March 18, 2011
For Immediate Release
For additional information:
Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of Communications and Marketing
Two Clark College students
are named to the
Michael Gay and Fallon Hughes exemplify academic excellence and a spirit of service to others
VANCOUVER, Wash. – Two Clark College students who serve their college and their community have been named to the 2011 All-Washington Academic Team.
Michael Gay and Fallon Hughes are among 33 students from Washington’s 34 community and technical colleges who will be recognized on March 24 in a ceremony at South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire will deliver the keynote address. Clark College President Robert K. Knight will be among the guests. Honorees will receive medallions from the governor and their college presidents.
According to organizers, each member of the All-Washington Academic team will receive scholarships from KeyBank of Washington and the Northwest Education Loan Association (NELA). In addition, many of Washington’s public and private four-year colleges are offering scholarship opportunities to members of the team. Gay and Hughes have also received scholarships from the Clark College Foundation.
Knight said, “This is a wonderful honor for Michael and Fallon. They understand the importance of education – especially in these uncertain times. They also understand the importance of volunteer service and supporting our community. Their recognition is richly deserved.”
Information about the All-Washington Academic Team is available at http://www.spscc.ctc.edu/allwa.
About Michael Gay
Michael Gay, 25, readily admits that he didn’t have the grades to get into most four-year colleges when he walked onto the Clark College main campus on a whim in September 2008. “I hated high school,” Gay says. “I was the student who figured out exactly how many days of school he could miss and still graduate.”
But when Gay was laid off from his job as an auto mechanic, he decided to visit Clark College, just to check it out. “And I don’t know what happened, but within an hour, I had somehow been advised and registered and all of a sudden I was going to classes,” Gay says, laughing. “I was way past the financial aid deadlines, but the Financial Aid Office made it work so I could start classes anyway.”
Gay surprised himself by taking to college immediately. His first quarter, he earned straight A’s. “At some point, I figured out, ‘Hey, not only can I do this, but I’m good at this!’” he says. “Two years later, I’m president of the honor society. It’s kind of amazing how things turn out.”
At Clark, Gay also discovered a newfound interest in community service. In addition to his duties as chapter president of Alpha Sigma Phi (Clark’s honor society), he spends 20 hours a week as an AmeriCorps member working for local nonprofit agencies including Habitat ReStore, Ronald McDonald House, Relay for Life, and the Vancouver Children’s Center. He expects to complete at least 900 hours of community service by the time he graduates at the end of spring quarter—enough to earn a Lifetime Presidential Volunteer Service Award.
Thanks to Clark College’s mission to educate anyone who wants to learn, Gay has had a second chance at academic success. “It’s definitely nice that the option [of community college] is there,” he says. “You can have these redemption stories, instead of, ‘You didn’t do well in high school, so now you can never go to college.’”
Instead, Gay’s achievements have earned him acceptance letters from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, including Harvard and Columbia. He plans to continue studying the field of his current major at Clark, history, with the end goal of becoming a history professor—though lately, he’s been considering another career option. “I’ve started toying with the idea that I might want to run for Congress one day,” he says with a grin. “We’ll see.”
About Fallon Hughes
Like Michael Gay, Fallon Hughes did not originally plan to attend college. Instead, she became licensed to become a mortgage loan processor in 2006. “I was 19 at the time, and I thought, ‘This is my life plan, this is fantastic,’” she says. But when the housing market crumbled, she found herself laid off. “I had to find another job, and another job, and I realized I was just working all these dead-end jobs that had no future.”
At the same time, she had learned a valuable lesson from seeing people struggle with paying their loans in a downward economy. “I did find out that the higher education that you have, the better off you are,” she says. She started classes at Clark College in 2007, taking online classes so that she could continue to work full-time. When she was laid off for a second time, she decided to concentrate on earning a degree. “I knew that by attending school and finishing with a degree, I could follow my dreams wherever my interests lead,” she says.
At first, she thought those interests were concentrated in becoming an English professor. But after taking Introduction to Women’s Studies during her first quarter at Clark, Hughes found a new passion. “The very first assignment, we had to name 20 female historical figures in the U.S., and we took over an hour to do it,” she recalls. “When we had to name 20 male figures, we had it in, like, a minute. And so you’re thinking, ‘Wait a minute, what?’”
Hughes switched her major to Humanities with concentrations in English and Women’s Studies. She plans to earn a Ph.D. and become a professor in Women’s Studies. “It’s a very new field,” she says. “A lot of universities, even now, only offer Women’s Studies 101 and nothing else. Clark is amazing in that it has a whole Women’s Studies department and has multiple classes that you can take.”
Hughes continues to take online classes both at Clark at Washington State University Vancouver, where she plans to transfer this September. She also volunteers at least 20 hours a week with Alpha Sigma Phi and the Clark College History Club, and helps take care of her 2-year-old brother and her sister, who is permanently physically disabled. Despite these challenges, she has maintained a 3.94 GPA at Clark.
About the All-Washington Academic Team
Phi Theta Kappa, the International Honor Society for two-year colleges, introduced the All-USA Academic Team to recognize and honor two-year college students for their scholastic achievement and community and college service.
According to organizers, the All-Washington Academic Team program “has become the showcase for Washington’s community and technical colleges because it honors the academic high achievers, the men and women who have demonstrated a commitment to success in the classroom and in the communities in which they live. This recognition demonstrates the state’s commitment to scholarship and community service on the part of those attending the state’s public community and technical colleges.”