ACC 2016-17 Student of the Year – Leah Porter

Leah PorterEarlier this spring, Arapahoe Community College student Leah Porter was selected as one of 15 nationwide Guistwhite Scholars by Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. Recipients are chosen based on academic achievement, leadership accomplishments and engagement in PTK programs. It proved to be just one of a multitude of accolades that the Malaysian native would garner during a decorated 2016-17 academic year at ACC.

Porter initially arrived in Colorado in 2001, but spent the majority of the ensuing six years traveling in and out of the country before returning to Denver as a permanent U.S. resident in 2007. She has lived in Israel, Singapore, Czech Republic (Prague) and Puerto Rico, and is fluent in five languages. However, when she enrolled at ACC in 2014, her written English and math (logarithms) competencies were not yet at the college level. Language barriers were frustrating and rendered prerequisite courses challenging. Porter, however, persevered through the adversity and was encouraged to apply for the ACC Sales Club Scholarship by Dr. Jim Boespflug while taking his Business Law class. Much to her surprise, she was selected as the recipient.

“Winning the scholarship really woke me up,” explained Porter. “It invigorated me, and I realized that I wanted more from my college experience. In fact, it motivated me to apply for an officer position in ACC’s Sigma Phi Chapter of PTK.”

She has become accustomed to overcoming obstacles, but none may be greater than the cultural adversity she has – and continues – to contend with. Porter, however, knew the path she wanted to travel, and began a new journey three years ago. Her goal: an associate degree and “cerebral” career.

“There is a socioeconomic demographic of women in Malaysia who are discouraged from advancing their intellect,” expressed Porter. “There is, unfortunately, a stigma that exists within my family because of the choices I’ve made to pursue my education.”

The President of Sigma Phi, Porter garnered Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Gold Scholar recognition earlier this spring. She is ACC Student Government’s representative on the State Student Advisory Committee (SSAC), as well as the student representative on the State Board for Community Colleges and Occupational Education (SBCCOE). Porter earned Distinguished Officer acclaim at this year’s PTK Colorado/Wyoming Spring Regional Convention and was named to the PTK All-Colorado Academic Team in March. In 2016, she attended the PTK Honors Institute, served as Sigma Phi Vice President (Honors in Action Project), attended the Emily Griffith Symposium and founded ACC’s first student book club. Porter has also served on the President’s Student Advisory Council and Diversity Committee.

“My experience at ACC has been so valuable. The integrated, institution-wide support at the College has enabled me to establish not just my educational pathway, but confidence in myself,” said Porter. “The faculty and staff, as well as the opportunities, at ACC are amazing. My educational journey extends beyond just my life. ACC has helped change the lives of my daughters, who now have college aspirations.”

Porter has moved mountains at ACC with great fervor, and she approaches each challenge as an opportunity to expand her horizons. Her global voyages have since subsided, but her academic endeavors are well underway. She has been named ACC’s 2016-17 Student of the Year and will serve as one of three student speakers at the College’s 50th commencement on May 10 when she graduates with her associate degree in Business Administration. Porter, who plans to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees, wants to attain a career in higher education, serving as an advocate for aspiring female students both locally and around the world.

by Jeff Duggan, ACC Communications Coordinator

What I Chose When I Joined PTK

Mark D'Agosta in parkour move on ACC campus

Mark D’Agosta participating in Parkour Club at ACC.

Consequence of Choice

I never tell anyone that I think they are talented, because I believe in the golden rule. To me, every talent is a consequence of a series of choices made. The choice to train results in fitness, the choice to spend time with a loved one results in a healthy relationship, and the choice to study results in academic excellence. Yet with each action we choose, another action is left undone. In this way, the life of a college student is brimming with choices. Do I get straight As, or do I enjoy my free time? Do I spend the money for extra classes, or do I upgrade my failing car?

Luckily the decisions we make are more complex than the arithmetic of choice A or choice B. Like a great investor, a great person puts up a large investment when the return is guaranteed, yet they also make small investments that have the potential to pay out big. The strategy involved in such investments is rarely a simple matter to predict; there are risks and nothing is certain. However, good strategy involves identifying patterns, calculating odds, and making the right move.

I made a choice to join the Arapahoe Community College Sigma Phi chapter of the honor society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). It was not an ignorant decision, it was a calculated move based on some particular ideas gleaned from my previous career.

PTK Can Help You Stand Out In The Job Market

I have interviewed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people, and I have to say–screening applicants is difficult. I learned three things from my experience. First, in the world of mass applicants, two extra seconds of attention make all the difference. Second, there are some triggers that attract an experienced reviewers’ eyes: anything extra! Most applications are very similar, they have the same types of information, in the same order, said the same way. If you break the pattern you get noticed. Finally, once face-to-face with applicants, the interviewers appreciate having something to ask you about. So, providing the interviewer with additional fodder for discussion can make a difference in an interview situation.

PTK Can Give You A Stronger Narrative

While being a member of Phi Theta Kappa gives me the slight edge in applying for schools, scholarships, and jobs, I find the benefit runs deeper. I chose to be involved in PTK to develop a stronger narrative and a richer college experience. When an interviewer asks me to give an example of a specific experience, I have an answer. I explain how I sat down with a Senator to address the issue of failing depleted water resources. I talk about how I initiated new systems at the college and in the community, and how my follow PTK members made those systems work. Thanks to PTK I have success stories, not because I am talented, but because I was supported by others who wanted to achieve as much as me. Interviewers love this type of response, because it predicts success. Involvement in PTK makes me look like a better applicant, because it makes me become a better applicant. Being a member of PTK gives students access to a community that is dedicated to excellence. Just to be associated with this community brings esteem, and my involvement binds me to success. This is what I chose when I joined PTK.

by Mark D’Agosta, ACC student