Friday, April 29, 2011

Rio Salado College Commencement Celebrates Student Success

Rio Salado College will celebrate the accomplishments of the 2010-11 graduates at a commencement ceremony May 4 at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix. The free ticketed event begins at 7 p.m. The theme for the evening is New Horizons, New Beginnings with Catherine Hendrickson and Reco A. Jackson as featured student speakers.

Hendrickson overcame much adversity to earn her Associate in Applied Science in chemical dependency. She is a reentry student who began her college education while incarcerated. She is planning to continue her education and has been accepted to a bachelor’s degree program in counseling and hopes to ultimately earn a doctorate in behavioral health.

“It is my passion to help others overcome the obstacles they face and make better choices for themselves,” said Hendrickson.

Jackson, a wife and working mother of five children, had put her college education on hold. Two years ago she received a grant and was able to return to school. Jackson will receive an Associate in Arts degree and plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in physical education and eventually a master’s degree in sports management.

“Attaining my degree at Rio Salado gives me a sense of pride. With five children, I am constantly reminding them that education is important,” said Jackson. “Now I have set the example.”

Additional highlights include congratulatory remarks from Maricopa Community College District Governing Board President, Randolph Lumm, MCCD Chancellor, Dr. Rufus Glasper and Rio Salado College President, Dr. Chris Bustamante.

Nearly 130 students will participate in this year’s commencement exercises.

Graduation Statistics:

431 Associate Degrees

94 Associate in Arts
59 Associate in General Studies
18 Associate in Business – General Requirements
5 Associate in Science
255 Associate in Applied Science

2,813 Certificates of Completion

Additional Graduations:
GED Graduation will be held May 3, at the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix at 7:00 p.m. More than 200 of this year’s 457 graduates will participate in this year’s ceremony.

Dental Hygiene Pinning will be held May 4, at the Rio Salado College Conference Center at 2:00 p.m. and will honor 31 graduates.

For more information visit For grad night photos visit Rio Salado’s Facebook page .


Rio Salado College is a nationally recognized leader of online higher education and serves more than 62,000 students annually. It has the largest Adult Basic Education program in Arizona with seven centers located throughout Maricopa County. Rio Salado College is one of ten colleges which comprise the Maricopa Community College District.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Student Overcomes Hurdles to Earn Degree

Going back to school is never easy. It takes discipline, motivation and sacrifice. For Kathryn Freeman, it took those qualities, and then some. The single mother of two young children is graduating next month from Tempe’s Rio Salado College with an associate degree in dental hygiene.

For the past year and a half, Freeman has commuted between her home in Tucson and an apartment in Phoenix, to realize her educational goals.
“Without my parents’ support, I would not have been able to finish,” Freeman said.

Four days a week, Freeman attends classes in Rio Salado’s dental hygiene program, and takes care of her daughter. Every weekend, she heads back to Tucson to reunite with her son and parents.

“My son Caden is in 3rd grade and there was no way I could work out his school schedule with mine,” Freeman said. “I am very blessed that my mother is able to care for him during the week. Leaving him every Sunday breaks my heart, but I know what I’m doing is right and that it will change our lives for the better.”

Another challenge Freeman faced when returning to school was timing. She initially applied to a dental hygiene school in Tucson, but learned there was a 4-year waiting list to enter the program.

“I chose Rio Salado’s dental hygiene program because I was accepted four months after I applied,” Freeman said. “It is a fast track program that takes only 15 months to complete. I also liked that Rio Salado has a well-respected reputation. They encourage excellence, yet they are very supportive.”

Freeman has also faced financial hurdles while pursuing her dreams of becoming a dental hygienist. Facing eviction in Ohio, she moved to Tucson with all her worldly possessions in one suitcase, to attend a community college while also working full-time as a dental assistant.

“Working allowed me to save money and buy a good car that has allowed me to commute to Tempe,” Freeman said. “It also gave me good dental experience that I believe gave me a leg up in being accepted into Rio’s hygiene program.”

Freeman offers encouragement to other single moms by reminding them that “education holds the key to a better future for yourself and your children. Even if you can’t afford to go to school full-time, it’s never too late to start picking away at a degree part-time,” she said.

At next month’s graduation, Freeman will be living proof to her children that you can accomplish your goals when you set your mind to it.

“I want my children to always strive to do their best, and without doing that myself how could I expect it from them?” Freeman said. “Graduation is a gateway towards a life I’ve been dreaming about.”

Freeman’s future plans include attending Northern Arizona University this fall to earn a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, and home ownership “so my kids can finally get the dog they have been wanting!”

Rio Salado’s commencement ceremony takes place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. For more information visit

Friday, April 22, 2011

Students to Explore Sustainable Concepts in Multi-Media Contest

Students at Rio Salado, an accredited college in Maricopa County, can positively impact the environment and have a chance to win scholarships through participation in Rio Salado College's Dwindling Footprint Sustainability Contest. Participants can submit entries the following formats: comics, games, video, graphic art, original art, interactive multi-media and creative writing. Entries are to be submitted by Sept. 30, 2011.

First, second and third place winners will receive Rio Salado College scholarships in the amounts of $500, $300 and $200, consecutively. The creative exercise is designed to inform and engage students in sustainable practices.

To learn more visit http:/

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teacher Career Fair 2011

Aspiring teachers are invited to attend the Teacher Career Fair on May 5 from 2-6 pm. The community-wide event will be held at the Conference Center @ Rio building located on the north side of the Rio Salado College Administrative Headquarters.

Students who have completed one of Rio Salado’s teacher education programs and/or current student teachers are encouraged to call 480-517-8113 to schedule screening interviews.

Interviews will take place on the day of the event and appointments will be made based on student qualification and the needs of potential employers.

Nearly 30 school districts will be represented at the career fair to fill positions for primary and secondary schools as well as early childhood and special education programs.

Anyone planning to work as a certified teacher, substitute teacher, or teacher’s aide will want to take advantage of this opportunity to network with potential employers and learn about available positions or possible internships.

If you would like more information, please call 480-517-8113.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Honoring Excellence

Rio Salado College in conjunction with, Estrella Mountain Community College ,Glendale Community College, and the Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation, will each recognize an outstanding alumni, student advocate and community partner at the fifth-annual Awards for Excellence Gala on April 16 at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park. The celebration highlights the colleges and community’s commitment to higher education in the West Valley. The evening includes individual recognition of each honoree, entertainment and silent auction with proceeds to benefit student scholarship.

The Rio Salado College’s Awards for Excellence recipients all have a valued connection to the Communiversity @ Surprise. Each was recognized for their contribution to higher education.

Outstanding Community PartnerJeanne Blackman, APS Community Relations Manager
Jeanne Blackman is original member of the Advisory Council for the Communiversity @ Surprise and has a passion for education. She has seen the difference that education can make in people’s lives and actively supports the need for scholarships in the Greater Surprise region. Blackman’s other community engagements include the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce, The Next Step Mentoring Program and the Surprise Youth Leadership Program. She has also served as the mentor for the award-winning Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) organization.

Outstanding Student Advocate – Roxie Holmes, Communiversity @ Surprise
Since 1984,Roxie Holmes has been serving students for the Maricopa County Community College District. All of her experience has contributed to her current position as the Student Services Specialist for the Communiversity at Surprise, where she works with students from all of the educational partners at the Communiversity. Holmes’ role is unique, as she builds a positive rapport with a diverse population of students from elementary and high school students to adult re-entry and incarcerated students. She does all this with professionalism; always considering the needs of the student first.

Outstanding Alumni – Wendy Mitchell, Communiversity @ Surprise
According to Wendy Mitchell, she is even more conscientious in her studies than she would have been earlier in life. As an adult re-entry student, she maintains a 3.87 GPA while pursuing an associate degree and working full-time as an activity specialist at Benevilla. Mitchell applies her educational experience at work, where her interaction enriches the lives many Alzheimer’s patients. She was the recipient of a 2010 Rio Salado College Scholarship awarded at the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Copper Sun event and plans to continue her education to earn a bachelor’s degree in social work.

Estrella Mountain Community College Awardees

Outstanding Community Partner – Hispanic Leadership Forum del Oeste

Outstanding Student Advocate – Marylyn Bradley

Outstanding Alumni – Chief Mark Brown

Glendale Community College Awardees

Outstanding Community Partner – Sun City West Fire Department

Outstanding Student Advocate – Doug DeSanti

Outstanding Alumni – Alexandria A. Matthews

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Student Profile: Shayna Andrews

Students like Shayna Andrews are the reason Rio Salado College prides itself on offering flexible, affordable and accessible education to anyone with an interest in learning.

With an adventurer’s spirit, Andrews stepped out on her own and moved from Los Angeles to Phoenix at the end of her teen years. She then spent the majority of her adult life as a stay-at-home wife and mother.

When her marriage ended, Andrews rejoined the workforce, but after a 10 year absence, she struggled to find her place.

“I often took low paying jobs so that I could work a schedule that allowed me to be home in the evenings and weekends. After a year of working an awful job, I knew I needed to go back to school,” Andrews said, “I just didn’t want to live the rest of my life working like that.”

Although it has not been easy to balance a work schedule, school, and motherhood, Andrews said she feels that the ends are well worth the means.

“I think my struggles are the same as most working parents. I never seem to have enough time to do all that I would like to do,” Andrews said. “Something inevitably has to give.”

With so much on her plate, Andrews says her role as a mother is still the most important and it’s obvious that her daughter is a source of strength and determination. “Being back in school has allowed me to be available to my daughter in ways I couldn’t punching a clock 9-5.”

Andrews credits her own mother and grandmother with encouraging her to always continue learning.

“There are two things that I think have largely shaped how I value education. I remember my grandmother used to say to me all the time that no matter how old you get, you never stop learning. And my mom always told me how smart I was and how capable of learning I was,” Andrews said. “I see the truth in those statements for myself, but also for everyone. I think everyone is capable of learning.”

“There is a joy that comes with mastery. I think the key is to find what it is you want to be educated in and when you do, it’s fun to learn.” Andrews said. She went on to explain, “I taught ballet to very young students when I lived in Phoenix and one of the greatest joys was to watch them realize that doing things that were hard work and required discipline can be fun, too.”

Andrews is currently working toward an Associate degree and hopes to pursue a career in health care or fitness and recreation.

“Overall, I would say that I am looking for better options,” Andrews said. “Currently I am focused on getting my AA. Once that is accomplished, I will look at the needs of myself and my daughter and determine if getting my bachelor’s degree is the right thing at that time,” Andrews said. “Sometimes, things are just about timing.”

Andrews said she had been interested in leaving the Valley for several years, but the right opportunity was slow in presenting itself. When a childhood friend told her about Murfreesboro, she did a little research and decided that Tennessee would be a good place to live.

For the second time in her life, Andrews decided to leave everything that was familiar and venture out on her own. One week later she crossed the Mississippi River and found herself at home.

One might think that such an upheaval would be a drastic set back, but Andrews is both cautious and resourceful.

“In the planning to move across the country, I allocated a one semester hiatus in order to establish residency and save up some money to pay for tuition,” Andrews says in her blog. “In my desperate desire to get back to school, somehow- someway, I began dreaming about where I’d like to attend here in Tennessee. I started to look at programs and schedules and tuition costs. I began to think outside the box. I made calls. ”

As it turns out she was still eligible for financial aid, but the spring semester had already started. Attending school locally was not going to be possible, but Andrews was undaunted.

“I contacted Rio Salado College, the community college I attended in Phoenix that specializes in distance learning,” Andrews said. “Knowing that classes begin every Monday and being familiar with the interface, I knew I could start in March and still finish by the end of May. “

By taking online classes from Rio Salado College, Andrews was able to make a cross country move without taking a break or interrupting her momentum.

“I am incredibly grateful that higher education is available to me, that it affords me the ability to be home to do the ‘mom thing’, and that I can work hard to accomplish something that is forever mine.”

Andrews writes a blog called The Making of a Southern Girl to chronicle her transition from “California Girl” to “Southern Belle” and agreed to share her story with us hoping that other single parents will find the same encouragement she has received from others.

“Keep going! Even if you have to slow down for one reason or another, just keep going. There are many single parents who have walked this road before us. If they can do it, we can too. To add to that, one thing I have learned in my education journey, sometimes strategy is key. Consider the difficulty or the time particular classes will take. Know your stride. Know your limitations; then work within that.”

Andrews says that she does not define success by external benchmarks but prefers to use internal measures of achievement.

“Knowing that I have done my personal best, I have peace with God in my heart regarding the direction of my life, and I am content in the direction I am heading. There will always be things that I would like to change, improve, do away with… But if I have strong relationships and I am moving in the direction to change, improve or do away with those things, than I am successful.”