Friday, April 30, 2010

Sun Sounds 'Named Valued Community Service'

Sun Sounds of Arizona, a radio reading and information access service for people who cannot read printed material, will receive the 2010 Tempe Mayor’s Disability Award in the category of Valued Community Service from the City of Tempe Commission On Disability Concerns, in partnership with Tempe Community Council.

“Sun Sounds is a state-wide service, we are especially proud to be recognized for the service we provide to residents right here in our own backyard,” said Bill Pasco, Director of Sun Sounds of Arizona.

The Tempe Mayor’s Disability Awards honor people in the community who have overcome significant barriers to succeed in the workplace, as well as businesses who support the full participation of people with disabilities in the workplace and all aspects of community life.

Sun Sounds of Arizona serves people in Tempe and across the state of Arizona who have disabilities that make reading, holding or understanding printed material difficult. 500 volunteers across the state read from daily local and national newspapers, current periodicals, newsletters, retail and grocery ads so that people with disabilities can lead independent and self-directed lives.

Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman presented this year's awards during a ceremony on Thursday at the Pyle Adult Recreation Center in Tempe. A keynote address was delivered by Ted Telepak, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation for Gentiva Rehab Without Walls. Several outstanding student employees were recognized, as well as winners in the categories of Outstanding Employer of the Year, Outstanding Employee of the Year, and Pride of the City. Also receiving the Valued Community Service Award was Tempe resident Ed Mitchell who, in 2009, nearly single-handedly transformed the City of Tempe’s disabled parking ordinance to be more effective, efficient and accessible.

To learn more about Sun Sounds, visit

Surprise, Communiversity@Surprise Share MAG Partnership Award

The City of Surprise and Rio Salado College’s Communiversity @ Surprise have earned a Desert Peaks Public/Private Partnership Award from the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG).

Located on the City Hall campus, the Communiversity @ Surprise brings together an occupational high school district, three community colleges and two universities in a single location. Communiversity students earn a variety of certificates or two and four year degrees. Graduate courses are also available, as are workforce development and high-school technical programs.

“This partnership supports the City Council’s goal of increasing higher education opportunities in Surprise,” says Interim City Manager Mark Coronado. “Educational opportunities make our City more competitive in attracting new businesses and jobs.”

“TheCommuniversity @ Surprise offers a new model for higher education," said Dr. Chris Bustamante, the Interim President at Rio Salado College. "Rio Salado College’s partnership with the City of Surprise is very innovative, and we are proud of this. We are the first community college in the United States to be located on a City Center. The Communiversity @ Surprise allows us to reach out to the community and offer higher education programs and pathways along with our educational partners. We are excited that students in the Surprise Region now have many higher education options available to them.”

The Communiversity @ Surprise opened in August 2009 and is already a national model for how public-private partnerships produce new and affordable educational opportunities. The 26,000 square foot Communiversity building was originally planned as the site for City Council Chambers and offices, but design changes led to an opportunity to create the innovative space, which includes “smart” classrooms and interactive counseling kiosks. The $8.5 million construction cost was paid by the City and later reimbursed by Maricopa Rio Salado College bond funds.

The City and the Communiversity jointly sponsor annual educational and community events at the City Hall campus, including the Surprise Youth Leadership Program and the recent Luke Air Force Base EIS hearings.

MAG’s annual Desert Peaks Awards “recognize individuals and partnerships that have demonstrated a commitment to regionalism through their cooperative efforts. By working together, local governments can solve common problems, proactively address concerns that affect all communities, and produce impressive results that strengthen both individual communities and the region.”

The award will be presented at MAG’s Desert Peaks Banquet in Phoenix on June 30.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Instructor Peter Conden on Valley Dish

Rio Salado's Horticulture Instructor Peter Conden recently visited Tram Mai and Mark Curtis at their homes to offer them gardening advice. A clip from the visit recently ran on Channel 12's Valley Dish program. Learn more about Peter's class, which is part of the Sustainable Food Systems program, at

Monday, April 26, 2010

Graduate Achieves Great Heights

By Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator

When Tempe’s Rio Salado College holds its annual commencement ceremony in May, many graduates will be celebrating the “Achieving Great Heights” theme. Georgette Robinson is living it.

In the last year, Robinson turned 40, was laid off from her job, lost several very close family members, and was diagnosed with high blood pressure.

“I wanted to give up, and I kept telling myself to drop out of school and finish after I got myself together,” Robinson said. “But, my mom told me to finish school and do it for my loved ones. My sister always reminds me of the resilient spirit in which we were raised.”
Robinson had been taking community college classes on and off for the last few years, to help improve her job outlook.

“I knew I needed more education if I wanted a decent job,” Robinson said. “I stumbled upon Rio Salado and never looked back.”

Robinson credits Rio Salado’s flexibility and accessibility for her success.

“I attended three colleges previously, and always felt uncomfortable being the oldest person in the class,” Robinson said. “Obtaining my degree at Rio Salado is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being able to study and submit assignments at home gave me the opportunity to be relaxed and grasp the information in my own comfort zone.”

Robinson is earning an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Quality Customer Service.

“I’ve always enjoyed helping people, and I wanted a degree that would give me the credentials needed in order to pursue promotional opportunities within the customer service realm,” Robinson said.

Pursuing this degree has led Robinson to many realizations about applying customer service to everyday life.

“I simply learned that you get what you give,” Robinson explained. “Ninety-eight percent of people who receive excellent service are in happier moods. This is contagious and spreads to the next person. So, just by giving that one person excellent service, you can actually make the world a better place.”

Robinson’s passion for helping people can also be found in her outreach ministry.

“My husband and I minister to individuals in high crime areas,” Robinson said. “This brings me so much joy because I can actually help put a smile on someone’s face. Giving hope to the lost is very important to me. I believe that everyone is important and needs a hug, no matter who they are.”

Robinson hopes to continue the momentum of graduation by pursuing a bachelor’s degree and finding a job where she can use her customer service skills.

“I have always wanted to be a life coach or customer service coach and give seminars on quality customer service,” said Robinson. “So this is really just the beginning of the rest of my life. I guess 40 is the new 20!”

Friday, April 23, 2010

Rio Salado Earth Day Event on Valley Dish Program

On Earth Day, Channel 12 reporter Syleste Rodriguez visited the Garden@Rio to talk about Rio Salado’s Sustainable Food Systems program for her In Your Neighborhood segment, which airs during the Valley Dish program. Rodriguez interviewed Rio Salado’s new Director of Sustainable Food Systems Michael Hodgins and Project Coordinator of Instructional Design Services Elizabeth Cole-Fay.
Learn more about the program

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rio Salado, KEZ Honor Teacher

KEZ's Marty Manning and Rio Salado College's David Staudacher recently surprised Desert Vista High School teacher Elaine Padilla with the Excellence in Education Award for April.

Padilla was nominated by student Kristina Mata who said “Ms. Elaine Padilla exemplifies daily ‘Excellence in Education.’ She provides input for program/departmental improvements and helps find creative solutions for problematic areas, and goes above and beyond her professional duties in assisting parents with community resources during and after high school. We have been truly blessed to have her in our lives because of her wealth of knowledge, experience, compassion, patience and passion. Ms. Padilla doesn't have ‘no’ in her vocabulary. Instead she will say ‘how can I help,' 'let me see what I can do,' or 'I’ll see what I find out.’ Ms. Elaine Padilla, thank you very much and God bless you! You are the best and you rock!"

There is only one month left to nominate your favorite teacher. To nominate someone who is excellent at their profession and has gone above-and-beyond their call of duty to make a difference in their community visit

Monday, April 19, 2010

Graduate Addicted to Learning

By Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator, Rio Salado College

Ask Jennifer Reno what led her to pursue a college degree and she’ll give you the brutal and honest truth. Reno was sentenced to three years in prison on a drug conviction. And it was the best thing that could have happened to her.

“In 2004, I revoked my probation to go to prison for the first time,” Reno said. “After 17 years of using drugs and alcohol, I knew I had some work to do on myself. I knew I needed an education and rehabilitation. Prison seemed like the best alternative to find myself, get a life, and quit using drugs.”

Reno began her education through Rio Salado College’s Incarcerated Re-Entry program and has continued since her release from prison four years ago. She decided to study chemical dependency to not only help others, but reconcile her own demons as well.

“The biggest lesson I have learned is that being educated about chemical dependency will not keep you from active addiction unless you are working a recovery program,” Reno said. “If a person does not see the problem and does not want to change, they will not.”

Reno credits Rio Salado with helping her make the change to a better life.
“Rio has helped me learn the value of education,” Reno said. “Since my release, Rio has stood by me, even during hard times.”

Reno dealt with many obstacles pursuing her degree, but seemingly used those to propel her where at one time would have led to relapse.

“I had to learn how to discipline myself to take online classes while dealing with the ups and downs of life,” Reno said. “I ended a physically abusive relationship, moved 6 times, injured my back, struggled with the loss of employment, all while learning how to live in society, and the biggest challenge I faced was my active addiction.”

When Reno serves as one of the speakers at Rio Salado’s upcoming commencement ceremony, she will use her story to help inspire others to overcome adversity and reach their goals.

“Education has made a huge difference in my life,” Reno said. “At this point with earning my degree, the negative stigma I created in society is starting to change. But it is important to love yourself enough to want to change and make a difference, no matter the cost, and reach your goals.”

Reno plans to continue her education by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in professional addictions counseling, and ultimately hopes to earn master’s and doctorate degrees. Her career plans include working with other addicts and children.

“I have a goal to help other addicts recover, and change the negative stigma of addiction,” Reno said. “But my heart is with children. I think the children of the world need a person who loves and supports them at all costs.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Go ‘Green in Weekend’

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

On April 22, millions of people around the world will celebrate Earth Day. Locally, the staff, students and faculty at Tempe-based Rio Salado College will be marking the day with a week of events geared toward promoting a healthy, sustainable environment.

“We do more than celebrate Earth Day one day a year,” said Shannon Corona, Physical Science faculty chair at Rio Salado College. “We promote environmental responsibility every day, and offer opportunities for other s to get involved, too.”

While the Tempe-based college offers several programs — Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable and Ecological Literacy, and eLearning Design — to those who want to incorporate environmental responsibility into their professional lives, it also offers the Green in a Weekend class for the general homeowner who wants to make a green living impact at home.

“Green in a Weekend is an introductory-level course intended to demonstrate methods to reduce energy and water usage, reduce carbon footprint, reduce waste, reduce toxins in household products, identify sustainable products, and live a more sustainable life,” said Corona. “Students can complete the course in less than two days, and the action items presented all cost less than $250, which makes them easy to implement immediately.”

Caring about the environment is a lifestyle that is blended into daily routines at Rio Salado. The college has adopted several measures to “think green” and beyond, and aims to meet the needs of the present generation while taking care of the future. According to Corona, this philosophy can benefit members of the community, too.

“This online course is for anyone who is interested in learning how to make affordable improvements to their home that will lead to increased health, financial, and environmental benefits,” said Corona. “This is a course for someone that does not have a lot of time or money but wants to be a part of a sustainable future.”

The Green in Weekend class cost $48. To learn more about the class, visit

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Interim President Chris Bustamante on MCTV

MCTV recently interviewed Rio Salado College's Interim President Chris Bustamante. To see other MCTV stories, visit

Monday, April 5, 2010

Teacher Career Fair Scheduled

Rio Salado College is hosting its 8th Annual Teacher Career Fair on April 15 from 2-6 p.m. at the Conference Center @ Rio, 2323 W. 14th St., Tempe. For more information about the fair, call 480.517.8113. For more information about Rio Salado College's programs, visit