Bonnie J. Brockway - Associate in Arts Degree
Bonnie J. Brockway, a 72-years-young great-grandma and soon-to-be college graduate, was a bit worried when she went back to school at age 70. She wondered if the professors and students at Mesa Community College would think of her as merely an old lady taking a break from her knitting, not a serious student.
She soon learned, however, that she had no need to worry.“The students and professors were wonderful,” Brockway said. “I have made such great friends. Some of them call me mom; some of them call me grandma. Going back to college has enriched my life no end. I do love to knit, but I’d rather go to school.”
Candace Wilson – Associate in Arts Degree
Candace Wilson’s inability to calculate math nearly stopped her from achieving her dream of a college education.
Thanks to the encouragement from instructors and classmates, she will see her dream come true when she receives her Associate of Arts degree during MCC’s Commencement ceremony.
Wilson said she has had an amazing three years at MCC, filled with dedicated professors and staff members, including math professor Kenneth Folts and Disability Resource Manager Cindy Jepsen.
Folts encouraged her when she felt like giving up.
“He told me that I was not allowed to quit school and that I just needed a little help, and not to feel bad, that there are some great people in high positions that cannot grasp math either,” Wilson said.
Gisell Stephenson – Associate in Arts Degree
For Gisell Stephenson, 28, moving to Arizona without family or friends nearby, plus transitioning from the military made for a difficult adjustment. She credits Mesa Community College with providing a support system as she worked toward earning her degree. She graduates in May with an Associate in Arts.
“The family I created on campus was more than I could have ever asked for,” Stephenson said. “Being involved on campus may seem unimportant, but the personal and professional growth that evolves within self is priceless,” Stephenson said.
While at MCC, she was involved in numerous volunteer activities and became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The projects and organizations she participated in include Operation Finding Peace: Peace Through Something Different, Mesa’s CARE Partnership, Special Olympics Arizona, the National Alliance of Mental Illness Walk and Relay for Life.
Statistics show that students who are active in extracurricular activities have a higher graduation rate. Stephenson said she would encourage other military and non-traditional students to become involved on campus.
Kaelin Shaker - Associate in Applied Science Degree
For many college students, completing all the requirements for a rigorous academic program is a challenge.
But for Mesa Community College dental hygiene student Kaelin Shaker, 25, it was especially challenging—she had a baby halfway through the program.
Shaker, an Honors Program student, graduates in May with an Associate in Applied Science degree and is eligible to take the written and clinical exams necessary to obtain a license in Dental Hygiene. She plans to transfer to Northern Arizona University’s dental hygiene completion program.
She said the support she received from classmates, faculty, her husband and her parents enabled her to finish her degree on time.
“My pregnancy was fairly easy, but I still experienced a lot of fatigue and some nausea, and my recovery was a lot more difficult than usual,” Shaker said. “But I knew that I was going to graduate, so it didn't stop me from working hard.
Having a cute baby pining for your attention definitely made studying and getting homework done more difficult, but it's totally doable.” Shaker knew from an early age that she wanted to work in health care, specifically dental hygiene.
Nathan Pan – Associate in Applied Science Degree
It’s been a busy year for Mesa Community College graduate Nathan Pan. First, his team took top honors at the 2015 Avnet Tech Games Onsite Competition. Next, Pan was selected from hundreds of student across the country to be part of the Cisco Live Dream Team in San Diego this summer.
Pan graduates from MCC this May with an AAS in Networking System Administration, an AGEC-A, Certificates of Completion and several industry certifications including CCNA, A+ and Net+.
Pan said MCC is where his interest in the IT industry blossomed.
“MCC has given me the opportunity to discover a career field that I am curious and passionate about, as well as given me the necessary technical and non-technical skills that I will need to have to be successful in an ever-changing IT industry,” Pan said.
The Avnet competition tested Pan’s technical skills and abilities to work in a team environment. MCC professor Bob Samson said Pan is a great asset to team collaborations.
“Nathan is a very dedicated and self-motivated student who is pursuing his passion for computer networking,” said MCC Networking faculty member Bob Samson. “He constantly challenges himself (and consequently his instructors) to better himself and his classmates.”
Ricky LeDesma - Associate in Arts & Associate of Science Degrees
For Mesa Community College graduate Ricky LeDesma, 30, of Chandler, the decision to return to college is one of the most rewarding and beneficial decisions of his life.
“I was tending bar and although I loved it, I knew I could do much more,” LeDesma said. “My passions have always been science and space exploration. I decided it was time to make a change in my life so I could change my passions from a hobby to a career.”
LeDesma said the desire to go to college originated with his younger brother.
“He went through MCC and received a full ride scholarship to Columbia University as a result of his involvement,” LeDesma said. “He was not only an inspiration, but showed me what was possible at a community college.”
Dana Gallagher - Associate in Applied Science
After 15 years working as a heavy equipment mechanic, Dana Gallagher found himself at a crossroads in his life. Although that industry provided a good-paying career with plenty of options for advancement within that career, he found himself desiring a completely new career field with new challenges.
At 36, the desire to continue the same physical activities he enjoyed in his ‘20s and early ‘30s, including cycling, running marathons and hiking, was also a driving force in his career change.
So he turned to Mesa Community College’s Cisco Networking Academy.