Homeschooled Students Thrive At Gila Community College

Gila Community College Payson Campus

Gila Community College Payson Campus Photo by Andy Towle. |

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“Homeschooling really enabled me to be the best that I can be,” said local Gila Community College (GCC) student Colton Jackson.

Several homeschooled GCC students and graduates continue to thrive and excel in the Rim Country, including Jackie Ballam, Jess Benkert and Colton Jackson.

Ballam was the salutatorian for the 2013 GCC class graduating with A.A. degrees. She graduated with magna cum laude honors, a GPA of 3.94, and 65 completed credits.

Benkert and Jackson were both valedictorians for the graduating CNA class of 2013. Benkert graduated with a GPA of 4.00, and Jackson graduated with a GPA of 3.83 and 69 completed credits.

Both Benkert and Jackson have entered the two-year nursing program at GCC to become registered nurses.

In the end, Ballam, Benkert and Jackson agree homeschooling enabled them to succeed, provided them with a love for learning and prepared them for many of life’s challenges.

“Home education taught me the value of being self-motivated, having good study habits, working through distraction, and competing for academic success ... it is a means to encourage a love for learning,” explained Ballam.

Ballam said she didn’t feel held back by a “class or group of students” but worked at her own pace. Home education can give students more freedom to learn in a style that suits them.

Homeschooled since seventh grade, Jackson said it allowed him to “make my own school schedule and ... take some more classes [at GCC] outside of the NAVIT program.”

Benkert said that he struggled with English but several years of tutoring helped. “Homeschooling greatly helped me in the areas that I was weak in,” he said. When Benkert entered college at age 17, he qualified for college-level English classes at GCC and earned As in English 101 and 102.

Ballam began attending GCC at age 15. She has taken classes every semester since then, counting the college credits she earned as part of her high school requirements.

“Because of dual enrollment, I was able to graduate from high school in 2012 and graduate with my A.A. in general studies from GCC in 2013,” said Ballam.

Ballam said she enjoyed her experience at GCC, particularly the relationships and “life lessons” she gained from other students and professors. Ballam explained that one of the most “valuable aspects of GCC” are the opportunities it provides for residents of Payson, Pine, Strawberry, and the surrounding areas. She enjoyed the fact that she did not have to travel a long distance to get a quality and accredited education.

“GCC on campus and EAC classes online makes it possible to get a jump-start on higher education,” Ballam explained.

Ballam enjoyed many classes, but her top choices were English 102, American literature, and English literature taught by James Quinlan. Ballam plans to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in veterinary medicine in the fall at the University of Arizona.

“One thing I learned from GCC is that success is doing the best you can with what you have,” she said.

Jackson has been attending GCC since August of 2011. He hopes to become an RN after he completes the nursing program in another four semesters.

“If I complete the nursing program ... I will be 19: not able to legally drink alcohol, but able to start IVs and administer high doses of pharmaceuticals,” explained Jackson.

Jackson enrolled in the NAVIT HRO (Health Related Occupations) program then received his CNA certification. After becoming a RN, Jackson hopes to pursue a Bachelor of Science in nursing and specialize in emergency medicine and working as a flight nurse.

Benkert began attending GCC about three years ago and graduated with his CNA certification this spring. He loved the CNA class because of the teacher who was “so fun to work with.” He also enjoyed English 101/102 with James Quinlan, and anatomy and physiology 201/202.

“Most of my experiences at GCC have been great ... most of my classmates are usually seven years ... older than me. It took me a while to get used to the age gap, but now I don’t even think of it,” explained Benkert.

Benkert hopes to earn his BSN and “bring health care services to those who can’t access it or afford it, he said.

“The most important thing I learned in college is not to let a bad test grade make you lose confidence in yourself or God,” Benkert said.

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