Excellence Under the Stars
Excellence Under the Stars is an annual awards program that celebrates SCC students and their outstanding accomplishments during the academic year. While the awards ceremony is typically held each Spring in the evening at Two Waters Circle, this is the first year in which the awards are being presented virtually.
More than 100 Fighting Artichokes have been nominated by SCC faculty and staff in the categories of Academics, Contribution, Creativity and Leadership to recognize their substantial dedication, talent, intellect and leadership.
View the complete list of student winners and select stories of their success:
Adam Berardi, Academic Excellence
Adam Berardi, a Data Analytics student, consistently goes above and beyond in all areas – but this time, he is being recognized for his academic excellence and being an outstanding student.
Sue Sandblom, Business Statistics faculty, said, “Adam scored the highest grade on all four exams, but always came to my office hours if his score wasn't perfect to see what he had missed. He also completed the extra credit Big Data project even though he didn't need the points so that he could put on his resume that he had worked with big data. After hearing another student was completing an honors project, Adam asked to do that too even though he wasn't taking the class for honors. This gave him practice with Excel. He was a dream student, just eager to learn more.”
Berardi chose SCC because its program is much more affordable and was more focused on data than other colleges and universities. “The toughest challenge was trying to find an internship because the data analytics program is so new,” said Berardi. “But Professor Sandblom was amazing and championed me. Because of her, I am currently an intern for the Maricopa Community College District Office in the Institutional Effectiveness Department as a Research and Planning Junior Analyst. The support that I have received from the Business College has been amazing and I am so grateful for all of their help and everything they have taught me. Professor Sandblom and Dr. Bobra (Crockett) go way beyond their job description and go the extra mile to help their students.”
Robert Scholz, Academic Excellence
First, Robert Scholz received the annual Math Department Outstanding Student Award along with four other students, for outstanding mathematical ability in course work at SCC, succeeding at an exceptional level. Now, he and his fellows will receive SCC’s Excellence Under the Stars Award.
“I chose SCC because of the cost and location. It is close to my home, and much more affordable than university,” said Scholz. “I originally worked in the service industry, and found it fun, but not fulfilling. The toughest challenge was accepting that I couldn’t work and attend school at the same time. Too many things to worry about. The best feeling is when I actually understand a concept that was once challenging. It has led me to believe that nothing in academics is unobtainable if you put the time and work into it.”
Scholz is majoring in mathematics and will be attending ASU in the fall. He would like to eventually attend graduate school once he has a better idea of higher-level mathematics.
“I would like to thank Professor Root of the chemistry department for helping teach me some valuable life lessons,” he said. “I would like to thank Professor Attanucci for his never-ending support, wisdom, and love of math that lights up the classroom. Also, Dr. Rawlings of the physics department deserves thanks for his ability to help students critically think, and understand the world around them.”
Lucas Mintoh Gompou
Avery Brooke Roskelley
Michael Cain, Outstanding Contribution
Michael Cain got a crash course in his future career. He is headed toward an Associates in Applied Science in Computer Information Systems. He is also completing an Associate in Arts at the end of this Spring semester so he can have documented education for future career prospects. “After these both wrap up, I plan to pursue a four-year degree in CIS. After graduation (or before!) I hope to work in Information Technology as a systems integrator. My brain loves data and deriving efficiency, and this is an ideal field for that.
The 29-year-old chose SCC for its convenient location and economical class cost as he wanted to avoid student loans. Out of high school, he attended ASU for Computer Science. Unfortunately, he was not quite ready for the college experience and paused his education to try and pursue a career in Parks and Recreation. Last year, with some experience under his belt, he resumed school at SCC in the summer of 2019. “I work as an Adult Sports coordinator with the City of Scottsdale running their Sand Volleyball program, benefiting 340-500+ players four seasons a year. While well suited for this detail-oriented work, it can be time-consuming at the beginning and end of seasons, so juggling this with a full-time school schedule and life obligations can be tough. Add to that the fact that I apply my technology coursework to my non-IT job to enhance my workgroup, and I certainly keep myself busy,” Cain said.
But then COVID-19 hit the Valley, and he was asked to temporarily step into an official technology role thanks to his voluntary technology projects. “I am currently supporting the enterprise products that the City is using to support the sudden shift to telecommute,” he said. “While ecstatic at the opportunity, it did introduce some unique challenges on top of my existing stressors – not to mention the general stress of a world pandemic. I went from working an average of 36 hours per week with occasional free time to study to a full-time ‘plus’ work schedule where I need to pull myself away from my desk just to eat. Between work and SCC moving to a virtual environment, there are many weekdays I am at my desk at home from 8 am until almost midnight with quick eating and sanity breaks.”
Cain said the best feeling will be achieving almost all As in his classes despite his job becoming much more challenging than it was when the semester started. He is thankful for the support of his CIS advisor Pam Williams, and mentor/database professor Allen Watts.
Austin Hunter, Outstanding Contribution
Austin Hunter is majoring in English with a minor in Theater. After graduation this semester, he plans to attend NAU to continue studying English with a dual major in Math as well. He started going to SCC as a freshman in high school when his school offered to pay for him to take college classes.
“There were quite a few other campuses closer to my house, but when I saw the SCC campus, I immediately fell in love with the layout of the school, with the big plots of grass scattered around, and most of all, the people here,” Hunter said. “Everyone is just so nice and welcoming; they make me want to stay at SCC forever! Starting here at 14, I wasn't able to drive yet, so probably the hardest part was on my mom to drop my sister and me off, then go work, then come pick us up on her lunch break, then drive us home real quick to go back to work, so to her I am forever grateful. I think the best feeling (besides getting waffles from the cafeteria in the morning!) is getting to know my fellow students and becoming really great friends with each and every one of them. I have received so much support from so many people throughout my journey at SCC. So a few names I would like to shout-out to are Becky Bradley, for being an amazing leader; Mark Dulgar, for being an amazing friend; Ted Uran, for being an amazing teacher; and finally, Dina Aragona, for being an amazing counselor.”
Dr. Becky Bradley, SCC’s Director of Service-learning & Leadership, said, “It has been a pleasure to join Austin alongside his educational journey at SCC and to watch him grow from a quiet 14-year-old to an engaged 18-year-old. He has given selflessly and learned boundlessly wherever and whenever he could during his years here – volunteering in the community, attending leadership experiences, participating in events and enrolling in specialized classes. His talents, thoughtful perspective and can-do attitude will be missed at SCC. Go out and make the difference we need in this world!”
James Small, Outstanding Contribution
James Small is currently on track to receive a certificate of completion in Database Development and plans to transfer to a state university for a bachelor's degree. He started at SCC because he had decided to go back to school after 15+ years. SCC was close to home.
“I initially took classes to fill my degree requirements with an intent to transfer to ASU eventually, but I hadn't decided what to get that degree in,” said Small. “After taking CIS 105, I discovered that I really like the concept of relational databases and that, after learning more about them, I could get a well-paying job once I accomplished such learning. I've now pivoted toward CIS/IT; I feel like that will be my eventual bachelor's degree destination.”
Small’s biggest obstacle was getting up the courage to start back up after so many years. “Once I got over my feelings, I gradually got to a point where I had a concrete goal to aim for,” he said. “My toughest challenge has been figuring out how to work with the procrastination problem I thought I had conquered ten years ago (apparently I've matured, but not all the way)!”
Small is one part of a team that created software used by Artie's FIT Market, SCC's food pantry. Allen Watts, from SCC’s CIS & Service-learning & Leadership department, said, “James is being recognized for his outstanding contribution in developing software for the Artie's Fit Market food pantry during the fall semester of 2019. He worked above and beyond on this service-learning project, which will benefit SCC students for years to come!”
Small has had Professor Allen as an instructor for three straight semesters, and he says he has been instrumental in his newfound interest/passion for this subject.
Alejandro Buelna Mendivil
Brandon De Leon Alvarez
Carmen Maria Reyes Aguilar
Danika Zamudio Sierra
Sophia Matin, Outstanding Creativity
Sophia Matin has always been on an academic fast track. She just turned 17 years old, has a 4.0 GPA, already has 41 credits under her belt, and now, has won the Scottsdale Community College award for Outstanding Creativity for set design in the "Crimes of the Heart" drama.
After graduating from SCC, she plans to transfer to a university to finish her degree in theatre and eventually become a designer for theatrical productions. “I chose to attend SCC because of its great instructors in my chosen field and because it allowed me to start college while still in high school. I started at SCC as a concurrently enrolled student, but now I attend SCC as a full-time student,” Matin said.
Despite the heavy workload and creative energy, her toughest challenge in pursuit of her education is the stereotype of being homeschooled. “From first grade through high school, I was homeschooled and it was the absolute best experience,” she said. “Being homeschooled allowed me to explore my passions and move at a faster pace than I could have if I attended a traditional school. As great as being homeschooled was, there were some challenges involved. Many people would comment that they were worried about my socialization and that I wouldn’t know if I was on track because there were no standardized tests involved. People did not believe that I could succeed in a traditional learning environment. When I started at SCC, I was not extremely confident in my abilities to do well in a traditional learning environment because of what people had said over the years. However, I have done extremely well at SCC and have learned so much and have maintained a 4.0-grade point average.”
Matin credits being homeschooled with helping her college experience because she is still eager to learn. “I have received so much support from both the Music and the Theatre departments at SCC. Thank you to all of my amazing instructors for teaching me so much and for supporting me and my journey at SCC.”
Lucas Mintoh Gompou
Robbie Martin, Outstanding Leadership
Robbie Martin is receiving four awards this month, which is the most any student has received for Excellence Under the Stars. He is also a Student-at-Large member of the Council of Student Leaders.
“It was obvious through his leadership as our club president this year that he leads with his heart,” said Dr. Becky Bradley, SCC’s Director of Service-learning & Leadership. “He was kind, creative, inclusive and diligent – and, we believe he is leaving behind a wonderful legacy for his fellow students.” He has taken on official leadership roles in student organizations, regularly attended leadership development activities such as the "Emerging Professionals Seminar Series," and volunteered at several events within the community on behalf of SCC.
Martin chose SCC because he wanted to obtain a Hospitality and Tourism Degree, and he knew SCC had the best Hospitality program in Arizona. After graduation in Spring 2020, he plans on attending Grand Canyon University starting in Summer 2020.
“My positive attitude and dedication will serve me well in this industry and help me go far,” said Martin. “Juggling a full-time job while attending school has given me excellent time management skills – out of necessity. The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my life so far is what I like to call my Humpty Dumpty experience. Toward the end of the most recent recession, I was laid off my job after 10 years. Due to the high level of unemployment at that time and my lack of a Bachelor's Degree, I was unable to find any lucrative employment. Attempting to cover all expenses while doing odd jobs did not pan out. I went through all my savings, couldn’t pay the rent, and ended up homeless.”
For a time, he lived in a broken-down car in Seattle in the wintertime. That’s when he hit rock bottom. “I felt like I was broken into a million pieces and didn’t know how to put myself back together again,” Martin said. “I decided I had no other choice but to swallow my pride and contact my parents for assistance. I was paid $275 for my junked, broken-down car, which was just enough to get a single box of personal items along with myself on a Greyhound bus, headed to my parents’ home in Arizona. Hitting rock bottom made me realize that I always have to remember where I have been and know where I want to go. Unlike the fairy tale, this Humpty Dumpty was able to put himself back together again and is working tirelessly to climb his way back up to the top of the wall.”
Martin attributes his success at SCC to: Janelle Hoffman, Gary Ward, Carole Redden, Nikki Serafin, and Susan Meschkow for always being there for him and guiding him through any tough times while attending SCC.
Fulgence Amon Assamoi
Winners will receive an e-certificate in May from SCC Interim President Chris Haines, and a printed certificate will be mailed to them, once the SCC campus reopens.
The annual awards event has been held for more than 30 years and is sponsored by SCC’s Center for Civic & Global Engagement. Director Therese Tendick said, “Our Center serves to help our students be responsible, civically engaged, and prepared for the world through strong academics, community contributions and leadership development – all of the qualities of the students being recognized here.”