgar demonstrated leadership, analytical thinking and an enthusiasm for business,” notes NPC instructor Jennifer Bishop.
Acosta is applying his business skills as an entrepreneur, running his own healthy lifestyle consulting business, and as a fundraiser for his church's new building project. “My goal is to grow my business and be a leader in my industry. I truly want to inspire others to better their lives,” says Acosta.
Receiving the Regents' tuition waiver means “freedom from not having to worry about student loans or borrowing money from others.” It is a “true blessing, and an opportunity to invest in the greatest asset I have, which is myself.”
He also believes in giving back to his community by helping tutor other accounting students, helping with the NPC Phi Theta Kappa chapter's annual blood drive, and in various volunteer positions with his church.
To prepare for her volunteer role as a Winslow Harvey Girl, Kimberly Baber researched the history of architect Mary Colter, Fred Harvey, The Harvey Girls and the Santa Fe Railroad – knowledge she now shares regularly as a tour guide through the restored Winslow La Posada Hotel landmark. “Being a Harvey Girl is one of my greatest and most favorite passions about Winslow,” notes Baber. Guiding tours also strengthened her other passion of helping and teaching others. “I enjoy teaching with a passion. My natural ability to understand and explain math is why I chose to become a math teacher.”
An NPC President's Scholarship, awarded to the top area high school graduates, allows Baber to concentrate on her studies. Enrolled in 16 credits a semester, she will complete her Associate of Arts degree in May 2017, before continuing her quest for teaching credentials at Northern Arizona University in the fall. She eventually wants to earn her master's degree to “make a genuine difference in people's lives, showing them the joy of learning new things, even math.”
As a child, Baber heard Yoda, in Star Wars – Return of the Jedi, say, “Try not! Do or do not. There is no try.” She considers it her favorite quote and “have kept it in my heart ever since. I will never just try; I will do it with excellence or fail after giving it my absolute best. But I will never pass an opportunity to help others or be the best I can be to better those around me,” comments Baber.
“When the going gets tough, I get tougher,” says Lauren Burson. Since moving to Show Low in 2010, she has been constantly studying, working and volunteering to help others. During her junior and senior years in high school, she attended classes at 7 in the morning before heading to NPC for Cosmetology courses through the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), and worked after school and on weekends. After earning her cosmetology license in October 2013, she has been working full time and been enrolled in 9 to 12 credits per semester to complete the general education courses needed to pursue her bachelor's degree in public administration from Northern Arizona University.
During the 2016 fall semester, she was working over 37 hours a week, took one accelerated 8-week NAU course and two semester-long NPC classes. Plus, she volunteered almost 12 hours a week as an intern with the Arizona Democratic Party during the recent political campaign. “I feel I thrive when under pressure,” she says. “I was able to hold a leadership position within my internship while balancing everything else. If I am going to do something, I am going to do it well.”
Burson earned accolades from Kayleigh Malone, field organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party. “She believes strongly in her values and interned for a campaign that resonated with those same values. She dedicated hours of her time to the cause, including spending 12-hour days the last four days of the election to run the office. She did this without pay and purely out of her dedication and strong belief that the work is important for her community and the nation as a whole. Her hard work showed many community members that young people do care about the future of the community. She showed a dedication and perseverance that few people are willing to.”
“The most important thing that I have learned at NPC is how to think, not what to think,” continues Burson. “NPC gave me the tools and the confidence to further my goals to help people by having a career in politics and government.” Don't be surprised to see Burson as a senatorial candidate after she earns her master's degree or juris doctorate.
A computer glitch at Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society that co-sponsors the academic team scholarship, caused Ms. Fisher’s name to not appear on NPC’s initial list of eligible students. She will represent the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus.
An Arizona native and first-generation college student, Talaina Fisher excelled in high school, serving as student body president, and graduated with a 4.07 GPA. She was named the 2014 Youth of the Year by the Holbrook Chamber of Commerce. Her art abilities earned her a scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the nation’s top fine arts schools, where she was ranked in the top 10% of the incoming freshman class.
Despite scholarships, the Chicago school proved too expensive. She left after the first year and returned to Joseph City with a heavy student loan debt. Enrolling at NPC, Fisher has been able to continue her education without adding to the debt burden, while focusing on her art practice; volunteering in the community; and jobs as a reporter/photographer for the Tribune-News and as a personal assistant to Tina Mion, whose work is displayed at Winslow’s famed La Posada.
Art has been an integral part of Fisher’s life since she was a small child. The City of Holbrook tapped her artistic abilities and community involvement to design and photograph a billboard to promote visitation to the I-40 community. Response to the billboard was tremendously positive. “This is an example of how art can be a vital part of economic development and provide opportunities to support community interaction and involvement,” notes Fisher.
“I believe art is just as important and influential to one’s development as reading, writing and mathematics. Art is fundamental in developing creative and innovative thinking and can define a culture both in its current state and from an historical perspective,” she continued. Fisher plans to pursue her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Northern Arizona University, specializing in Visual Communications.
“The field of Visual Communications provides me with an opportunity to expand upon my artistic ability and pursue a career to include curating events and developing art installations that would bring awareness to the arts and encourage community involvement in the preservation of art,” she concluded.
“It is my desire to become a medical doctor and serve rural communities,” states Jayden Gubler. “There is a serious need for doctors in medically underserved areas who care about their patients and want to serve them. I hope to contribute in this way as I achieve my goal.”
Gubler has already been serving others, working summers as a wildland firefighter and part-time at a local pharmacy. He accelerated his studies at NPC and plans to complete his Associate of Science degree, with its heavy emphasis on advanced science and math courses, in just a year and a half later this spring. He'll be enrolling at Arizona State University in the fall, to study biology and pre-med courses toward his bachelor's degree.
A first-generation college student, Gubler has been out on his own since his senior year of high school. “I didn't go to college because I did not know how to pay for it,” he explains. “Having this scholarship provides so much joy and the ability to focus on schooling so that I can become the best doctor I can.”
Gubler chose to attend NPC because “it was a practical option to complete many of the prerequisites for my bachelor's degree. I love the community I live in and wanted to stay here for as long as I could.”
Working part-time and carrying 21 credits doesn't leave much spare time for volunteering or participating in community and college activities. Gubler hopes to change that once he becomes a physician. “I want to set up a charity and travel to extremely poor areas of the world, providing medical services to those in need. Or work with charities already doing that,” he adds.
The death of her father-in-law and then, just 13 months later, her mother-in-law due to cancer lit a fire in Barbara Hawkins' soul that drove her to go back to school in order to help people in similar situations. Now in her first year of NPC's nursing program and dual-enrolled in Northern Arizona University's BSN program, Hawkins is on a mission to help patients through the most joyous, and sometimes the most horrifying, experiences in their lives by working in labor and delivery or oncology, after she earns her nursing degree.
“I want to offer comfort, care, compassion, and assistance to those who are in dire need of help,” she explains. “Nursing is so important to society today, as we are the eyes, ears, and hearts of the medical community, the first line of defense for our patients, and advocates for those who may not have a voice.” Hawkins is one of only two NPC nursing students admitted into NAU's dual enrollment nursing program.
Hawkins started her college education “later in life,” after raising her blended family. “I selected NPC to pursue nursing because of the high standards and positive reviews of their program. I have been made aware of hospitals that give hiring preference to NPC nursing graduates because of the rigorous course of study,” she notes. Her nursing class peers elected her as their representative to share concerns and questions with faculty. Her enjoyment of math and chemistry led naturally into being a chemistry tutor for several semesters.
A Northern Arizona native, she gives back to her community, singing in a community choir and, for the last three years, organizing the annual salad luncheon fundraiser to benefit the First Step Workshop for mentally handicapped adults. The event has raised between $3,000 and $5,500 yearly for the nonprofit organization.
Starting college at 15, Nicole Krouse wanted the responsibility and the experience, even it meant her mother had to drive her to the NPC campus for classes. Now, after completing a wide variety of classes, she is convinced a career as a National Park Service ranger and wildlife biologist is what she wants to do after earning her bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University.
Loading her class schedule with science and upper math classes, plus working full-time has only increased her determination to succeed. “This determination is definitely needed to excel in something such as Wildlife Biology,” she notes. “I have taken so many different classes and have gained knowledge of so many different fields that I am sure that this is what I want to do as my career.”
Krouse is not shy about sharing how her college experience has changed her life. “Starting college so early, I was surprised about how different this world was compared to the regular high school bubble. I couldn't get enough,” says Krouse. At her high school, students weren't told about college opportunities and could not enroll in dual enrollment courses until their junior year. “I couldn't keep my college experience all to myself. I began spreading my experiences throughout the school. I wanted these teenagers to know that there were options available to them, and they could take control of their life at any time.” She even wrote out registration instructions and provided names and phone numbers of who to contact at NPC.
“I did all I could, using everything that my community college gave me, and I definitely feel as though I made a difference,” adds Krouse. “I hope these young adults I encouraged took the leap and decided to enroll in college.”
Taking advantage of the welding training offered through NPC's partnership with the Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT), Gavin McInelly will graduate in May with his high school diploma and his Associate of Applied Science degree from NPC. He has taken the other general education classes he needed on his own time, on top of his high school studies and promotion of his self-published poetry books.
“I was applying for a job and realized I didn't have any outstanding achievements on my résumé; more accurately, I didn't have any achievements,” says McInelly. “This realization prompted me to start a welding class at NPC, where I found out I could obtain my associate's degree without paying for anything.” This new-found focus on getting a college degree sparked a sense of achievement that led McInelly to self-publish two poetry books, Pretending and Read This While Driving, on Amazon Kindle during his junior year of high school.
“People told me Read This made them laugh and cry at the same time,” he notes. “I had opened their eyes to the fact they were not alone, and that no one is ever really alone. To feel empty is a horrible feeling, but I had brought these people back together with themselves and made them feel whole again.” NPC English professor Ron Goulet plans to include samples of McInelly's poetry in several of his classes.
McInelly's entrepreneurial endeavor also includes selling paintings, drawings, CDs, t-shirts, and his books – both electronic and paperbacks. “I'm always working on new ideas and ways to profit while still doing the things I love,” he continues.
Welding is high on his list of favorite things to do. He is president of his welding class and is helping to fabricate bus shelters for the City of Show Low. He plans to attend Northern Arizona University to complete his bachelor's and eventually his master's degrees in career and technical education instruction. His long-term goal is to become a certified welding inspector.
Sydney Miller is also taking advantage of the welding training offered through NPC's partnership with NAVIT, graduating in May with her high school diploma, NPC Associate of Applied Science degree and national welding certifications.
Miller was already considering going to college, but didn't know how she could pay for classes. Her high school guidance counselor suggested she try the welding program and she “took a liking to the idea, and am very grateful that I did.” A College Bound Scholarship from NPC has allowed Miller to take the additional general education classes needed for her AAS degree. She is president of her welding class utilizing SkillsUSA leadership training to make sure equipment and supplies are available for class assignments and community projects.
Life's lessons have hit this petite young lady “like an iron fist.” Those lessons have “pushed me to grab life by the horns, and to be the best I can be,” she notes. “I value the lessons that I have learned. They have taught me life is short, but not short enough to not get out there and give it all you've got.”
“Getting this scholarship means I can finally breathe,” adds Miller. “It will allow me to get a career to support my family and give back to my mom after all she has done for me.” She plans to pursue her bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University to study mechanical engineering.
After five years as a detention officer with the Apache County Sheriff's Office, Juliet Moreno recognized her need to obtain a college degree to provide a better life for herself and her daughter. She enrolled in NPC's Cosmetology program to gain useful job skills and complete the general education courses needed for her Bachelor of Applied Science degree from Arizona State University. Her career goal is to become a compliance manager, ensuring employee safety and company legal and ethical integrity.
Her NPC instructors recognized her leadership abilities and entered Moreno in the regional SkillsUSA leadership competition. She won a gold medal and a chance to compete at the state level, where she again took the gold medal, earning the opportunity to participate in the national competition. “I was not only competing trying to win for myself, but I was there in Kentucky representing the State of Arizona, as well as NPC,” notes Moreno. “In my studies, I had learned many leadership skills, as well as key principles on applying my abilities. These things helped me through the competition.” She finished seventh in the nation in the leadership category. “I can credit NPC for providing me the necessary tools, abilities, and the opportunity in achieving what I believe is one of the most amazing accomplishments in my life,” she adds.
This fall, Moreno is using her leadership abilities to organize three community projects – a food drive for those less fortunate, a community cleanup drive, and an anti-bully/single mother campaign. She collects donations from local businesses that are then shared with those subject to bullying and single mothers. “One of my volunteering priorities is to help single mothers further their education, helping them raise money to meet those educational goals,” explains Moreno.
“I'm still not sure what I want to be when I grow up,” admits Amber Shepard. When her daughter started school, she realized she was perpetuating a pattern by becoming a stay-at-home mom who had put off her education. “Children who have parents with degrees are more likely to pursue degrees themselves, as well as the opposite being true. This realization gave me the motivation to go back to community college, work harder, and complete my associates,” notes Shepard.
She loves the humanities and the arts and has nearly completed requirements for her NPC Associate of Arts degree. For now, she is undecided on which university she plans to attend, researching which will allow her to finish most requirements online, rather than relocating her family.
Shepard shares her interest in the Medieval and Renaissance era with others through the Society of Creative Anachronism, and has served as the Arts and Science Minister for the Barony of Ered Sul. Wanting to support the local public library and K-12 education in general, Shepard is forming a nonprofit foundation that would funnel private donations to local agencies to provide needed supplies and equipment.
“One of the most important things I have learned in college is that enthusiasm is great, but sensibility and hard work is what gets the job done,” Shepard explains. “I want to do this right, no matter how long it takes.” She envisions the foundation providing classroom supplies; bringing in guest speakers, teachers and artists; buying need materials and new technologies; and so much more for her rural community.
“I hope my contributions will one day offer some lasting bit of wisdom that helps someone heal, or think, or feel less alone, or to make something that brings beauty and happiness into someone's life, just like so many artists before have done for me,” concludes Shepard.
Valon Standerfer was considering studying education until her current employer offered her an opportunity to help run the company if she obtained her degree in business administration. She has completed her general education requirements and her Associate of Arts NPC degree, and is enrolling in online classes through Arizona State University this spring.
After graduating from Snowflake High School, she followed in her parents' footsteps, attending Eastern Arizona College for two semesters. After completing an 18-month church mission in the Boston area, Standerfer returned home and started working at Black Diamond Auto Glass while taking classes at NPC.
“When I took this job at Black Diamond I had to learn all about windshields and about vehicles. There is still so much that I learn everyday while at work,” says Standerfer, who processes insurance claims and orders products for customers. “It has been an interesting job because I see so many different people walk through the doors every day, from all walks of life. But the harder I have worked, the more I understand and am able to do.”
The company also installs court-ordered Ignition Interlock Devices. “These devices make people be accountable for their actions. It has been interesting to see some people learn to be responsible and others who don't. Working here has been a learning experience for me,” she adds.
Earning her degree in business administration would provide stable employment or the future possibility of owning and operating her own business.
The former lifeguard continues to be active in her church, organizing floats and picnic events, and is developing a newsletter for young adults to inform them of upcoming events.
“My commitment to academic excellence is directly correlated to my family's lack thereof,” says Teresa Wise. “I am the second person in my family to graduate high school and the first one to directly enter college. I wanted more than the drop out life.”
A National Honor Society member in high school, Wise also took advanced placement English and math classes, earning her an NPC President's Scholars stipend to continue her education. Another scholarship allowed her to study Spanish in Costa Rica this past summer. The Regent's scholarship will allow her to complete her bachelor's degree, probably at Northern Arizona University. She is still undecided on a major, looking at computer science, graphic arts, theatrical arts, chemistry or biology.
Wise endeavors to make her community better, one small step at a time. “This comes in the form of spreading peace and love by donating at food or clothing drives, helping the homeless, or walking animals at our local shelters,” notes Wise. “I am a firm believer that the greatest endeavor of all is love, and if there is any way to make the world a better place, it's to spread it. My favorite is making people feel happy by offering a kind smile or through small random acts of kindness, like buying a candy bar for the next person in line at the grocery store.”
She continues, “There is no better way to express this than in the words of the great (Sir) Paul McCartney: 'Think globally, act locally' and I believe that is exactly what I'm doing.”
Northland Pioneer College serves the residents of Navajo and Apache counties through four regional campuses and five centers with a variety of educational options for academic, career and technical and personal enrichment. NPC supports each student's educational goals through affordable tuition, small class sizes and caring, professional instructors. For more information about NPC programs and services, call (800) 266-7845.
– – – N P C – Expanding Minds • Transforming Lives – – –