Wall of Honor 2006

Eileen Albert
Eileen AlbertThe most extraordinary thing about Eileen Albert’s life is that she considers it ordinary.

Eileen struggled with reading all through school and as a freshman in college, tested at the bottom 2 percent of her class. But Eileen didn’t give up and graduated from the University of Vermont in 1958 with a degree in Home Economics Education.

After cancer left her unable to have children, Eileen adopted three children: two boys and a girl. Then the unthinkable happened six years ago: Eileen’s oldest son, David, was murdered.

David had made it through Special Education classes in school and was doing very well when his life was tragically cut short. Eileen was devastated. She resigned from her job and started taking classes full time at Richland. She had taken Continuing Education classes at Richland off and on since 1976, so she knew she would find healing and support among her classmates and professors at Richland.

Eileen chose the credit Pharmacy Technician Program and threw herself into the daily routine of going to class and studying. “I knew it would take time to heal,” Eileen says. “It was a good distraction.”

At age 67, Eileen read an article about a triathlon for seniors and asked herself, “Why not try?” The day of the triathlon, CBS News was doing a feature for their CBS Sunday Morning show and sent a reporter to follow Eileen. Her goal was simply to finish, but she ended up placing first in her age category. Eileen gives credit to Richland’s P.E. Dept. through the Emeritus Program for being able to do so well.

Eileen applies her inspiring energy to volunteer work too. She delivers Meals on Wheels and serves beverages at the Stewpot, a soup kitchen for the homeless. She volunteers with the Dallas Arboretum’s education department. And she works with Neighborhood Crime Watch and volunteers at her church.

In all that Eileen gives back, one of the most important is her story of courage and determination.

“I am just an ordinary person,” Eileen says. “When bumps come along, face them and then go around them and move forward – sometimes in a different direction.”

Zabdi Hernandez
Zabdi Hernandez
Zabdi Hernandez has come a long way from the little girl who silently hoped that everyday at school, the teacher wouldn’t ask her to read out loud.

Today, Zabdi is an Assistant Principal in the Garland Independent School District, and a role model for Spanish-speaking students and their parents.

When Zabdi was 10 years old, her family came to the United States with only a suitcase of clothes and hope of a better education for their children. At first elementary school she attended, Zabdi was one of five Hispanic children. She recalls crying every day and being very embarrassed when called on to read aloud because she only knew a few English words.

Zabdi vowed to become a good student in spite of the insults she endured from some classmates. She quickly learned English and regularly began making the Honor Roll.

She graduated from Garland High School in 1998, and followed in her older brother’s footsteps of working full time during the day and attending Richland College at night. Zabdi completed an Associate of Applied Arts and Sciences Degree with a 3.8 GPA from the Educational Personnel Program with the Bilingual Education specialization.

Zabdi then went to Texas Woman’s University on a full scholarship and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a specialization in Bilingual Education in 2002. She began teaching and working on her Master’s Degree in Education Administration simultaneously. She completed the Master’s Degree with a Principal Certification at Texas A&M-Commerce, Magna Cum Laude, in 2005.

Ms. Hernandez has served as a mentor for Region X first-year teachers. She has also served as a mentor to students from the Richland College Teacher Preparation Program and served as a guest speaker for the future teachers student organization, Educators of America. Zabdi has also taught English as a Second Language to parents of Garland ISD students through the Parent Study Night Center.

Zabdi was the Teacher of the Month in November 2002, the Teacher of the Year for Caldwell Elementary in 2004, a Disney Teacher of the Year Nominee for 2006 and won the Garland Association for Hispanic Affairs’ GANAS Award in 2004.

Zabdi is the proud mother of a bilingual daughter.

Barry Lee Horn
Barry Lee Horn
Barry Lee Horn’s passion for teaching and learning began at Richland College.

He holds four college degrees and has dedicated his career to education, for which he’s been recognized and rewarded. But what honors Barry most is helping others.

Barry is assistant principal at Bullock Elementary School in Garland, which has about 70 percent Hispanic students and 20 percent Vietnamese students. To assist the diverse community Bullock Elementary serves, Barry facilitates programming that helps students and their parents understand the American education system. He actively seeks out educational partnerships, develops enrichment programs, and mentors parents – many of whom are recent immigrants.

Barry’s desire to help others isn’t limited to students and their parents. While working as an assistant principal at Lister Elementary, Barry filled in for the principal – doing both jobs during the principal’s extended leave of absence.

Barry also serves the community by volunteering. He has served as U.I.L. coordinator, president of the Dallas Metro North Phi Delta Kappa organization, and co-director of Odyssey of the Mind (Outer Metro Region of North Texas).

He was honored as Employee of the Year at Austin Academy in 1993; Exemplary Dissertation at UNT in 1992; Kappan of the Year in 1992; and Teacher of the Year for the Richardson Independent School District in 1982.

Barry earned an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree in 1974 from Richland College. He went on to the University of North Texas, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education in 1975, a Master of Education degree in 1982, and a Ph.D. in Educational Administration in 1991. He also did graduate studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, the American College of Switzerland and the University of Texas at Austin.

Steve Park
Steve Park
Steve Park suffered a massive stroke at the age of 31 that seriously affected his speech and motor abilities. He decided to return to college and chose Richland College, even though a counselor at Texas Rehabilitation Commission told him the only job he would ever hold again was as “a parking lot attendant.”

He earned an Associate of Arts Degree from Richland in 1997 with a 4.0 GPA, won first prize in the Literary Contest and was a member of Phi Theta Kappa. He continued his education at SMU on a full scholarship, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. At SMU he was the student representative of the President’s Advisory Committee on the Needs of Persons with Disabilities, was named the Outstanding Adult Student Learner in 1998, and received the Dorothy Amann Award in 1999. Steve went on to UNT on the RAS Scholar Fellowship, where he earned a master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.

The same man from Texas Rehabilitation Commission who told him he would never work again, hired him as a full-time rehabilitation counselor. He counseled groups and individuals who have head injuries. Steve worked a writer for “Stroke on the Web,” a column for the American Stroke Association’s Stroke Connection magazine from 2000 to 2002. He was a North Texas Stroke Survivors volunteer from 1995 to 2002.

Steve now works as a marketing and development specialist for LifePath Systems MHMR Services, Strategic Training and Recruitment Resources.

Steve’s powerful story of courage and perseverance deeply inspires others. Rica Garcia, one of Steve’s professors at Richland says, “In class, he did not let his disability in any way affect his work and turned every single assignment in on time doing exemplary work. He was a wonderful teacher to us all.”

Ms. Garcia also tells of a wellness conference in which she and Steve did a reader’s theatre performance of a piece Steve wrote describing his stroke and its aftermath. “I can’t tell you how powerful his words are and how many people he has helped by finding the courage to write and speak them.”

Richard Wills
Richard Wills
From an early age, Richard Wills was clearly aware that learning how to read was a major source of pressure and frustration. He often had to read through assignments three or four times for full comprehension. Studying was laborious, time consuming and discouraging.

Richard grew up in the 1940s and ’50s – a time when little was known about learning disabilities. Help wasn’t available, so Richard did his best to survive, focusing on math, science and other subjects that were less reading-intensive.

He did survive and went on to college at Roosevelt University in Chicago. He graduated with a degree in mathematics, and went on to do graduate work in computer science, math and instructional technology at Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Southern California.

The pivotal point in his career was the day he noticed an odd-looking “typewriter” in the business office of the Chicago high school where he taught math. It actually was an IBM computer terminal, and Richard’s curiosity led him to ask if he could use it. The computer came with a manual, so Richard taught himself Fortran, the computer’s language. The manual also contained IBM’s phone number, so Richard called and asked for a job! He finished the school year and then started a 27-year career with IBM as a systems engineer.

After retiring from IBM, Richard started a freelance editing and proofreading business. He says his reading disability “makes it very easy to edit because it takes extra care.”

Richard says it’s important that people understand that a learning disability is not “cured” – it is overcome through sheer determination. “It never goes away,” he says. “It’s just a matter of not letting it hold you back.”

In addition to his business, Richard has worked in the volunteer tutoring programs at Children’s Medical Center and Scottish Rite Hospital. He also volunteers for a number of area performing arts groups. And he works with students studying for their GED, and tutors at Richland’s Center for Teaching and Learning Connections.

He continues his lifelong love of learning by attending community events, and taking courses at SMU and in the Emeritus Program at Richland College. Many of the courses he takes at Richland are in performing arts – his passion. He recently received the Richland College Emeritus Program Certificate in Arts and Letters.

Richard’s greatest sources of joy are his sons, Darren and Rob.

Cipriano Gonzalez
Cipriano Gonzales
Cipriano Gonzalez’s distinguished career in healthcare started at Richland College. He took most of his undergraduate courses at Richland, maintaining a 3.8 GPA, while preparing to enter the physician assistant program at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (UT Southwestern).

His professors at Richland said Cipriano was “a joy to have as a student – inquisitive, friendly, helpful, optimistic.” But his educational goals were not attained easily. Cipriano’s first application to the physician assistant (PA) program at UT Southwestern was rejected.

Undeterred, Cipriano went all out to maximize his chances for the next year’s admissions. He volunteered, rewrote his personal essays, and sought the advice of PA students.His determination paid off and he was admitted the second time.

After finishing the program at UT Southwestern, Cipriano was board certified and went on to work in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, a world renowned facility.

In January 2005, Cipriano was named M.D. Anderson’s outstanding employee of the month. His colleagues recognized him for the dedication and care he showed to patients facing the terrible and frightening diagnosis of cancer.

In his work with critical-care patients at M.D. Anderson, Cipriano’s job was to ease the fears of patients, family members and caregivers by providing important information about available treatments and side effects, clinical trials and quality-of-life issues. One colleague said, “Cipriano realizes anxiety levels are high, especially while waiting for pathology and radiology results. It’s not uncommon for him to stay late to find out the lab results and communicate them to the patients.”

Cipriano said, “The best part of my job is getting to know each patient and being there for them. It’s like reading a story, each with its own tragedies and victories.”

Cipriano continues to show the same compassion and dedication in his new job in the Division of Medical Oncology at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Washington.

Jobickson Modi
Jobickson Modi
Jobickson Modi spent much of his childhood fleeing civil war in his home country of Sudan and in the neighboring countries where he tried to take refuge. Then when Jobickson was 11, his mother died. Unbelievably, Jobickson’s father died two years later, leaving him to be raised by various relatives throughout East Africa.

Jobickson’s hopes for an education had all but vanished when a man in his community gave him a job at at his small restaurant. With his wages and other money he earned from sewing clothes, Jobickson was able to return to school and pay for his books and school clothes.

Jobickson moved back to Sudan in 1979 to escape the perils of war-torn Uganda. There he got married and had his first child. He also finally finished high school. But it wasn’t long before Jobickson and his new family were on the run again as civil war erupted in Sudan in 1983. They fled to Uganda and then to Kenya in 1989, where they met up with Jobickson’s brother. At that time, Jobickson and his family filed for refugee and resettlement status in the United States. They arrived in 1992 and settled in Dallas.

Tragedy wasn’t far behind, though. Jobickson’s first-born son died of pneumonia in 2000. Jobickson and his family grieved as they made a new life in America.

Determined to further his education, Jobickson enrolled at Richland College and earned an associate’s degree in Business Administration. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2005. Of his 15 brothers and sisters, Jobickson is the only one who went to college.

Jobickson is the father of five children who range in age from 14 to 22, two of whom are now college students. One attends the University of Oklahoma, and the other attends University of North Texas.

In addition to his full-time job as an accountant at RLC, Jobickson voluntarily serves as treasurer of RLC’s Professional Support Staff Association, treasurer of Help the Needy People of the Sudan in the Dallas/Fort Worth Area, deputy treasurer of Equatorian Sudan Community Association in the United States of America, and the interim president of Equatorian Sudanese Mutual Assistance Association in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

When Jobickson looks back on his life, he says “I see that all that has happened can befall any human. As long as I live, my eyes will never forsake what the Lord has in store for me”.

Sherry Hadley Nunn
Sherry Hadley Nunn
Sherry Nunn didn’t let the fact she’s deaf or that she was starting college 10 to 20 years later than most of the other students keep her from pursuing higher education.

Through Richland College’s Office Computer Technology and Support program, Sherry earned an Office Assistant Certificate, Software Application Specialist Certificate, and Administrative Support Certificate.

In May, she will graduate with an Executive Assistant Associate’s Degree from Richland College.

The path to reaching these goals was not an easy one. Sherry has had to rely on an interpreter in each class session to understand what the instructor and the other students are saying. And while a student at Richland, fire ravaged Sherry’s apartment, destroying all of her belongings.

Still Sherry persevered. With very little computer experience, Sherry tackled coursework on the Microsoft Office Suite, mastering Microsoft Access, one of the most challenging of the Office suite. She received an A in Access class and uses her skills to help others at her part-time job in RLC’s Disability Services office.

Throughout her academic career, Sherry has maintained a 3.5 GPA or better, and made the Vice President’s Honor Roll. Sherry’s achievements at Richland also earned her a Dallas Area Rehabilitation Association scholarship.

Sherry is a model Thunderduck, persistently encouraging others to continue their education no matter what the obstacles.

Angelica Sandoval
While it is not entirely uncommon for students to be athletically and academically talented, these skills typically take years to develop. Yet, it was only four years ago that Angelica Sandoval arrived from Mexico speaking no English and never having played soccer.

Today, Angelica earned an associate’s degree from Richland with a 4.0 GPA and transferred her credits to Dallas Baptist University, where she was offered a full scholarship after leading the Lady Thunderducks to a National Junior College Athletic Association Soccer National Championship in 2005.

To acquire and master a second language is difficult, but imagine also developing all new athletic skills to the point of earning national recognition for your achievement, all while adjusting to life in a new country.

Angelica said a friend encouraged her to play soccer. “Soccer is big in Mexico, but mostly it’s a man’s game,” she said. “I never played as a little girl or anything. I was willing to try it because I thought it would be fun. I never thought I would play at this level.”

Angelica dedicated as much time to soccer as to academics, and she excelled at both. This motivation has helped her in the classroom and on the field. Angelica was an active member of Richland’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for community college students, and of Richland’s Connections Club.

The lessons that Angelica learned on and off the field are an asset to her as she pursues a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Dallas Baptist University.

Angelica’s work ethic, bilingual skills, positive outlook and intelligence make her a model athlete, student and global citizen.

Brenda Welcome
Brenda Welcome
Brenda Welcome believes so deeply that education changes lives that she was worried about the strength of her own educational background. She already had two associate’s degrees under her belt, but believed that she would have a stronger educational testimony, especially to her young son, Adonis, if she had a bachelor’s degree.

With associate’s degrees from McNeese State University in Louisiana in 1990 and Richland College in 2002, Brenda pursued her dream by transferring coursework to the University of Phoenix (Dallas location). She reached her goal and completed a Bachelor of Science in Management degree in 2005 – all while shouldering the responsibility of being a single mom; attending her son’s swimming lessons, science fairs, basketball and baseball games; going to PTA meetings; working a full-time job; serving in her church; and volunteering in the community.

Brenda truly is a Richland College success story – not only as a student, but also as an employee. Her career with the Dallas County Community College District started in the Chancellor/Board of Trustees’ office. She later came to Richland as a student services specialist and academic advisor.

Today, Brenda is the DCCCD’s only Curriculum Management Web Specialist in the Vice Chancellor of Educational Affairs/Curriculum Management office. She manages the production of the DCCCD’s Web and print catalogs.

Brenda’s hard work and can-do attitude has paid off: She was part of the team that won the DCCCD’s 2005-06 Innovation of the Year award, and part of the team that won a national award for Web design. She was named the DCCCD’s Administration Office’s Employee of the Year for 2003-04 and Employee of the Month (twice); nominated for Richland College’s Advisor of the Year; named Employee of the Month at Word of Faith Ministries.

She serves the community with the same zeal. She is a volunteer for the Dallas area’s African American Read-In, Upward Basketball in Garland, and Girls and Boys Club of America in Mesquite. She is a member of Disciples of Faith Worship Center in Arlington.

Brenda said her student experience at Richland marked a turning point in her life and has given her the competitive edge she needed professionally.

For all of Brenda’s academic and professional accomplishements and so much more, Adonis can be proud of his mom – Richland College is.