Engineers and Space Scientists of the Future: To the universe – and beyond!

_MG_1016Spirits soared higher than a kite for students in John Schneeg’s special-projects engineering class on Saturday, November 17, 2012, when the fruits of their labor ascended to the edge of space after months of hard work and a morning launch in the Arizona desert south of Phoenix.

The class, comprising eight Glendale Community College (GCC) students, participated in Flight 14 of the Arizona Space Grant ASCEND! Their goal:  build satellite prototypes to be lifted by a weather balloon to 92,000 feet above the desert floor into the part of the atmosphere known as “near space.” Continue reading

Personal Trainers Trending in 2013

Well, it looks like it’s cool to be smart! The number-one fitness trend for 2013 on the ACSM annual survey is Educated, Certified and Experienced Fitness Professionals.

If you are not already signed up for one of the fitness certification programs at Glendale Community College, now is a great time!

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a faster than average job growth rate for fitness professionals (24% thru 2020).

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Saving Lives…One Client at a Time

A personal trainer may not have the qualifications to diagnose an illness, prescribe medication or create a diet, but they can save your life in so many ways. Let’s look at the facts.

All certified personal trainers can administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and operate an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). But hopefully it won’t come to that.

Personal trainers are hired for their expertise in muscle building, weight management, health promotion, fitness improvement, and post-rehab abilities. Continue reading

What So Proudly We Hail: Embracing the rights and responsibilities of citizenship

Isaac Rivery and FamilyDoes the intensity of freely expressed political speech in the United States sometimes feel overwhelming? Just imagine the opposite:  a place where you could be sent to prison for sharing viewpoints outside the privacy of your own home:  Cuba, for instance.

Though Cuba has changed over the past few years, the changes have been limited. According to a recent article in The New York Times, “The Castro government has not allowed professionals like lawyers and architects to work for themselves. And its efforts at political repression have focused over the past few years on innovative young people seeking space for civil discourse in public and online – the blogger Yoani Sanchez, or Antonio Rodiles … who was arrested in early November … .”

Like these young people, Isaac Rivery, born in Cuba and now a student at GCC, knows freedom of speech is more than just a concept. Now 28, Isaac has worked hard to earn that cherished freedom. In December 2012, in an emotionally moving ceremony at the Sandra Day O’Connor United States Courthouse in downtown Phoenix, Isaac became a U.S. citizen.

He’s building his success from the ground up, bit by hard-won bit. Since enrolling at GCC in 2008, Isaac has worked a full-time job during the day and attended school at night, taking one or two classes at a time. “My schedule is tight, but learning is not an option, he said. You find the time if it’s important, and my education is important.”

“When I left Cuba in 2007, I thought I knew English, but there was still so much to learn,” he said. Family members who had taken classes at GCC encouraged him to enroll in the English as a Second Language (ESL) program.

“My first day in the classroom was terrible,” said Isaac. My head hurt for two weeks. After that I got used to it, and everything has been fine since then.”

Isaac credits some of his success to GCC’s wide range of classes and helpful instructors. “They never say “no,” but always “yes, what do you need?” he said.

After improving his English-language skills, Isaac enrolled in general-studies classes. He is now taking prerequisites for mechanical engineering, and eventually plans to transfer to continue his education.

Why all of this work, so far from his country of origin? “As a child, I always wanted to be in the U.S.,” said Isaac. There were so many things that attracted my attention; I wanted to see Las Vegas, New York, the lights.”

But bright lights and big cities were only the beginning. As he matured, Isaac understood what was needed for a better life, and central to that were the privileges of democracy. In Cuba, he was unable to vote, because they don’t have free elections. “I don’t want to just talk about my positions on the street corner; I want my vote to count,” he said.

He also wanted a stable family. “I didn’t want to be jumping around, dealing with immigration processes — one day here, and then another day gone,” he said. He is well on his way; he and his wife, who was born in Phoenix and who teaches photography in a local high school, have a seven-month-old daughter, Akira – Japanese for “intelligent.”

Edward James, who taught Social Work 292 (“Social Work in a Diverse World”), said Isaac’s experience as an immigrant from Cuba added an important dimension to class discussion by bringing concepts to life for students who have grown up in the U.S. and have had little experience with oppression, for instance.

“I could see light bulbs go on when Isaac described seeing Cuban police arresting a homeless person –  not because of any crime, but simply because the person was considered a nuisance to society,” said Edward. As Isaac described the arrest to his classmates, one student started to cry.

When Isaac arrived in the U.S., he wrote down goals he wanted to accomplish in his first 10 years in the U.S. Securing citizenship was one of the first. “I wanted to get married, to have a child, a house, a car… I wanted to be living the American dream,” said Isaac. Through dedication and persistence, Isaac has accomplished all of these goals according to schedule, and is embracing the rights and responsibilities of American citizenship with gusto.

He continues to focus on his career, and on another big goal:  seeing his mother again. The last time was in 2006. Since Isaac cannot legally return to Cuba, the only opportunity to reunite is to bring family members here. Now, as a newly minted citizen, Isaac is raising money to help his mother and stepfather immigrate to the U.S.

“My mother is eager to see the new baby, who is her first grandchild,” said Isaac. He and his wife have a running joke that it took Isaac many years to become a citizen. He had to learn the language, study U.S. history and civics, pay the fees, take the exam, attend the ceremony at the courthouse, and finally, take the oath of allegiance.

While his tiny baby girl, Akira – who doesn’t speak a word of English (yet!) – is already a citizen, simply by birth.

Program Paves Way for Promising Careers in Biotechnology

Can you imagine being able to contribute to a medical cure that could save the life of a beloved family member? Former Glendale Community College student Jason Goldstein, whose grandmother died of colon cancer, can.

“The signs were there, but it wasn’t diagnosed early enough,” said Jason. Seeing his grandmother die made him realize the importance of early diagnosis and treatment. He learned that more people were needed in the field of biotechnology, and it struck a chord with him.

Jason wasn’t always a scholar. In fact, he went to six different high schools in two different cities, where he dropped out, had some difficult times in life…..and finally completed his G.E.D.

But despite his many challenges and a lack of focus in high school, he did remember how well he did in his chemistry and biology classes. “When I got my head together, I went to Glendale Community College,” he says, crediting not only the school’s proximity to home, but the cost – and most important, the possibility to pursue a degree in biotechnology.

Now 34, Jason has completed both an Associate degree General Education Curriculum (AGEC) and an Associate of Applied Sciences (AAS) in Biotechnology and Molecular Biosciences at GCC, where Dr. James Tuohy heads the biotechnology program.

“Dr. Tuohy’s program is fantastic for anyone who wants to learn about DNA, proteins and molecular research,” says Jason, now a student at Arizona State University West in the Cell and Molecular Biology Research (CaMBR) program. He started interning at ASU while still a student in the GCC biotechnology program.

Jason’s fascination with DNA and proteins has sparked an interest in DNA manipulation and protein purification. He is now taking Analytical Biochemistry, a 400-level class at ASU. “In this upper-division class, we’re doing things I already did at GCC in Dr. Tuohy’s program,” said Jason. “That’s the truly amazing thing.”

Another recent GCC graduate, Stephanie Schumaker, transferred to the ASU West CaMBR program after earning her Associate in Applied Science in Biotechnology and Molecular Biosciences.

A married mother of three, she was born and raised in the Phoenix area, graduated from Greenway High School, and started attending GCC when she was 37 or 38 years old, when her husband medically retired from the military. She’s now 43.

She says she chose Glendale Community College over other options because it had the finest reputation for outstanding faculty and research, yet was small enough to care.

That caring paid off when health challenges intervened – not only her husband’s, but her parents and other family members – and when she had her third child.

But she just didn’t give up. “I received fantastic help and encouragement from everyone at GCC,” says Stephanie. She cites the support of Hannes Kvaran, James Tuohy, Joseph Springer, Sagarika Dash, and physics teacher David Raffaelle in helping her complete the GCC program successfully. In fact, her cumulative 3.9 GPA qualified her for highest honors.

Stephanie says she then moved seamlessly from GCC into the ASU West CaMBR program, where she has been for the past three semesters. The best thing about her chosen field of study? “It’s all amazing.  Love, love, love it,” she responds.

She has interned and continued to work in Dr. Todd Sandrin’s lab at ASU West. She’s been the first author on one publication and third author on another. She’s worked on a project for the University of Arizona’s environmental department in Dr. Sandrin’s lab and continues to receive valuable experience.

Likewise, Jason is doing research and publishing, currently using a form of mass spectrometry. He’s learned statistics and other aspects of the greater scientific community. He describes the ASU West CaMBR program as “phenomenal.”

Both students say GCC provided them with a great foundation for taking their schooling further. Stephanie offered, “I cannot say enough great things about GCC and Dr. Tuohy’s program!”

Jason concurred, adding, “At GCC, students have full access to laboratory equipment, and therefore, literally get hands-on training. Because of that, I was very well prepared for my biochemistry degree.”

“We can offer our students more hands-on training here because of our smaller class sizes,” said Dr. Tuohy.

Jason is shooting for not just one, but two, bachelor’s degrees. Happily, both of his GCC degrees transfer smoothly to ASU West:  his AAS degree to the CaMBR program, and his AAA degree to the Medicinal Biochemistry program.

Jason says he’s thankful to Glendale Community College for giving him a good foundation. “GCC was the best decision I’ve ever made; it’s where my whole life turned around,” he reflected.

“It will always be home to me….it’s where I kind of grew up,” he continues.

He says coming through hard times makes him appreciate it all the more. “I’ve seen a rougher side of life and now know the value of an education because I know where it will take you. It’s been a chore and a joy,” he reflects.

Ultimately, Jason thinks he may pursue protein engineering or cancer research. He says tiny devices will help detect abnormal concentrations of metabolites and hormones, contributing to real-time diagnoses that will save people’s lives. And he wants to be part of it. “There’s still so much left to do,” he says.