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My friend My

–by Julia Cotten

Current Presidential Scholar Julia Cotten interviewed her classmate My Nguyen about her experiences in the Scholars Program. Both students have just completed their first semester in the Scholars Program and are participating in the educational excursion to Japan. Nguyen is a biology major who graduated from Highland Park High School. Cotten, an Amarillo High graduate, is a general studies major who plans to transfer to Texas Tech to pursue a degree in interior design.

Japanese symbol for FriendshipIn the spring of 2016, only one spot remained in the highly-competitive Presidential Scholars program. My Nguyen was the last high school senior interviewed and three qualified students were already vying for the final opening in the program, which accepts 15 new students a year. Even though Nguyen was the last senior to be interviewed, she made an impression. Nguyen possesses many characteristics that qualify her for the program, but I’m sure her fun-loving personality and bright smile sealed the deal.

My Nguen
My Nguyen at the Scholars Heart of a Leader retreat.

When Nguyen applied to the program and was selected for an interview, she was not very familiar with the opportunities and experiences that the Scholars Program offers. Though she did not know much about the program before the interview, she told me she became hooked after hearing about the stories and trips from previous years. When she received the offer of admission, Nguyen responded with an enthusiastic, “Yes.”

Many of the present Scholars entered this new chapter of their lives with both excitement and nerves. Nguyen was no exception. When asked what she was most looking forward to this year, she immediately responded that she was most excited for the trip to Japan that the Scholars are taking. “Who knew I would actually get to go overseas in my first year of college?” Nguyen said. But Nguyen’s excitement was accompanied by a certain amount of trepidation. She admitted that when first starting the program, “I was fearful of people judging me.”

Fortunately, Nguyen’s fears were put to rest. After only attending Amarillo College for one month, she said her Presidential Scholar classmates became like family. She said she was surprised that her classmates and instructors cared so much for each other and drew her out of her comfort zone. Nguyen told me that she is a totally different person than she was in high school. She has grown in her confidence and is filling her life with positivity.

My Nguyen is just one of the many students who have been changed by this program. It is such a pleasure to share this year and our trip to Japan with Nguyen, whose mindset has become, “Now I can achieve whatever I want to do.”


Scholars reflect on Japanese cuisine

One of the delights and challenges of overseas travel is trying new and exotic foods. In this video, the Scholars–who are preparing for their Jan. 4 departure for Japan–share their thoughts and expectations about Japanese cuisine.

People who dream and do things

Karen Rivas–by Karen Rivas, secondary education major–
My first year in Amarillo College’s Presidential Scholar Honors program has been one that has exceeded my expectations, and I’m barely in the beginning of it all. I was ecstatic for the opportunity to be a part of a program that challenges its members to be better students, in the classroom and out into the community. One of my fears about joining the program was that I would be immersed into this hardcore curriculum where I was completely alone with mountains of assignments. There are still challenges, and sometimes higher standards, such a radio project in my Public Speaking class that will allow me to speak live on the radio to the entire Panhandle, but the work is nothing that proper time management and dedication can’t handle.
It reminds me of a quote Amy Poehler, famous actress and my favorite comedian, once said: “I want to be around people that do things. I don’t want to be around people any more that judge or talk about what people do. I want to be around people that dream and support and do things.” And that is exactly the kind of people you see in AC’s Presidential Scholars program.


Never Forget

Presidential Scholar Jenna Hooten urges Americans to continue providing assistance to Nepal.  Hooten and her classmates traveled to Nepal prior to the April earthquakes and shares her memories from the trip:

“There is no greater sorrow than to recall happiness in times of misery.” –Dante Alighieri

On April 25, 2015, a massive 7.5 magnitude earthquake rocked the country of Nepal to the core. It was the biggest earthquake in that region since the 8.0 magnitude Nepal–Bihar earthquake in 1934 which killed 10,000-12,000 people. The earthquake and its aftershocks have killed well over 8,000 people. These earthquakes have absolutely devastated Nepal, both from the loss of life and the damage of the country’s infrastructure. Although the country of Nepal is halfway across the globe from us here in Amarillo, this tragedy hits particularly close to home.

In January of 2015, 19 of Amarillo College’s Presidential Scholars visited the countries of Nepal and India. If you asked any Presidential Scholar what their favorite part of that trip was, I can almost guarantee you that they would say our time in Nepal; even though we were only there for a small fraction of the time we were in India. We did not grow to love Nepal because of their beautiful landscape, the incredible food, or the countless little shops housing families who have been making the same incredible items like tapestries, wood carvings, or clothes for countless generations; although these things certainly increased our fondness. We fell in love with the people of Nepal. Coming from the Southern United States, distinctly known throughout the country for our hospitality and kindness, I thought that I had a fairly high standard for what generosity and altruism encompassed; that is, until I went to Nepal. The people of Nepal are by far some of the kindest, most generous people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. From the moment we stepped into the country, we were surrounded by people who offered us the best of what they had, even if that was simply a spot beside them on the sidewalk or a genuine smile.

While in Nepal, we stayed in the Sri Arubindo Yoga Mandir; an ashram (essentially a home and school for orphans and unfortunate children) in the Himalayan hills surrounding Kathmandu. These children and their caretakers, residents of the ashram, welcomed us into their home spectacularly. They cooked for us, cleaned for us, and walked us through their daily chores as we attempted to help them, with incredible grace and patience. In the city, people spoke to us without hesitation, offered explanation for unfamiliar rituals, showed us the best places to capture photos, and offered us chai masala and snacks wherever we went. All in all, these people were the most genuinely kind and generous people that I have ever been around. Knowing this and remembering these people, it makes the tragedy that has befallen Nepal absolutely heartbreaking.

Knowing that the wonderful people of Nepal are having to deal with this terrible tragedy is so heartbreaking because we know how kind and generous they are. They would never have deserved this; but of course, no one deserves a tragedy like this earthquake has caused. I have no doubt that the citizens of Nepal are caring for each other with all of the selfless generosity and genuine love for each other that we experienced, plus so much more love and care than we could have seen in our short time there. My biggest fear is that the world will soon forget about the little country of Nepal and cease to provide the financial support they so desperately need. Nepal will forever be close to my heart, but never more than it is now.

Looking back and looking forward

by Jack Truelock


In just a couple of days, I will graduate from Amarillo College. As I prepare to move on to Texas Tech, I am grateful for the opportunities I have had through the Amarillo College Presidential Scholars Program. From international travel to academic rigor, the experiences I have had at AC have shaped the past two years of my life.

In May of 2014, the Amarillo College Presidential Scholars traveled halfway around the world to Cambodia. Over the nine days we were gone, we learned about the Khmer Rouge, experienced the Killing Fields, and toured the amazing temples of Angkor. Born and raised in America, I was not aware of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge; however, in visiting the Killing Fields, the gruesome and horrific details of this genocide became very real and emotional. In an emotional flip-flop, we even visited the incredibly expensive royal palace, most of it was gold, in Phnom Penh. As I reflect on the trip, my favorite memory is playing a pickup basketball game at the Olympic stadium in Phnom Penh. Although the people playing were of different nationalities, ranging from Spanish to Canadian to American to Cambodian, we could still do something like sports together.

Without a doubt, the Presidential Scholars program at AC has been academically challenging. But the challenge has not been without accomplishment. In Scholars Speech, I spoke on the radio station. For Texas Government, I participated in creating a commercial. Through Art History, I ran an event for the Amarillo Museum of Art. Finally, in World Literature, I worked with classmates to make a parody video. Outside of these classes, I have spoken to civic groups in both Amarillo and Canyon, as well as met some incredible people. In short, the classes I have taken have not only been a part of my education, but have also inspired me to learn beyond the classroom.

In just a few short months, I will be closing a door on this chapter in my life. However, as I look back on what I have experienced and accomplished the past couple of years, I am filled with gratefulness. Through the Presidential Scholars program, I have grown personally and academically. I experienced a completely different way of life in the international world, as well as received hands-on experience in a variety of subjects in the educational world. These experiences have given me a foundation to build on for the rest of my life.