By David Do
It feels strange to be looking back at Amarillo College. AC is no longer my school, but a stepping stone towards my future. I remember my first day at AC–I was driving around all the different parking lots for fifteen minutes looking for a parking spot, before I eventually parked on Wolflin Avenue and walked ten minutes to my first class. I remember wondering if I had made the right decision in choosing AC. Little did I know that AC would take me leaps and bounds ahead of where I would have been had I decided to begin my education at a university.
My first involvement with extracurricular activities at AC was through the Presidential Scholars Program. Whether it was setting up the table for Fall Fest and Badgerama or organizing Honors Expo and community service projects, the Scholars Program forced me to get involved. I also attended every event that was offered–from ballet and opera to hikes in the canyon. These activities also prompted me to learn time management—something I had not really needed to deal with prior to college. Along with learning some important life lessons, I was also making connections with my fellow scholars in a way that I had never done before. In the past, I had always been the quiet kid and, although I had friends in high school, I never really became too close with them. At AC, I made real connections with the Scholars and felt like I belonged in that community–in that family.
My involvement in Scholars inspired me to become active with Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the national two-year college honors society, and interview for (and accept) a position in the Blue Blazers—a group of students hired to serve as college ambassadors. I also decided to join the AC Student Government Association and became the treasurer and interim Vice President of Service for PTK. That was when I experienced firsthand the definition of “busy.” If that weren’t enough, I began working as a tutor, so I was on campus from eight in the morning until at least eight at night, sometimes even later. Despite my busy schedule, I enjoyed what I did. I was on campus, making a difference, enriching people’s lives. I tried reaching out to anyone I could and AC gave me the freedom to do so.
As a second year member of the Presidential Scholars, I began to fully assume my new position in the group as a mentor and I started to notice that people stopped to listen whenever I talked. That was something new for me. I had never had listeners when I talked–mostly because I didn’t talk much to begin with. Now I found myself being more outspoken and began stepping up as a leader, especially after attending a student leadership retreat.
That November, I ran into some family trouble that hit me pretty hard. I couldn’t focus on anything I was doing and people noticed. I started opening up to others and realized that I had built myself a support system here at AC. I wasn’t alone. I had people on my side who would help me get through anything. That level of support inspired me to do the same for others and motivated my outreach efforts. It wasn’t until that difficult moment that I really began to branch out and reach out to others to enhance their AC experience. I started working harder for each club and even joined another one, Mu Alpha Theta Math Honors Society (MATH). I realized I was now doing for others what others had done for me.
During my time at AC, I traveled with the college to Dallas, Fort Worth, Nepal, India, Waco and Washington DC. I won several awards including Who’s Who among Students in American Universities & Colleges, Coca Cola Gold Scholar, the Campus Life award and my inclusion in PTK’s Division II District I Hall of Honor. I conducted research, attended and presented at conferences and workshops and participated in several leadership retreats. Those opportunities and honors would not have been possible without the support of the family that I surrounded myself with at AC. When I felt like giving up, their never-wavering belief in me and inspirational stories kept me going and drove me on to success. When I felt like dropping everything, they made me see the benefits of working hard and making it through to the end. Their continual support lifted me up when I was down and made me a better person, both professionally and personally.
Attending Amarillo College was the best decision of my life. I was kept busy, but I loved every minute of it. If I could go back, I would do it all over again. I will cherish all the memories that I have made with my AC family as I move forward in my college career.
David graduated in May 2016 with a degree in physics and will continue his studies at Texas Tech. This summer he was chosen to participate in NASA’s National Community College Aerospace Scholars program at the Johnson Space Center.
by Citlaly Zamarripa, Presidential Scholar, pre-physician’s assistant major
Most young people don’t understand that something as horrific as the Holocaust could happen again. Perhaps it wouldn’t replicate itself to it’s entirety, but instead in new ways or even worse, to a greater degree of evil.
On the trip to Lithuania and Poland with the Presidential Scholars, I experienced first hand what it would be like to be alive during the time of the Holocaust, and it made me realize how little I knew about any of it, and how terrifying it must have been for the people who had to suffer though it. It also made me realize that I need to do my part in bringing back the importance of such an important part in history.
Before the trip I had about the same mentality that most young people have about the Holocaust. I thought we were making it too big of a deal. As awful as that sounds, there is a whole generation who feels this way and has lost touch with just how important this really is. We are letting the history behind this slide right by us because it has been talked about throughout our lives so often. Yet we do not seem to know very much at all about what exactly happened. I’m sure we could all tell you about Anne Frank or Hitler, but if you ask us for details of the time period or of the lives of those who suffered through the gruesome conditions of this genocide, we wouldn’t have much to say at all. What I find the biggest and scariest issue of our overall understanding is that we do not know how the Holocaust came about or the events that led up to it. We don’t realize that this wasn’t because of an evil person making everyone do as he commanded. Hitler was a persuasive person and people trusted him as their leader. People were persuaded into believing that one social group was the root of all their problems and that all of their frustration and anger should be focused on them. So they chose to follow him and they allowed him to carry on with his plan and eliminate anyone who got in his way. Who’s to say that something similar couldn’t happen now?
I am so grateful that I have been given the opportunity to see firsthand what exactly I was taking for granted. I realize that most of what I experienced overseas cannot be replicated by studying a text book, but I know that the magnitude of the Holocaust is impacting regardless of where you study it. Therefore, I encourage everyone to rethink what you know about the Holocaust. So that we may not let the importance of it die, and most certainly not allow a similar situation arise.
It seems strange to be reflecting on my experience at Amarillo College and saying farewell, because I’ve really only started my experience at AC…
Throughout high school, I was always pushed to get ahead as much as I could and earn as many credits as possible before I got to college. I ended up earning enough credits to enter college as a sophomore for my degree plan. My name is Tiffany, and I will be graduating with my Associates in General Studies not long after turning 19 years old.As awesome as it sounds, it also means I had to give up an entire year of studying at AC, because I would be graduating a year earlier than most students, who spend about two years at AC. It’s certainly not that I’m against graduating (especially early), I will just miss the Amarillo College experience…especially my AC Presidential Scholars experience. But before I pour my heart and soul out about how amazing AC is, I should probably mention that I didn’t always like the idea of attending Amarillo College. In fact, I dreaded the thought!
I had always thought of AC as an easy, mediocre community college for those who “weren’t smart enough” or couldn’t afford a university. All of my friends were moving away to Austin or Lubbock, and I wanted to go too. I wanted to live in a dorm and take sophisticated classes. Looking back, I sure was naive. Sure I was sort of pushed into going to AC, but I think it’s because that’s what I really needed. I have no regrets. Amarillo College wasn’t a joke at all. I was met with challenging courses and engaging peers. I adapted to college life rather quickly and AC grew on me. I think it really helped to be a part of Presidential Scholars.
Oh, where do I even begin with the Scholars… they’re my friends, no, my family. We have collaborated on projects, solved problems, helped the community and traveled overseas together. The fact that I got to go to Lithuania and Poland with them is beyond phenomenal! I’ve laughed with them and I’ve cried with them. We hold each other up if we feel like we’re falling. I’ve met some wonderful, beautiful people through this program. I’ve made lifetime friends and I’ve learned to love people I would have never met had I gone to a university first. It’s only been a year yet it almost feels like a lifetime.
I think one of the greatest things the Presidential Scholars program has done for me is helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin and really come out of my shell. I could be myself, because we were all human and we could all relate to the struggles of adolescence and college stress. I have no problem speaking my mind and pitching ideas now. I enjoy talking to large groups of people about things that I’m excited and passionate about. I look forward to trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone. I will carry these things with me for the rest of my journey through life, as I’m sure all of us will. I couldn’t have asked for a better school or a better group of people to share my first year college experience with.
–by Presidential Scholar and chemistry major Caleb Prestwood
To be completely honest, attending Amarillo College this year was never a part of my original college plan. I never planned to attend Amarillo College, but looking back and taking everything into perspective, both Amarillo College and the Presidential Scholars Honors Program have allowed me to meet so many great new friends and has opened so many doors for my future.
The Amarillo College Presidential Scholars Program is a close community of individuals who share their passion for higher education and represent Amarillo College’s top students. However, I don’t see them as this, I see them as my friends. By being involved in the Presidential Scholars Honors Program, we are constantly busy participating in luncheons, volunteer work, presentations, educational travel opportunities, and much, much more. All these events consume our schedules and constantly keep us busy. But all these events, and all the hard work required of a Presidential Scholar, have brought me closer to some of the greatest people I’m proud to call my friends. We all have classes together, study together, struggle together, and survive college together, as friends. Some of us may be super outgoing, shy, adventurous, musically talented, athletic, intellectual beyond belief, leaders, or even computer geeks, but at the end of the day, we are a family of scholars bonded by our unique qualities. All of us scholars come from totally different backgrounds and have endeavored several difficulties, and getting to become friends with these awesome people, is so humbling.
Along with all the amazing new people I have met, I have also had so many doors open up for my future that I never would have thought possible. When I applied to colleges last fall, in high school, I was mailed an invitation to apply to Baylor University because of my academic accomplishments. So, I applied and was accepted but never seriously considered Baylor because of the steep price of tuition.
Though I was already going to Amarillo College, I decided to look into Baylor University as a potential transfer option. As I researched more, I began to realize all the scholarship opportunities that were offered to me because I was a Presidential Scholar. I learned that I could attend one of Texas’ top private universities for a fraction of the original tuition cost, something I never would have dreamed possible without the Presidential Scholars Honors Program. After visiting Baylor and going to a football game, I knew it was the place for me. Getting to transfer to Baylor never would have been possible without me being a part of the Presidential Scholars.
Amarillo College was never a part of my original college plan. Looking back, however, at all the awesome people I’ve met, all the friendships I’ve found, and all the doors that have opened in my future because of my participation in the Presidential Scholars Honors Program, I couldn’t imagine my college career without Amarillo College.