Jonnell Acosta – November 2008

NPC honors Jonnel Acosta as Outstanding Alumnus

Outstanding Alumnus Jonnel AcostaNavajo 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.

The NPC Outstanding Alumnus program salutes outstanding graduates who have used their degree or training to succeed in the pursuit of a career or educational goal and who support and promote life-long learning. Community and NPC personnel can nominate individuals for the award. Forms are available from NPC campus and center offices or on-line by clicking here. To read more about other Outstanding Alumni, click here.