Monday, March 3, 2008

All-Academic Team Winners Announced

Two of Arizona’s most outstanding community college graduates were broke and living on the street just a few years ago. Today the two are university bound on full-ride scholarships.

Rio Salado College students Jacqueline, 46, and Chris McGovern, 39, have both been selected as members of the Arizona All-Academic Team.

Each year, community colleges throughout Arizona choose two students from their academic ranks to represent the school on the state’s All-Academic Team. The McGoverns’ academic achievements and service to the community distinguished them as Rio Salado’s choice.
Being exceptional students with numerous scholarship offers is a long way from where they had been.

The couple first met in 2002 while living in a homeless shelter in Mesa, Jacqueline there with her one-year old daughter and Chris with his three children under the age of five. They eventually married and moved their family to Coolidge.

Within three years from leaving the shelter, they had worked enough overtime to pay down their debt, improve their credit and buy a home.

“In the homeless shelter you know you’ve failed, especially as a parent. It’s so easy to get buried by that and not want to get up,” Jacqueline McGovern said. “But we’re very stubborn people and we helped each other get back up.”

Once they accomplished their dream of owning a home, they realized what they needed was more education.

An Arizona Department of Corrections officer, Chris had always wanted to be a teacher.

“At the age of 37, I decided it was well passed time to go back to school,” he said.

He encouraged his wife to enroll in college as well.

With busy schedules and far from any college campus, the two chose Rio Salado online classes. Chris majored in history, Jacqueline in communications.

College has been a life-changing experience.

“It was like starting a whole new life. It made me feel so capable and good about myself,” Jacqueline said.

Her first year of classes inspired the former bartender to start her own business doing personal development counseling. She also built a web site for victims of domestic violence and wrote a book about her transformation from ‘victimhood’ to being a happy person, she said.

An honors student with a 3.94 grade point average, Jacqueline will use her scholarship to attend Arizona State University in August, where she plans on earning a doctorate in philosophy.

Chris, also an honors student with a 3.85 GPA, plans to get his doctorate in history in order to teach American History at the university level. He has been accepted at both ASU and Columbia University in New York.

The couple says their education has also had an impact on their children.
“What better example can you give your children than having them watch you succeed, watch you get A’s in class, watch you work hard at school,” Chris McGovern said.

“This country not only allows you to, but wants you to achieve anything that you put your mind to. No matter how low on the scale you go, you’re never out of it,” he said.

Created in 1990, the annual All-Academic Team event recognizes top scholars from Arizona’s community colleges who are also members of local chapters of Phi Theta Kappa Society, the national community college honors organization.

Chris serves as the vice president of leadership and Jacqueline serves as the vice president of scholarship for Rio Salado’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Society.

The 63 students on the team are divided into first, second and third place teams with cash awards. The McGovern’s were both named to the second place team, each receiving a $750 reward in addition to tuition waivers to the Arizona university of their choice from the Arizona Board of Regents.

The McGoverns and other team members were recognized at a luncheon on Feb. 21 at Mesa Community College.

For more information about Rio Salado College, call 480-517-8000 or visit