by Abby Silva, Special to the Roundup
Payson is small, but Gila Community College (GCC) students dream big.
As president of the GCC Honors Program, Tesia Smith works alongside fellow classmates to create opportunities for themselves and other Gila scholars while making Payson a better place to live.
“Our mission is to create awareness about the good things that are happening at GCC right now, to foster greater community interaction, and to look for ways to improve the college experience,” explained Smith.
After observing the flourishing honors program at the Eastern Arizona campus in Thatcher, Smith realized a similar institution would benefit Payson. So in January, after becoming a Phi Theta Kapa member (an International Honor Society for two-year colleges), Smith took the first step by creating an honors organization for GCC students.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said ‘be an opener of doors for such as come after thee.’ I hope that this program will be beneficial to future students of GCC for years to come, expanding their academic experience,” said Smith.
Even with the arrival of a four-year university on the horizon, Gila Community College “is here now.” The essential component of establishing the young people in the community and attracting other students rests on two factors: improving the current GCC Honors Program and providing an increasing number of classes “necessary to transfer to a four-year program,” said Smith. The honors program focuses on academic achievement, leadership and volunteerism.
Currently, 10 GCC Honor members are working alongside Smith to spread the word about their society and aid the community. Members must have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. The members meet about once a month.
Recently, the GCC Honors Program volunteered to help Payson Area Habitat for Humanity deconstruct a house and salvage items for the Restore, Smith said.
In addition, the honors program has worked alongside Payson campus Dean Butterfield to institute new campus improvements.
GCC Honors Program will host its first community event on April 26 at the Jimmy Harris trailhead on campus from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. GCC Honors students hope to establish lasting connections through their Walk-4-Education event. GCC Honor students will offer a variety of opportunities such as free food and raffle prizes.
“We are inviting all residents and visitors to our area to come out and show support for our local community college, as well as appreciation for its many contributions to the area,” said Smith. “We live in a highly interactive, competitive world. Learning to collaborate with others challenges us to be better people while improving the college experience for future students and benefiting our community.”