Wall of Honor 2008

Joann Dao
Joann Dao

Joann Dao’s life was one of sacrifice for those she loved.

Joann and her family survived 17 years of hardship in Vietnam before immigrating to the United States in 1992. They finally had freedom but little else. Joann and her siblings worked minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. She went to community college before transferring to the University of California at Davis in 2000.

Within two years, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degree with honors. After marrying, she and her husband moved to Garland in 2002. Instead of pursuing a career in electrical engineering, Joann devoted herself to the newly created family business, the 2000 Auto Repair shop. She used her academic skills to oversee their inventory management processes and her diplomatic nature to bring family members together to build business success.

With the birth of her son in 2005, Joann embraced her new role of motherhood while still working with the family business. Soon after the baby’s birth, Joann’s son was diagnosed with severe allergies, especially to peanuts. Joann spent countless days and nights caring for her son, especially during sudden changes in weather or accidental exposure to peanuts.

Joann was infected with acute Hepatitis B during the seventh month of her second pregnancy. Joann’s foremost concern was the safety of her unborn daughter. She insisted on delaying any medical procedures and treatment for herself as long as possible so that her daughter could develop further. Despite being born two months prematurely, Joann delivered a healthy baby girl.

With the economic down turn in the fields of electronics and information technology, Joann sought to update her education. She started classes at Richland College to be a pharmacy technician. She had completed all of the coursework for the Community Pharmacy Technician certificate, and needed only to complete the clinical externship to receive her certificate. Unfortunately, Joann’s failing health prevented her from reaching that goal. She passed away before she could finish.

Joann was known on campus for her academic excellence as well as her friendliness. “Her sweet character and clever sense of humor were beloved by classmates and faculty alike,” says her nominator, Lianne Webster. “Her Richland College family rallied around her as she faced physical challenges and respected her courageous spirit and can-do attitude. Through it all, she never complained – she always remained positive, focusing on the joy and well being of those around her.”

Lauren Davis
Lauren Davis

Like thousands of others, Lauren Davis lost her home, her job and her beloved hometown when Hurricane Katrina demolished New Orleans in 2005. In the years since the tragedy, she’s been shaken. But one thing Lauren didn’t lose was her hope for the future.

Lauren was one of 25,000 people who made their way through the horror and devastation in the streets to take shelter in the New Orleans Convention Center. She later was evacuated to Corpus Christi. Even though her apartment in New Orleans was not flooded, the building where she worked was so badly damaged that it never reopened. Meanwhile, Lauren’s rent doubled, due to the lack of available housing in the city. Returning to New Orleans was no longer an option. So Lauren decided to make Texas her home.

She moved to Dallas but struggled to find employment in her field, which was bewildering after a 25-year career as hair stylist. Soon afterward Lauren was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “I didn’t know what would become of me,” she said. “I decided to reinvent myself out of necessity.”

She decided to try college again and started classes at Richland in January 2007. Since that time, Lauren has flourished, maintaining a 3.9 GPA. She was on the President’s Honor Roll for the Spring 2007 semester with a 4.0 GPA. With encouragement from Professor Young Eui Choi, Lauren entered an essay in the Literary Festival in March 2007 and won first place in the competition for Richland and the Dallas County Community College District. The essay was published in Parallax. And this year it won first place for a feature news story from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, along with first and second place in the feature photograph category for pictures Lauren took of the devastation in New Orleans.

After finishing an Associate of Arts degree in 2009, Lauren plans to attend SMU and earn a degree in History/Anthropology. She dreams of graduate school after SMU. She wants to teach a course on the history and culture of New Orleans, turning her experiences into something positive, while never forgetting what happened on August 29, 2005.

“Without the encouragement of Professor Choi, Professor Parker Nunley and all of the other professors I have had the privilege to study with at Richland, and my colleagues in the RLC Financial Aid Office, I don’t know what direction my life would have taken,” she said. “I feel blessed to have landed in such a stimulating and caring environment.”

Jennifer Foster
Jennifer Foster

Jennifer Foster’s life took an unexpected turn after high school &ndash. She became a mom. Jennifer credits her Christian faith, hard work and unwavering determination as the reasons she not only finished college in four years while raising her baby girl, she graduated with top honors.

Jennifer began her college career at Richland. During this time she went to school full-time; worked; cared for her daughter, Jayda; sang in church choir; and served as President of Phi Theta Kappa. She was a PTK Outstanding Chapter Officer. In May 2005, Jennifer completed an Associate of Science degree with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Recognizing her scholastic excellence, Jennifer was offered a full academic scholarship to Southern Methodist University. At SMU Jennifer was a member of the Mortar Board, an honor society for seniors; Mustang Corral; and the SMU Program Council as one of 25 students selected by faculty and administrators to advise the university president. She also was selected to participate in Leadershape, an intensive six-day leadership training program designed for future leaders. Jennifer graduated summa cum laude from SMU in 2007 with a 3.81 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

Jennifer’s accolades include Psi Chi Honor Society for Psychology; Who’s Who Among Students in American University and Colleges; SMU’s Honor Roll; National Scholars Honor Society; Chancellor’s List and National Dean’s List.

Even as a busy single parent, Jennifer makes time to give back to the community. She has volunteered at Genesis Women Shelter; AIDS Interfaith Network; Human Rights Campaign Black Tie Dinner; Hope Cottage Center for Pregnant Teens; Bryan’s House (organization for children with AIDS); and the Richardson Police Department.

Since graduating from SMU, Jennifer has been working for Forex Capital Markets, an online currency trading company, and raising Jayda, who is 5 years old.

Jennifer says her driving force to be a success is her daughter. “I knew I had to finish college for her, to secure a future for her in the long run,” she says. “I also wanted to finish just to beat the statistics and prove a lot of people wrong.”

Samie Sabet-Sarvestani
Samie Sabet-Sarvestani

For Samie Sabet-Sarvestani, education isn’t simply an opportunity – it’s a treasure.

Growing up in Iran as a member of a Baha’i family, Samie endured discrimination. His grandfather died in prison and his father was limited in his choice of occupation, all because of their Baha’i faith. In school Samie passed all the required tests but was not allowed to participate in a talented and gifted program. Samie’s parents realized they had to leave Iran if he was going to get a proper education and have a chance to go to college.

They sold all of their possessions and fled to Turkey. As refugees, his parents weren’t allowed to work, no one in the family spoke Turkish and they were emotionally exhausted from leaving behind everything they knew. But for the first time, they were allowed to openly practice their religion and to pursue learning.

During these months as a refugee, Samie studied hard and helped others. He was active in the Baha’i community in the new hometown, Kayseri. He started a class to teach English and organized a theater workshop for refugee children.

After being interviewed several times by the United Nations and the American Embassy, Samie and his family were allowed to immigrate to Dallas where he began his studies at Richland College in the spring of 2007.

Today, Samie’s dreams are coming true. He works a part-time job as a student assistant in the RLC Library and works another part-time job at night at Wal-Mart. On top of that, he’s completing a 96-hour internship in a CVS pharmacy. Despite this grueling schedule, Samie maintains a 3.8 GPA. He’s a member of Phi Theta Kappa student honor society and a recipient of a DCCCD scholarship.

This summer Samie completed Richland’s Pharmacy Technician program and passed the test to become a certified pharmacy technician. His future plans include pursuing a bachelor’s degree in medical technology and completing a graduate degree in pharmacy.

“Samie brings an attitude of joy to all that he pursues,” says Sharlee Jeser-Skaggs, Samie’s nominator. “He loves learning and takes pleasure in helping others learn. Samie exemplifies student success."

Tara Thompson

Tara Thompson

Helpful. Knowledgeable. Genuinely concerned. Loves her job. The best.

Sift through a stack of RLC Advising Evaluation Forms, and these are the kinds of comments you’ll find about Academic Advisor Tara Thompson.

Why students love Tara is no mystery – she cares enough to hold them to high standards and helps them believe they can accomplish their dreams. A shining example is when Tara implemented the Suspension-to-Probation Program, which has helped hundreds of students get back on track toward their educational goals.

“Your encouragement made the difference from me being on academic suspension to finally receiving what I dreamed countless nights for, my diploma and degree,” wrote one student on an evaluation form about Tara. “True, there were other people that helped, too, but you personally communicated with my instructors to check my progress. You have given me the courage and confidence to move on and complete my bachelor’s. If you ever wonder if you are making a positive difference, you have a believer in me.”

Tara has shared her passion for the Suspension-to-Probation Program in writing in the National Academic Advising Association’s quarterly electronic publication, and she’s presented information on the program many times, including at the 2006 DCCCD Conference Day.

Tara’s colleagues and administrators have recognized her excellence. She was the 2007-08 recipient of the Jean Sharon Griffith award for Student Development Leadership. She also was nominated as a member of the Suspension Advising Team for the 2006-07 Jean Sharon Griffith award. She was the 1999-2000 Professional Support Staff Association Part-Time Employee of the Year; and the March 2000 Employee of the Month.

Tara’s love of Richland College began with her own education. She earned a stellar 4.0 GPA and an Associate of Arts and Sciences degree from RLC. She was named to President’s Honor Roll three times. She went on to graduate summa cum laude from the University of Texas at Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She also earned a Master of Arts in Counseling from Amber University.

Elizabeth Haddon
Elizabeth Haddon

Elizabeth Haddon knew by age 5 that she wanted to work in healthcare. Ironically, it was her health that almost kept her from realizing that dream.

Elizabeth was a wife and mother of five children when she started college. Her youngest child was a senior in high school when she enrolled in college to pursue her dream of being a nurse. Just as Elizabeth was accepted to nursing school and began taking classes in the early 1990s, she was diagnosed with lupus. Undeterred, Elizabeth continued the rigorous nursing coursework.

Elizabeth was in her last year of nursing school when she went through a difficult divorce and was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a type of lymphoma. She had completed the nursing coursework but not the clinical requirements and she wasn’t able to continue. She was devastated.

Elizabeth’s nursing classmates graduated in May 2005. Even though they recognized her at the graduation ceremony, everyday Elizabeth was overwhelmed with a sense of loss as the chemotherapy treatments began.

In May 2007, the cancer was in remission and Elizabeth applied to the Medical Assisting Program at Richland College. Elizabeth was nervous about returning to college as she was having some memory loss due to the chemotherapy treatments. With encouragement from her instructors, specifically Amber Reedy, Elizabeth persevered.

During Elizabeth’s clinical externship, a PET scan indicated a “hot” spot and she had to have another minor surgery. Elizabeth started to worry that she wouldn’t be able to finish and that her dream would once again slip through her grasp.

With the support of program administrator Shannon Ydoyaga to complete the externships, Elizabeth completed the program in January 2008 and soon after was offered a full-time Medical Assisting position with an internal medicine physician in Plano.

“Getting to this point in my life has taken many years of waiting, been full of sadness for losing my way to my dreams, and yet, I have found my dream again. It is living and breathing,” Elizabeth says. “In every downturn in life, if one looks and listens, he or she will see something good happening.”

Babs King
Babs King

Barbara “Babs” King has lived a life of service: She’s served her family, her country, Richland College and the community.

As a student, Babs worked hard to excel in her classes at Richland College, maintaining a 3.53 GPA. This was no small feat, as Babs became a single mother to her two sons in 1980. In 1981, she was hired as a secretary in the Facilities Department at Richland College. With the dream of one day becoming a teacher, Babs started taking classes at Richland in 1983 as a part-time student and continued taking classes until 1993, all while raising her boys.

Babs served her country by joining the United States Navy as a reservist. She served in a Public Affairs Unit and earned certification with honors in Journalism. She had the opportunity to work at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., for the Chief of Naval Operations.

Babs has served the community by teaching craft classes on a volunteer basis at the Garland Senior Center, the Wales House in Dallas, and for the Emeritus Program at Richland College. She also has participated in projects such as providing a quilt panel for the AIDS quilt displayed in Washington, D.C., Race for the Cure events, and recently providing lap quilts for the Castle Manor Nursing Home project “Blankets of Comfort” sponsored by the Garland News. Babs continues to help her fellow Thunderducks, most recently co-chairing a silent auction which raised money to assist a co-worker seriously injured in a car accident. Currently, she volunteers as the editor for the Dallas Community College District’s Retiree’s Association newsletter, RET-Express.

She has taught craft classes and English as a Second Language classes at Richland for Continuing Education. Babs retired from Richland College in 2003, but continues to work part-time as Coordinator of Institutional Research. In this capacity, she supported Richland’s efforts in earning the 2005 Texas Award for Performance Excellence and the 2005 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. Babs was named the 2003-04 Excellence in Teaching Award recipient for CE/Adjunct Teaching, and the 2006-07 Part-time Professional Support Staff Employee of the Year. She also is a recipient of the NISOD award.

Kyle A. Milberger
Kyle A. Milberger

Kyle A. Milberger success as a student, pharmacist, teacher, father and husband lies in his ability to find a balance in life.

“While many young men work their way through school, Kyle has done an outstanding job of combining his extremely demanding school curriculum with working constantly at a pharmacy and maintaining a loving relationship with his wife and baby daughter,” says his Wall of Honor nominator, Kyra Ayres.

Kyle attended Richland in 1996 and 1997, and returned in 2000 while simultaneously taking coursework at the University of Texas at Dallas. He finished his undergraduate studies in 2003 and then earned a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from the University of New Mexico (UNM) in May 2007.

He currently is a Pharmacy Practice resident at the UNM Hospital, and teaches classes for third-year professional pharmacy students. Kyle also is a part-time pharmacist at Walgreen’s in Albuquerque.

Despite his busy schedule, Kyle serves as a Board of Trustees Member of the American Heart Association and New Mexico Society of Health-System Pharmacists; and as a committee member of the American Diabetes Association, New Mexico Department of Health’s Diabetes Advisory Council, and the Diabetes Advisory Council Healthy Lifestyles Action Team.

Kyle’s accolades include making many professional presentations in New Mexico, as well as Cuernavaca, Mexico. He has worked on special projects for the University of New Mexico’s College of Pharmacy and done extensive research. He is a member of the Phi Lambda Sigma Leadership Organization and has received the UNM PhaA-ASP Mortar and Pestle Professionalism Award; Roche Pharmacy Communications Award; was named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges, the University of New Mexico PLS Chapter Member of the Year, and Richland College President’s Honor List.

Keome Rowe
Keome Rowe

Keome Rowe is the kind of student who actively participates in class discussions and always excels on tests, even in the most demanding courses. His model scholarship is surprising since he is the first person in his family to graduate from high school and college.

“I had the opportunity to take a learning community course in government and history with Keome,” says his nominator, Lizbeth Garcia. “He is a prime example of the all-around student.”

Keome is an active member of Phi Theta Kappa and was recently elected the regional Vice President for Phi Theta Kappa. Because of his leadership, the Phi Kappa Theta chapter at Vernon College was named the most improved chapter at the organization’s recent regional convention. Keome was singularly responsible for reactivating this chapter and getting them to participate in district and regional events. He was also inducted into the Regional Hall of Honor. Keome is also a candidate for PTK International President.

He has been named to the President’s Honor Roll, Vice President’s List, and the National Dean’s List. His other honors and awards include being named the 2007 Richland College Student of the Year and an R. Jan LeCroy Scholar, receiving a Congressional Gold Medal, the President’s Volunteer Service Award, and Big Brother of the Year Award.

Keome’s admirable qualities extend beyond the classroom. He regularly volunteers for the Family Gateway, the Salvation Army, Keep Dallas Beautiful and Big Brothers Big Sisters. During Spring Break 2007, Keome joined the United Way’s relief effort in New Orleans and Lake Charles, Louisiana, to help with the recovery from Hurricane Katrina and Rita. More than two years after the hurricanes, many parts of southwest Louisiana are still devastated by debris, mold, and unsanitary conditions. Keome and others helped by cleaning up as well as by spreading hope and kindness.

Keome is an intern for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and in the fall of 2008, Keome plans to transfer to the University of Texas to pursue a degree in political science.

Alhaji F. Saccoh
Alhaji F. Saccoh

Growing up during the civil war in Sierra Leone, the idea of getting a college education was an impossible dream, but Alhaji F. Saccoh likes to dream big.

He was able to escape his war-torn West African homeland and immigrate to the United States in 2004 to pursue his dream. When he started taking classes at Richland in the summer of 2004, Alhaji had to start with college prep courses. He worked diligently for almost two years and finally enrolled in his first credit class in the spring of 2006.

Alhaji continues to work hard to earn a degree in conflict resolution and international studies. He has a new dream that some might consider impossible: peace.

“This degree will help me to understand more about conflicts, how they are averted and how to secure a peaceful resolution,” Alhaji says. “It is my goal to help secure a sustainable society for Africans, one without war, hunger, disease and abject poverty.”

Fittingly, Alhaji is the co- founder of the Peace and Justice Club of Richland College. He also is an honor student at RLC and an officer the Phi Theta Kappa Honor society. He was the 2007 Annual Student Success Award Recipient, and was Richland’s representative to the 2007 Diversity Luncheon.

Volunteering for the International Rescue Committee, an organization that resettles refugees from around the world in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, is dear to Alhaji’s heart as he was once a refugee. He also is a member of the United Nations Association of USA, and is an alumnus of the LeaderShape Institute and Leadership Richland.