A Degree of Love – Patsy’s Story

Patsy StocktonPatsy Stockton is completing her final class at Arapahoe Community College this semester – Mathematics for Liberal Arts – and will graduate with her Associate of General Studies in May.

You might know her from the 2018 study abroad trip to Japan, her work with Progenitor, her work-study job in the Colorado Gallery of the Arts, or even her involvement with Phi Theta Kappa and the National Society of Leadership Success.

For Patsy, now 73, the conclusion of her studies at ACC will signify so much more than academic achievement. It represents her strength and courage to persevere, and just as importantly, her commitment to her late son, Michael.

A native of Golden, Patsy attended the University of New Mexico after high school. She departed UNM after just one year to return to Colorado, working at a pair of car dealerships along the western slope. Patsy moved back to Golden shortly thereafter, and it was then, while working at a local auto dealership, when she met her future husband, Bill Stockton.

Patsy enrolled in her very first class at ACC – Accounting – in 1981. She was already working in accounting, and took the course for occupational enrichment. Patsy also took non-credit classes at ACC in 1988 and 1989 for personal enjoyment. She and Bill raised their sons in Littleton. Kevin graduated from Mullen High School in 1985 and went on to attend West Point. Michael was a 1991 graduate of Columbine High School and proceeded to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Bill, an independent carpenter/contractor, fell into a coma in the fall of 1997 and passed away that October. He built the home where Patsy still resides to this day. The loss devastated the Stockton family, particularly Michael, who lost his dad, best friend and employer all at once.

Michael’s sadness, depression and anxiety led to upwards of a decade of alcohol abuse. He became addicted to painkillers prescribed to treat his ensuing pancreatitis. Michael also used heroin for a year as a means to suppress his ever-increasing physical and emotional pain.

A successful year in rehab paved the way for 18 months of sobriety, gainful employment and independent living in north Denver for Michael. He was laid off, however, when his employer sold the business. Michael turned to drinking again, resulting in more than a dozen hospitalizations over the next year.

He relocated to Littleton in the summer of 2009 and enrolled in classes at ACC that fall. Michael, who aspired to pursue a degree in English, had always been passionate about poetry and hoped to become a well-known poet. Patsy took a few classes of her own at ACC that same semester solely to inspire and support Michael in his academic endeavors.

Despite being enrolled in a local rehab program, alcohol dependency resurfaced for Michael, resulting in his death in July of 2011. Within a year of Michael’s passing, Patsy resumed classes at ACC as a means to begin her healing process.

“I was too sad to even go into ACC for a time,” Patsy says. “I thought, ‘he should be attending classes here, not me’. I had always encouraged my sons to get involved, meet friends and try new things. All of a sudden, I found it was time to follow my own advice. When I came back for the spring semester in 2012, I felt close to Michael – almost as if I could feel his presence.”

Three-and-a-half years later, during the 2015 holiday season, adversity found the Stockton family yet again. Kevin, 48 years old at the time, was diagnosed with a malignant glioblastoma brain tumor and the prognosis was grim. Patsy planned to drop her upcoming classes in the spring of 2016, but was encouraged by Kathryn Winograd to stay, hoping it would help to take her mind off of the situation.

“There are so many professors, administrators and support staff who’ve made a positive impact on my life,” says Patsy, who has also earned a Creating Writing certificate from ACC. “Kathy (Winograd), Trish Sangelo, Vic Sauber, Andrea Mason, Lindsay Lewan, Juliet Hubbell, Perri Cunningham, Elijah Dicks and C. “Noi” Watanakul just to name a few. I’ve been encouraged and supported every step of the way.”

An ongoing clinical trial has since provided Kevin with increased hope, and Patsy has remained enrolled at ACC. Semester after semester, her classes and credits have added up. Ultimately, it was one of Patsy’s academic advisors who noticed that she was approaching the necessary requirements to earn a degree.

“We figured out that a degree was well within reach, so I decided to go for it,” Patsy explains. “My original intent in resuming classes 10 years ago was to support my son, not to obtain a degree.”

On Wednesday, May 15, Patsy Stockton will walk across the Magness Arena stage during ACC’s 2019 Commencement Ceremony at the University of Denver’s Ritchie Center. Kevin and his daughters, Reilly and Paige, will be in attendance. Academically, Patsy will have earned her associate degree, but it will also signify the culmination of an inspirational journey she embarked upon out of dedication and love for Michael.

“The guidance and camaraderie I’ve found at ACC have helped me cope with the grieving process and navigate a path to a brighter tomorrow,” said Stockton, who yearns to posthumously honor Michael by publishing his collection of 400+ poems. “Finishing the degree has kept me going and given me a purpose. ACC has meant the world to me.”

by Jeff Duggan, ACC Communications Coordinator

My Experience as an ACC Student

ACC main building - Littleton CampusTwo years ago, I came to this beautiful state (Colorado) in the United States of America from my home country, Nepal. I did my Master’s in Medical Microbiology from Tribhuwan University, Kathmandu Nepal. As I was new to this state, I started search for a job opportunity. During my search online, I found a Medical Laboratory Technology course at Arapahoe Community College which I found related to my subject. Then, I applied for the MLT program, but I needed to do prerequisites for this program to fulfill its criteria. From there, I started my journey at Arapahoe Community College to complete my prerequisite courses. In January 2018, I started studying here and now my prerequisites are almost complete. After completing all my prerequisites, I will be applying for the MLT program next year. Hopefully, I will get admission and pursue my dream in the field of medicine.

In my opinion, Arapahoe Community College is great college to pursue education for a student like me, as I was new for this country with a completely different background. The best thing I like about this college is its friendly and very cooperative environment. I found all instructors and students are welcoming and helpful in all possible ways. Whenever, I get stuck in anything, I can openly ask for help without any hesitation. Similarly, the instruction at ACC is very fruitful, as the study pattern focuses on both theoretical and practical knowledge. Personally, I have improved a lot and learned many new things during my course of study.

While analyzing the difference between online and face-to face courses, as per my experience, I found both courses have their pros and cons. In online courses pros are in its flexibility with time and accessibility whenever we want. Whereas cons are not getting a response of our queries in real time and lack of peer interaction. Similarly, in face-to-face courses, the pros are that we can asks questions to our instructor in real time and can discuss the course-related problem with peers. Whereas, cons are it takes lot time for traveling. So, it all depends on us what course will be manageable in a particular time according to our needs.

Overall, as an Arapahoe Community College student, I have had a wonderful learning experience and feel proud  to be part of this prestigious institution.

by Nabina Jha, ACC student

Service Learning at Project C.U.R.E.

Front of Project C.U.R.E. Denver Warehouse

Front of Project C.U.R.E. Denver Warehouse

Entrance to Project C.U.R.E.

Entrance to Project C.U.R.E.

I learned so much during my time at Project C.U.R.E. I discovered how much I enjoyed being out in the community. I was skeptical at first because it was the first time I had done something completely by myself without taking someone with me. I ended up liking going in alone. It allowed me to open up to others, which meant the most to me. I realized how much I genuinely cared about my community and being an active member. Although it was a little intimidating at first because many of the volunteers were already established, they made me feel a sense of belonging and answered every single question I had. I found that I am an effective communicator when I focus and try to understand what the task means on both macro and micro levels of society. Being a part of something bigger than myself allowed me to see the bigger picture and look at why the others were volunteering and why this work meant so much to them.

“Mid-sorting” table inside Project C.U.R.E. Warehouse

Warehouse full of medical supplies waiting to be sorted or shipped

“Dual-sorting” area where items are sorted again.

I worked with Michelle for my first experience service learning at Project C.U.R.E. in the “mid-sort” section of the warehouse. This station was dedicated to determining what we need to keep from the medical supplies donated to Project C.U.R.E. from medical offices. Since many of the items may not be used in the countries that may not need them or they do not have access to electricity we ended up throwing away many supplies. Michelle had been volunteering at the organization every Wednesday for the past year. She’s a retired nurse who knew how to effectively communicate with someone like me who had never volunteered before or knew what any medical supplies were when we sorted through everything. Michelle’s communication skills helped me focus and work on my communicating and listening skills.

“Kits for Kids” medical kits are assembled in this area

She gave me the confidence to make decisions regarding things that I thought were acceptable to keep without asking. All the volunteers at Project C.U.R.E showed me how selfless my community is and how the work being done is just as important as interacting with others in the community. I saw the same volunteers every Wednesday at the time. I now understand why they do it and I will be back to help because of the positive experiences I had there.

“Mid-sort” boxes on pallets prepared for sorting

Wall that tells people what trash is. There are so many items donated that cannot be used.

Boxes that have been sorted through and others that need to be sent out.

During my experience service learning at Project C.U.R.E, I learned that I am a better communicator than I had initially thought. I went into the situation with something I wanted to work on such as listening and showing people I am listening attentively. It all came so naturally when we all started talking and asking questions about the work and each other which brought us together. Being in an environment where I wasn’t afraid to ask for help showed me how my community supported me and others they had never met before.

by Leah Buchart, ACC Student