MCC Students Take Home Top Awards in National Literary Competition

MESA, Ariz. August 2, 2017 Two Mesa Community College students, Jaime Faulkner and Maja Zmyslowski, took home two of the top four awards at a national literary competition sponsored by the League of Innovation, a consortium of community colleges across the nation. This year, the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) was the host institution.

The first place winners from the MCCCD Creative Writing Competition were submitted to the national League Competition, chosen from the submissions of students attending all ten Maricopa Community Colleges. Their work was adjudicated by national judges and first, second, and third place winners, along with the honorable mention winners, were chosen in the categories of essay, fiction, one-act plays, and poetry. The MCCCD students were celebrated and recognized at the Creative Writing Awards Dinner held on April 12, 2017 at the Artichoke Grill at Scottsdale Community College.

The League winners received a Certificate of National Merit, a $500 award from the League for Innovation in the Community College and will be published in the League's Student Literary Competition publication. The works of MCCCD winners will be posted on the Maricopa Center for Teaching and Learning's website at a later date.

Linda Speranza, Maricopa County Community College District Fine Arts Coordinator and MCC art faculty said, "Our students went up against students from top schools across the nation and came out on top. Maja and Jaime demonstrate the quality of the students that we produce here at MCC."

Faulkner placed first in the poetry category for "On the Corner of Rural and Guadalupe." She said the recognition means a great deal to her and she will put the money toward future schooling expenses. She had entered the contest last year and was disappointed when she didn't win.Jaime FaulknerJaime Faulkner

“That lit a fire under me and I entered again this year and won,” said Faulkner, 21, of Tempe, who credits her MCC professor, Joshua Rathkamp, for giving her the courage to take herself seriously. “I’m super grateful for the top-notch education I received from Maricopa. I tell other people, if you want to do something, just try!”

Her poem, “On the Corner of Rural and Guadalupe,” is about going to therapy (the title is the location of her therapist’s office).

“I get flack for being so cut and dry, but I tried to make it funny and relatable,” Faulkner said. “It’s very awkward to admit you need help, but it’s important to note that getting your mental health straight is a process.”

Faulkner plans to graduate from Arizona State University in 2018 and complete a Masters in Fine Arts degree.

Zmyslowski won first place in the fiction category for her work titled, "Flipping the Bird." The award marks her return to writing. She said she had stopped writing about a decade ago and is very grateful to MCC for providing a safe and encouraging venue for rediscovery.

“I wrote ‘Flipping the Bird’ with the idea of starting over after a messy chapter in one's life and wanted to feature a fallible but innovative female character,” Zmyslowski said. “That, and I enjoy animal personalities - they add color and texture to their humans' daily lives and behaviors. Red, the Communist parrot, is a damaged mascot of sorts.”Maja ZmyslowskiMaja Zmyslowski

She said the award money will be reinvested in subscriptions to literary journals, submission fees for other competitions, and possibly another writing class.

Polly M. Miller, Interim District Director Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction/Academic Affairs and Support Program and Services, said,Our student winners, who were selected as first place winners by the League for Innovation in the Community College, represent the quality of the MCCCD educational experience, the commitment of our faculty in the development and nurturing of our student talent, and the public demonstration of student learning at MCCCD. We are proud of our first place league winners and all of the students and faculty who participated in the MCCCD Creative Writing Competition.”

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Dawn Zimmer (480) 461-7892
Sally Mesarosh (480) 892-1393

About the League of Innovation
The League is an international organization dedicated to catalyzing the community college movement. The League hosts conferences and institutes, develops web resources, conducts research, produces publications, provides services, and leads projects and initiatives with member colleges, corporate partners, and other agencies in a continuing efforts to make a positive difference for students and communities.

About Mesa Community College
Mesa Community College provides outstanding transfer and career and technical programs, workforce development, and life-long learning opportunities to residents of the East Valley area of Phoenix, Arizona. MCC excels in teaching, learning and empowering its more than 40,000 students who attend annually to succeed in a local and global community.  Mesa Community College is one of ten colleges that comprise the Maricopa County Community College District. For additional information please visit

Mesa Community College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA)

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

Source Details

Publication Date: 
Wednesday, August 2, 2017