Rio Salado Alpha Theta Omicron Chapter Earns 8 PTK Awards
COVID-19 has claimed and disrupted countless lives, but it has also given many the gift of time— to do things they may not have otherwise had a chance to experience prior to the epidemic.
Student and employee team members of Rio Salado’s Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Alpha Theta Omicron Chapter chose to use their time to achieve academic excellence and make a difference in people’s lives.
Rio Salado’s Alpha Theta Omicron Chapter was recognized for maintaining its Five Star Chapter status and Rio Salado Interim President Kate Smith was among 22 college presidents who received the Paragon Award for New Presidents at the international PTK Catalyst 2021 Convention, April 8-10, 2021.
“PTK students bring a breadth of knowledge and experience to Rio Salado College,” said Smith. “During the past year, they’ve found new ways to connect online and with each other. They’ve demonstrated creativity and innovation, bringing together the larger community to discuss issues of vital importance such as human trafficking. I am grateful to the students, faculty, and staff leaders who make Rio Salado’s Alpha Theta Omicron an incredible chapter. It is my distinct honor to be a part of the great work they do.”
Two of Rio Salado’s PTK student leaders received individual honors during the March 5-6 Arizona Regional Convention. Amy Craft, a Child and Family Professional Development program major, received a Distinguished Chapter Member Award. Shayla Pollard, a dual enrollment student from Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, Arizona, was recognized as a Distinguished Chapter Officer. These awards are given to chapter members who demonstrate extraordinary leadership, ambassadorship and enthusiasm in championing PTK hallmarks.
Craft, a part-time student working as an instructional assistant, joined PTK about a year ago. “I am honored that Rio Salado's PTK received several awards and I believe that part of it had to do with the amount of planning, effort, and leadership that went into our projects. I am especially grateful for our advisors and for their direction.”
Craft expects to graduate with an Academic Certificate in Child and Family Professional Development this summer. She said her time with PTK was a great learning experience. “At first, I was more hesitant to present and contribute, but I was able to practice collaboration and teamwork throughout the project.”
Pollard plans to receive her diploma from Mountain Pointe High School this May and an associate degree in general studies from Rio Salado this summer. “I am so happy that I made the decision to be involved in PTK because I truly believe that it has set me up for success as I continue in college and beyond.”
Pollard said the work was challenging but rewarding. “Our teams worked extremely hard for months on end to ensure that our projects were done to the best of our ability. We had homework, we worked nights… all while continuing with our classes and life outside of PTK. But the time and effort we put in most definitely paid off. It was amazing to be recognized.”
Rio Salado employees were also among the Arizona Regional Convention awardees. PTK Advisor Dr. Inhye Peterson received a Distinguished Advisor Award. Among her favorite assignments is the Honors-in-Action Project. “The best part of working with the Honor-in-Action students is that I get to observe their transformations, from shifts in local and global perspectives to discussing a variety of topics professionally to learning how to work together by bringing their unique strengths and personalities.” Peterson has been serving Rio Salado PTK students since 2018 and was selected as a PTK faculty scholar in 2020.
“It was very rewarding working with students during this year and seeing them grow and acquire important skills for their bright future,” said Faculty Chair of Accounting, Risk Management and Insurance, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Dr. Lily Davidov, who began serving the team as a faculty advisor in 2020 and received the Arizona Regional Paragon Award for new advisors.
The Alpha Theta Omicron Chapter received an Arizona Regional Distinguished Chapter award and a College Project Honorable Mention at the March convention.
“We had many students who contributed to our chapter and its accomplishments this past year but there were clearly four students who stood out above all the rest: Amy Craft, Cordero Holmes, Shayla Pollard and Bryce Cristiano,” said Rio Salado Coordinator of Student Life John Bastian, who is a past honoree of several PTK awards and has served as a PTK advisor for more than nine years. “Congratulations to them for their hard work and their growth as individuals.”
Chapter leaders Amy Craft, Shayla Pollard and Cordero Holmes led the 2020 College Project, which they called Student Navigator, a pilot program to support and help new-to-college students navigate through their educational journey and collect information to further expand the program.
“Knowing the work that we were setting out to accomplish in the beginning was going to help assist our fellow students was a task that I was honored to take on,” said Holmes, who also serves as a Rio Salado Student Senator and Arizona PTK Regional Development Officer. “I worked with a wonderful team, Rio Salado's Administration was super supportive, and our advisors were not going to accept anything less than the best from us. All in all, being on the College Project has made me a better me. I know what a great team feels like, I know what a good presentation looks like, and I know what real friends are because of my time on this project. The real award is not the recognition of others, but in the participation of the chapter. I have developed real bonds with my fellow PTK members, and that to me is the greatest award given.”
Holmes works full-time in the construction industry and as a proud husband and father of four children living in Phoenix. Like many Rio Salado students, he has been taking classes part-time through the years. He got started on his higher learning educational journey through Rio Salado’s Incarcerated Re-entry program.
He took advantage of the extra time he was gifted this year to take on 15 credits this semester. Holmes is in the process of re-careering and has already acquired a Level l certificate in Addictions and Substance Use Disorders and is on track to obtain his Level II certificate this spring, an associate degree in applied science this summer and an associate in arts degree with an emphasis in psychology this fall.
Holmes and chapter members also worked on other team and individual initiatives including town halls to address human trafficking, employee engagement sessions to address student concerns and the chapter’s Honors-In-Action Project, which focused on researching current perceptions about racism, LGBTQ+ communities and prejudice in the U.S. with a historical view of the unresolved issues that stem from long-standing racial inequity.
Rio Salado PTK member and 2021 All-Arizona Academic Scholar Bryce Cristiano took on the role of co-lead for the Honors-In-Action Project, using his talents as a researcher and writer to defend and craft the narratives of their findings. Cristiano and the PTK team are researching perceptions about social progress as it relates to LGBTQ+ communities, racism and prejudice in the U.S. while exploring social issues in other countries such as feminist struggles in Malaysia, with a global and historical perspective about the struggle for equity.
“Our project was recently selected for the PTK Mellon Foundation Honors-In-Action Grant, which will allow us to create a website and social media platform for people worldwide to share their perceptions of progress,” said Cristiano, who was also named Rio Salado’s 2021 Coca-Cola Academic Team Gold Scholar and student commencement speaker.
“When I began attending Rio Salado College in late 2019, I did not expect that so many opportunities would be opened up for me,” said Cristiano. “What began as simply obtaining my associate degree turned into far more. With PTK, I gained leadership traits that I will utilize as I move forward as a filmmaker. Through Rio Salado, I was able to overcome past academic missteps and now excel as a 4.0 honors student. This ability to overcome mistakes has opened the door to The City College of New York.”