Eight Selected to Participate in Achieving the Dream’s Community College Student Leadership Program

Eight community college students from Achieving the Dream (ATD) Network colleges, including two Tribal colleges, will participate in ATD’s 2019 DREAM Scholars program to enhance their leadership, critical thinking, and networking skills. The program culminates in a presentation by the DREAM Scholars to the 2,300 attendees at ATD’s annual conference, DREAM, in Long Beach on February 19-22, 2019.

In addition, ATD has awarded each DREAM Scholar a $1,000 scholarship, sponsored by the community college honor society Phi Theta Kappa.

“I look forward every year to getting to know our student scholars and spending time with them at DREAM. It reinforces for me that when we choose to spend our careers—our lives—in higher education, we are making a commitment to something tangible, something that will have a lasting effect for years to come,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream. “As a college president, I found that it was students who motivated me, inspired me, and engaged me the most. I drew from their experiences and struggles and successes to help me shape my focus as a college leader. I am pleased to have that opportunity again with our DREAM scholars.”

DREAM Scholars are nominated by their institutions, submit applications that ask them to reflect on their college journeys, and undergo a rigorous selection process. During DREAM, the students talk with experts, share their educational experiences, and attend sessions on improving student success, institutional governance, teaching and learning, administration, and more. Their individual presentations at the national DREAM convening allows them to share what they have learned about Network colleges’ work to improve their students’ success and completion and close achievement gaps for historically underserved student populations.

The 2019 DREAM Scholars are:

Ahmat Adam Djouma
Mohawk Valley Community College
New York

Ahmat Djouma is a public policy student at Mohawk Valley Community College who aspires to a career in law or government. He fled from Sudan to a refugee camp in Chad with his family when he was a child. Ahmat, who is blind, needed to memorize the lessons his school taught because they were unable to teach him to read or write. Throughout this experience he vowed to not live by the low expectations set before him because of his disability. He says that, “low expectations create obstacles for people with disabilities.” In 2010, Ahmat and his family immigrated to the U.S. where he succeeded in graduating from high school.  During his studies in America, he was able to learn braille and English simultaneously. Ahmat is an advocate for accessibility in education and believes that, “education is the key that unlocks the door to success.”

Cam Do
Bunker Hill Community College

Cam Do is a mathematics student at Bunker Hill Community College who says, “Enrolling in community college has been the best decision I have made.” Cam grew up in Vietnam, the only child of parents who understood knowledge and education were necessary to escape poverty. Because of the value they placed on education, her parents sent her to college in the U.S. even though her father was severely ill. While attending college, Cam suddenly became solely responsible for her success and everyday necessities, she overcame this trial by utilizing the resources offered to her by fostering a relationship with her academic advisor and seeking wisdom from her peer advisors. At BHCC, she has taken on many leadership positions: Vice President of Asian Cultural Association, Treasurer of S.H.O.C.W.A.V.E.S. Volunteering Club, Student Budget Committee, state-wide Massachusetts Student Advisory Council and Chinatown Pao Arts Center’s Branding Committee.  She noted that by “getting involved in student life, I have gotten the most out of my college experience.”

Ashley Joe
Navajo Technical University
New Mexico

Navajo Technical University 2017-2018 Student of the Year, member of the American Indian College Fund ambassador cohort, and peer mentor at the Nistahak’ees Bee’anoseel Student Success Center, Ashley Joe has fought an uphill battle for her educational journey. She began college at a mainstream institution where she developed a problem with alcohol and fell into a downward spiral. However, armed with the strength and resilience she contributes to being raised by a single mother as well as being a Navajo woman, she was able to begin fresh with a second chance.  At NTU, she said she “learned to define that line between my matrilineal self and the western patriarchal society I had to exist in. NTU taught me that the two could co-exist and sometimes even intertwine. I found myself at NTU, but it wasn’t an easy revelation to find.” Ashely will graduate in spring 2019 with an associate’s degree in early childhood education.

Marc Kahala-Earley
University of Hawai’i – Leeward Community College

Marc Kahala-Earley describes himself as being passionate about many things, but his greatest passion is to help others who are unable to help themselves. He declares that his parents are a constant source of inspiration to him, because they worked grueling hours for the wellbeing of their family his entire childhood.  As an openly gay man, the 2016 elections sparked a light inside of him to be a voice for the voiceless. He says, “If I can inspire others to stand up for themselves and if I can do that by standing up for them, then I'm going to do it. It was shortly after the election I decided that I would go into politics one day and fight for those who can't fight.” He strives to work toward his passion as he continues his education at Leeward Community College.

Carmelita LaTray
Little Priest Tribal College

Carmelita LaTray is a first-generation college student who is inspired by the opportunity to be a role model for her family. Carmelita says she is “very passionate about showing all Native American generations to come that there is more to the world than drugs and alcohol. I want them to know that there is a big world outside of the reservation and education can take us anywhere we choose.” Carmelita is looking forward to finishing her associate’s degree because it will be an achievement for her whole family. She plans to continue her studies to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Samantha Parrish
Northeast State Community College

Samantha Parrish, a pre-dental hygiene major working toward an A.S. degree at Northeast State Community College, describes her life as being on a roller coaster. After her marriage, Samantha discovered her husband was addicted to opioids. During the long road to recovery, they had to overcome financial and emotional hardships. Samantha chose to turn the situation into positive energy to fuel her academic success. She says this has allowed her to discover an inner strength, encouraging her to achieve her goals. One of Samantha’s goals is to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy, so she can help returning injured soldiers adapt. She calls herself “a caregiver at heart” and says, “I want to be the motivator in these individuals’ lives to have as much independence they can to enjoy those same simple aspects of life.” Samantha is a mentor for the TRiO SSS program, TN Promise, and Honors Programs, and loves to pay it forward.

Raymond Power
Pierce College

Raymond Power feels as though he has gone “from zero to hero” in the Social Service/Mental Health program at Pierce College after growing up in foster homes, joining a gang, and serving time in prison after he was shot and became addicted to painkillers. After he left prison, he started a family which gave his life renewed purpose. He earned a GED at Tacoma Community College and then a certificate at Bates Technical College in Facilities Maintenance Engineering. While he was a student at Bates, Raymond won the statewide Transforming Lives Award for first-generation community college students. His excitement for the future took a turn for the worse when he was unable to find a job. This circumstance led to depression and a 100-pound weight gain. However, his life took another turn when he began a social work job at a nonprofit. Although the organization closed, this opportunity sparked a passion inside of him for social work. Raymond says when he entered the Pierce community he was “treated as a normal person—they believed in me. I started working out at the college gym and running and eventually lost the weight. I had to work through my financial doubts, child care challenges and transportation issues, but I’m doing everything I can to make this work.” Raymond currently serves in the Pierce student government and this year he will become the president. In the fall of 2019, he will receive his two-year degree, then he will transfer to a four-year college. He hopes to then go on to graduate school so that he will be able to teach.

Carol Faye Walls
Montgomery College

Carol Faye Walls began her life as an economically poor African American female in a male dominated family of eight in Washington, D.C. Growing up, she was expected by her parents to get married, start a family, and maintain the household she created. Her family was focused on the educational and professional success of her brothers, and not her, which discouraged her desires for learning and artistic expression. Despite this, she continued to press forward and achieve her educational dreams. She now knows that being an adult learner has always been a part of her, a discovery that she owes to her mother. She says, “I honor her for being the first woman who cast a bright light in my life, striving toward her cosmetology and nursing careers beginning at age 35.  Failing the state nursing board examinations four times did not deter her.  It was her grit and perseverance that were defining character traits for me.” Carol refers to herself as an “overcomer,” who, at the age of 44, had a setback due to her previous school’s lost university accreditation, suffered three battles with uterine cancer, and experienced family loss. Despite these circumstances she was determined to attain her educational goals. In 2015, she began attending Montgomery College. She credits her success to Dr. Carly-Miles and Dr. Melissa Scarfone who have each played special roles in her journey. Carol plans to earn academic degrees in Social Work with an emphasis on female domestic violence victims and their children.

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