By Sam Stevens (MCC Advisor)
MESA, AZ - Mesa Community College has a special spirit in its midst. Although diminutive in stature, Marlinda Haudley has a heart, spirit, determination, and confidence as big as the sky. She graduated from Chinle High School on the Navajo Reservation in 2011 and began taking classes at MCC in the Fall term. She is ready to transfer to ASU in the Spring 2014 term to complete a degree in Human Nutrition and her lofty aspirations to attend dental school have already included completion of an intensive 6-week long educational experience called the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP) sponsored by the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. There she had a unique opportunity to take very rigorous science based classes, participate in dental clinicals, shadow real dentists, and volunteer at health fairs throughout the greater LA area. To finance her trip she raised money during the Spring 2013 term by selling banana bread and her mother assisted at home by sponsoring fundraising events in and around Chinle. This allowed her to travel to Los Angeles, pay personal expenses from June 23-Aug 19 while she was there, and a plane flight back to Phoenix when she was done. Additionally, program director Dr. Lawrence Doyle, Director of UCLA's SMDEP informed her that she is the first American Indian student to come through their program and is encouraging her to help in the recruitment of other qualified and motivated American Indian students with interests in medical and dental school. She has shared her experiences with several groups and will appear as a guest speaker at the youth conference sponsored by the Arizona Indian Education Association (AIEA) in Tucson February 9-10, 2014. But she has not stopped to rest on any of her laurels. She continues to look forward and upwards, which led to her most recent successful endeavor.
The town of Chinle where Marlinda was raised, located in the high deserts of northern Arizona at an elevation of over 5000 feet, has seen steady declines in temperature over the past several weeks as summer's dwindling life span brings on the winds and chills of an early fall. Mild snow storms have hit the ponderosa and juniper covered mountains surrounding the nearly 100 mile Beautiful Valley where the town of Chinle sits, which brought a concern to Marlinda about the homeless people living there. So in early September she had the idea to collect jackets for the people who struggle and suffer in her town and kicked off her winter jacket drive which lasted until Oct. 10th. She presented her idea to her advisor Loretta Damon in the American Indian Center who was very supportive and encouraged her to move forward with it immediately. Reaching out to students who consistently utilize the services of the American Indian Center, she received support from many students and individuals who provided jackets, gloves, scarves, beanies, and other cold weather gear. Additionally, she received enormous support and contributions from the Assistance League of East Valley (who also provide her with financial support for school) and she was able to collect more than 100 jackets and other warm clothing to give to people of all ages in her hometown.
On Oct. 11th she and her boyfriend packed up bags and bags of donated items and made the five-hour drive northward to Chinle. Upon arrival, she and her small group of helpers, which included her boyfriend, mother, and step-father, sorted and organized the items into categories by age. On Saturday morning they arrived at the Chinle Basha's parking lot and were greeted by waiting groups of people who were anticipating the warm jackets. Much to their surprise they not only received the warmth of Marlinda's gift but also the warmth of her spirit and amazing personality along with kind words of encouragement as she mingled and talked with them. Altogether she gave away over 100 jackets along with other warm items to the homeless, elderly, destitute, and young children who were very grateful and are alot warmer because of her. Marlinda is also very grateful for the assistance and donations she received and explained that the opportunity to help other people and give to those in need was so fulfilling and compelling that she has decided to once again organize another drive, so she is currently taking donations again from now until Nov. 7, 2013. Any jackets or other warm winter gear can be dropped off at MCC's American Indian Center in AD42 or she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org about other arrangements. Marlinda's determination, academic aptitude, personality, and selflessness are quality traits parents would have their children emulate and her shining example, which is nearly as bright as her smile, have both brought warmth to those she meets in more ways than one. She proves that one person can make a difference.
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