Spring 2008 Stories

On May 9, Mesa Community College will recognize the accomplishments of graduates for the 2007-08 school year at a commencement ceremony at in the campus courtyard of MCC’s Southern and Dobson campus.

Through hard work and dedication, MCC graduates are now one step closer to their educational and career goals. Although every graduate has a tale to tell of the path that led them to this moment, we’d like to share a few special success stories.

Laura AlvarezLaura Alvarez is a re-entry student in her mid-30’s who took a detour from her studies several years ago to raise her brother’s children. She attended MCC’s Red Mountain campus, working as the office coordinator in the office of Student Life and Leadership at the campus, where she enjoyed the interaction of a smaller campus. Alvarez said completing college represents an achievement for her entire family and gives her the chance to become more active in the Hispanic community. Alvarez plans to transfer to Arizona State University next fall and study communications with the career goal of merging social work and educational outreach for Hispanic students. “Education is the future of our people and the path to combat stereotyping and cultural bigotry,” Alvarez said.

Hosteen CheeHosteen Chee is one of 47 MCC American Indian graduates. As he worked toward his degree, Chee said MCC’s American Indian Center helped support his academic success. Chee, who is Navajo, found that taking classes in his native language helped him preserve his culture. Loretta Damon, program advisor for the American Indian Center, said that the center understands the difficulties American Indian students face and creates a ‘family atmosphere’ where students receive that personal attention and support. Chee plans to transfer to Arizona State University to study civil engineering. “The staff really helps with information about scholarships and advisement,” Chee said. “They know all the ins and outs of college.”

Scott EverettScott Everett was awarded an $80,000 scholarship from The College for Creative Studies in Detroit based on his life-like charcoal drawings inspired by family, friends and life experiences. Everett said he chose to attend MCC because of the large variety of art classes offered at MCC. He found art instructor Gingher Leyendecker’s life drawing class particularly helpful. Leyendecker said Everett’s talent was apparent when he first arrived at MCC and has watched Everett mature and find his voice as he explored art through several different art courses. Everett’s influences include Italian artist Caravaggio and Arizona artist Eugene Grigsby. His advice to other aspiring artists is to pursue his or her unique interest, whatever it may be. “If you love art, just do it,” Everett said. “I thought about studying other things, but art is my passion.”

Stephen HillStephen Hill returned to college after working at AT&T for many years and found out he was a more dedicated student the second time around. Hill took advantage of all the activities that MCC had to offer, including student government and membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society of two year colleges. Through PTK, Hill became a dedicated volunteer and helped raise $14,000 to establish a water system powered by a merry-go-round that provides clean drinking water in Africa. Hill will receive an associate’s degree in business management and plans to transfer to the W.P. CareySchool of Business at Arizona State University next fall. Hill is the student speaker at MCC’s commencement and advises his fellow graduates to give back and work within the community. “Service is essential to make the world go around,” Hill said. “You will receive many times over what you give out.”

Gene RadzaGene Randza, 66, is a former steel mill worker from Pittsburgh whose daughter, Jennifer, encouraged him to enroll in college. Randza, who has only 30 percent lung capacity due to emphysema, said he really got hooked on completing a degree after taking a philosophy class taught by David Yount, whose humor and knowledge inspired Randza. After being away from the classroom for so many years, Randza had to start with the basics in math and technology. He applied for and received student loans and also worked in the fitness center. Randza said the faculty and students made him very comfortable as he pursued his education, but when things got difficult, he visited the college’s Rose Garden to re-energize himself. Randza credits his wife and family for being supportive, as well as MCC’s Academic Advisor Carol Vaughan. Randza graduates from MCC with an associate’s degree in general studies and plans to transfer to Ottawa University to earn an education degree so he can work in special services. He advises other students, no matter what age, to explore the opportunities that higher education can provide. “Your age doesn’t matter,” Randza said. “It’s how you look at it.”