PCC students take top honors

By MICHEAL ROMERO

Through hard work on campus and in the community, 12 Pima Community College students have been named to the 2016 All-Arizona Academic Team. They were recognized for the accolade by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Each student receives two-year tuition waivers for any public university in Arizona, as well as scholarships from PCC. The top four students earn additional scholarships from the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team program.

Alex Martinez Figueroa and Eduardo Lujan Olivas received the gold scholarship for placing in the top 20 students in the nation.

Francy Luna Diaz landed the silver scholarship in the top 100 and Julia Mona received a bronze scholarship for the top 150.

Alex Martinez Figueroa

In addition to placing in the top 20, Figueroa was named number one in the state of Arizona, making him All-USA.

However, the journey to the top wasn’t easy and spanned seven years, following graduation from a Yuma high school.

Upon graduating in 2009, Figueroa attended Arizona Western College for business but failed his courses. He moved to Phoenix a year later to attend Glendale Community College. After completing his EMT basic training, his interest in the medical field was spurred.

Figueroa moved to Tucson in 2011 with hopes of attending the fire academy, but financial problems kept him from finishing the program.

When his finances were back in order, he enrolled at Pima. One of his instructors was future Assistant Vice Chancellor Karrie Mitchell.

“She was one of the people who told me that she saw me going far and I could actually go for the medical field,” Figueroa said. “She gave me a lot of confidence in myself, which helped me in my first semester to get A’s in all of my classes.”

TRIO Student Support Services then introduced him to the honors council, aiding the process of enrolling in his first honors class.

With the support of Program Director Hector Acosta and the networking skills attained in the honors society, Figueroa realized that the goal of reaching the public health field was not as far off as he had suspected.

“If there was an emergency in the family then I could be there to help out,” he said. “I wanted to be able to make sure my family is doing the right thing, whether it be a healthier lifestyle or anything else.”

Eduardo Lujan Olivas

Olivas chose to tackle administrative justice with his two-year waiver and he plans to pursue criminal justice and criminology at Arizona State University. His ultimate goal is to become a federal agent, possibly for the DEA.

“I took an aptitude test and the suggestion came out as law enforcement,” Olivas said. “But I didn’t just want to be a police officer, so I knew I needed more school.”

He began the application process for the PTK honor society in his freshman year at Pima.

“You have to have completed about nine credit hours and have a 3.5 GPA in order to get into Phi Theta Kappa,” he said. “I was inducted, and then I started going to the meetings and got involved with their community service projects.”

As the vice president of student government at the Downtown Campus, Olivas helped to implement the smoking areas on campus and ban e-cigarettes indoors.

One project he undertook with the honors society was about Central American children coming to the United States border and the conditions they were put in.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would have to take them in because they were on American soil,” Olivas said.  “They would be put in shelters and await a court hearing, so we researched that and informed the community on what was happening and what could be done.”

Silver scholar Francy Luna Diaz celebrates making the top 100 students on the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team at Phi Theta Kappa’s Nerd Nation convention in National Harbour, Md. (Photo courtesy of Francy Luna Diaz)

Silver scholar Francy Luna Diaz celebrates making the top 100 students on the Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team at Phi Theta Kappa’s Nerd Nation convention in National Harbour, Md. (Photo courtesy of Francy Luna Diaz)

Francy Luna Diaz

Francy Luna Diaz’s journey at Pima began in the fall semester of 2012, a year after moving from Barranquilla, Colombia.

Her first stop in the country was Las Vegas, where she obtained a high school diploma equivalent. She had already completed high school in Colombia and was even taking college courses.

Diaz moved to Wisconsin before coming to Tucson and enrolling at Pima.

She learned English fluently in Wisconsin.

“Through high school they teach basic English kind of like here they teach you Spanish, but you don’t really learn it very well,” Diaz said. “Most of it I learned in while I was in Wisconsin because nobody speaks Spanish there, so I was fully immersed.”

She joined the honors club at Pima in Fall 2013 after taking the prerequisite honors class online.

Though she completed most of the community service for her Phi Theta Kappa application with the honors club, Diaz was very active in the community in her home country.

“Growing up in Colombia I used to participate in different activities like cleaning up parks,” she said. “I was part of a group called Defensa Civil, which is kind of like the Girls Scouts here but they teach you survival techniques, CPR and you go camping.”

After finishing her studies at the University of Arizona, which include Latin American Studies and Political Science, Diaz hopes to attend an Ivy League school. Her ultimate goal is becoming an ambassador or another position in politics.

Julia Mona

Julia Mona plans to continue service to the community by becoming a nurse practitioner, following in the footsteps of her mother, a medical doctor.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be freshman year, but I chose to do nursing because it is one of the things I can do to reach out to people heart-to-heart,” Mona said. “My mom was a doctor and watching her interact with the nurses, the way she cared for my grandmother and grandfather was the same care I want to give.”

Mona performs much of her community service with her church, including a dance ministry that performs for the community.

She is also part of a confirmation retreat that helps middle schoolers understand their faith.

As a member of the honors society at Pima, she helped create a leadership role with Honors Coordinator Kenneth Vorndran that put her in charge of scheduling meetings and a game-night at her resident Northwest Campus.

“My first meeting, they were talking about all these events and I felt like I had no idea why I was there or what they were talking about, but at least I’m here,” she said. “After a few meetings I got the hang of it and jumped into events.

“In the beginning of my junior year, I realized I could use all of this for my application for Phi Theta Kappa.”

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