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Honoring the Brave: Rio Salado College Student and U.S. Air Force Veteran Sabrina Nicholson

'Honoring the Brave: Rio Salado College Student and U.S. Air Force Veteran Sabrina Nicholson' with two photos of student

Honoring the Brave: Rio Salado College Student and U.S. Air Force Veteran Sabrina Nicholson

Rio Salado College student Sabrina Nicholson focused on one goal upon leaving the military after 11 years: she wanted to continue to serve.

She packed up her two Huskies, moved to Arizona and set a path toward her goal. While her firefighting career with the Air Force included a variety of responsibilities - “A typical day could include a medical emergency, a HAZMAT emergency, an aircraft landing issue, a house fire, and, yes, even a call for a cat in a tree,” Nicholson said - her fondest memories were providing fire prevention lessons to elementary school students.

Her next chapter in life, she decided, would be in the classroom.

Nicholson earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology at Florida State University prior to enlisting in the military. So in evaluating her options, she wanted a post-baccalaureate program that would lead her to a career in elementary education. That led her to Rio Salado College’s Educator Preparation Program.

“I needed to find a school where the professors were still active teachers, where the focus was on preparing me as a new teacher to be the best teacher I could be for my future students,” she said. “Eventually, my hope is to continue my education and complete a master’s in elementary education, and during my research, I found the master’s degree pathway that Rio Salado has with several universities. Rio Salado College had all the criteria I was looking for to prepare me for my next career.”

One year into her program, Nicholson calls the entire experience “top-notch.”

“Businesses should be modeling their customer service from the staff at Rio,” she said. “From the enrollment office, the student services, to the bookstore, anytime I contact someone at the school, they are extremely knowledgeable. And if for some reason they cannot answer my questions, they know who to send me to for answers. Instead of giving me a phone number to call, they transfer my call and have already explained the issue to the other person on the phone before transferring my call.”

Nicholson leaned on Rio Salado College’s Military and Veterans Services Department to assist with planning her goals and to use her veterans benefits. The department is available to guide current and veteran servicemen and women with education, community resources, and more.

“The VA support services at Rio Salado are fantastic, as well. Anytime I need help or have a question, I get a response within that day letting me know they are looking into the issue, and typically get an answer by the end of the day,” she said.

The positive experience goes beyond the admission process and into the classroom.

“Even though all my classes are online, I feel a sense of connection with the school and feel valued as a student,” Nicholson continued. “I honestly can’t say I have a favorite class. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each course. I will say this is the first time in my higher education that I’m genuinely excited about homework. I think it’s because all of the reading content that has been chosen for each lesson is current, and I can read it and immediately see how I would apply that information in the classroom as a teacher.”

One of Nicholson’s instructors, Amy Freeman, said, "She will be a true asset to any school fortunate enough to have her as an addition to their faculty."

Nicholson is just as thrilled to be part of Rio Salado.

“I am definitely happy I chose Rio Salado College to prepare me for my next career!” she said. Nicholson hopes to complete her studies in spring 2022.

Rio Salado joins the community this month in honoring our veterans and military families during Military Family Appreciation Month and Veterans Day. We wish to thank all those who sacrifice their time and service for the good of the country we call home.

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