Monday, March 26, 2018

Meet Rio Salado’s 2018 All-AZ Honorees

Group photo. Pictured are Holly Harper, Crystal Roberto, Kerrie Specker, Dr. Chris Bustamante, Jamie Peredo, John Bastian and Dr. Melanie Abts
Left to right: Holly Harper,  Crystal Roberto, Kerrie Specker,
Dr. Chris Bustamante, Jamie Peredo, John Bastian and
Dr. Melanie Abts
Each year, participating Arizona colleges nominate two students for the All-AZ Academic Team. The honor includes tuition to one of Arizona’s three state universities and a cash scholarship. Students are chosen for demonstrating academic excellence and leadership and service to the community.


Rio Salado’s 2018 All-AZ honorees are Jamie Peredo and Crystal Roberto

Jamie Peredo
Photo of Jamie Peredo
Jamie Peredo is a mother of two children, a dental assistant/instructor, and a recent honors graduate of Rio Salado’s dental hygiene program.

She is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Northern Arizona University with her All-Arizona Academic scholarship.

“I am amazed and so fortunate to have been named to the All-Arizona Academic Team,” Peredo said. “It means that there are people who believe in me enough to help me continue my education, and that, in itself, is motivation to keep pushing forward.”

Having spent several years working as a dental assistant, Peredo had already found a career field she loved. The only thing missing was a college degree.

She researched dental hygiene programs and chose Rio Salado.

“The smaller class sizes at Rio were more appealing than traditional four-year schools,” Peredo said. “This environment allowed me to build meaningful relationships with fellow students, faculty and staff.”

Holly Harper, Rio Salado’s Faculty Chair for Dental Programs, said Jamie demonstrated several traits that helped her succeed.

“Jamie has excelled in her academic studies and shown exceptional clinical skills in an accelerated and competitive program,” Harper said. “She also possesses a sincere passion for helping others.”

With a 3.79 GPA, Peredo joined Rio’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the national honor society of 2-year colleges.

PTK activities allowed Peredo the opportunity to build positive relationships with her community.

She volunteered with organizations that offer free dental services to those in need including the Arizona Mission of Mercy, Team Smile with the Arizona Cardinals, the Arizona Dental Foundation’s Give Kids a Smile and Compassion Queen Creek.

“Through these events, I realized the great need for providing care to the underserved and will continue to assist in this volunteer effort here in the United States as well as in other countries.”

In addition to school and family responsibilities, Peredo works part-time at a local family dentistry where she assists with patient care, and as a part-time instructor for the American Institute of Dental Assisting.

“As lead instructor, I teach students the academic portion of dental assisting,” Peredo said. “I enjoy helping others learn and work toward being their best.”

Teaching has awakened a new purpose for Peredo.

“The dental hygiene instructors at Rio Salado lifted me mentally at times when I felt defeated,” Peredo said. “My new career goal – my new dream – is to become part of this team. I want to ultimately teach dental hygiene at a community college.”

Crystal Roberto

Crystal Roberto has experienced many hardships in life, but she has also persevered and triumphed.

Roberto was not able to complete high school due to life issues, but she always knew earning a degree would help provide a better life for her children.

“I began my educational journey at Rio Salado and got involved with the PTK Honor Society, the Honors Program, and the National Society of Leadership and Success,” Roberto said. “Through these experiences, I found a genuine passion for helping others.”

Roberto currently serves as PTK’s College Project Chair, overseeing an initiative to help students find, apply for and obtain scholarships.

The group has created a video and checklist to help demystify the scholarship application process for students, and a recommendation letter template to assist faculty.

“This portion of the project leaked to faculty chair members, who loved the idea and invited me to present it at the All-Faculty meeting,” Roberto said.

PTK Advisor Dr. Melanie Abts said Crystal is an academic role model and natural leader.

"Crystal serves in two student leadership roles at Rio Salado College, while also taking a heavy online course load,” Abts said. “She is an innovative leader who she makes a tremendous effort to empower others to believe in themselves and their abilities.”

Roberto’s passion for helping other students was also fueled by working part-time in Rio’s Incarcerated Re-entry (IRE) Department.

“This gave me a glimpse into how Rio Salado gives the incarcerated population hope for the future when they are released,” Roberto said.

Working with IRE has sparked a new direction for Roberto’s future.

“My career goal now is to open a non-profit organization that will house people as they are released from prison,” Roberto said. “I plan to guide them through the system by focusing on education to give them a future.”

Roberto plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arizona State University in the fall, with a minor in non-profit leadership management.

“My community college experience at Rio Salado College has helped shape my future and is something I will forever consider priceless.”