Struggling to determine her path in life, Charis Hayward turned to Mesa Community College which gave her direction and purpose.
Charis had been working towards her Associate in Arts degree from Paradise Valley Community College when Covid-19 hit. The switch to all virtual classes made the 22-year-old decide to take a journalism course through MCC in spring 2021.
"As soon as I started the course work, I was hooked," Charis said. "I was already getting my Associate in Arts, but I didn’t have a specialty or know the career I wanted to pursue. Journalism engaged and interested me like nothing else. By the time the class was over, I knew it was something worth risking."
Charis went on to take a copyediting course that summer. With encouragement from journalism faculty Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez, she enrolled at MCC full time in the fall 2021 semester and began pursuing an Associate in Applied Science degree with an emphasis on Journalism and New Media studies.
"By the time my first semester at MCC ended, I knew that I had found my calling," she added.
Charis wrote articles for the Mesa Legend, the MCC student-run newspaper, while completing her coursework. She was accepted into Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, and interned with the MCC Office of Institutional Advancement, where she gained experience in writing and proofreading press releases, maintaining websites, working with social media and maintaining public relations.
During the spring 2022 semester, Charis earned her Associate in Arts degree and General Education Certificate. That summer, she participated in MCC’s Britain study abroad program, where she studied mythology and pop culture while collecting photos, interviews and experiences for a series of news articles. She helped fund the trip with a $5,000 scholarship from the Benjamin A. Gilman Foundation.
A 2023 All-Arizona honoree, Charis is a finalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship for exceptionally promising students across the United States.
Her creation and management of numerous writing projects to raise funds for organizations that support the disadvantaged and marginalized in her community–Color of Change, Rainbow Railroad, No Kid Hungry and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention–reflect MCC’s core values of integrity, civic engagement and critical thinking.
Charis plans to attend one of Arizona’s four-year universities in the fall to earn a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s. Her ultimate goal is to obtain a doctoral degree and to become a travel journalist.