2017 Graduates of Excellence



School of Applied Technology & Technical Specialties

Jirapat Sakkaphun

Jirapat Sakkapuhn

“I took my first nursing assistant class in Houston, but I dropped it to take a “baby-sitter” job in New York for one year. Next I took care of a 78-year-old lady in Ohio for six months until she passed away from lung cancer. My next baby sitter job in Pennsylvania lasted seven years. My son and I moved to Utah and in 2006, I tried to get into a nursing assistant class but was denied for some reason. I was successful in my second attempt in 2013. In 2016, I entered a CNA class with eight students who were a lot younger than me – they were smart, beautiful and handsome. Look at me! Am I a turtle among them? Am I an old student who can’t learn the new tricks? I asked my CNA teacher how long she can keep me in this class – until I am 90 or the next 10 years? Now you can tell how old I am? After I complete my CNA certificate, I want to use my experience in long-term care and hospice. We are not too late to learn! We are not too late to work! And we are not too late to live!”

School of Arts, Communication & Media

Gabe Moreno

Gabe Moreno

“Throughout this journey, I decided to join the (SLCC) Thayne Center’s program of Civically Engaged Scholars, where students take their learning beyond the classroom by addressing community issues. I had the opportunity to teach English as a second language at the Guadalupe School, teaching adult immigrants. This experience was very close to my heart because I saw my family and myself in those people I was teaching. I know firsthand what it’s like to arrive in a new country, not knowing English and having to start from zero. Back in 2007, my family and I emigrated to Utah from our homeland, Colombia, seeking safety and opportunity. As I reflect on our personal journey, I realize we have reached a point where we can now help those going through what we went through, and that fills my heart with immense joy. I am very grateful for all of the dedicated and passionate faculty and staff members at Salt Lake Community College. I am thrilled to continue my academic journey at the University of Utah.”

School of Business

Megan Gardella

Megan Gardella“In my time with Salt Lake Community College, I have come to reach new heights that I didn’t know I could reach. I have accomplished academic, personal and career achievements that I had never considered before my enrollment. I will forever be grateful and look back with a friendly eye on my time with SLCC Culinary Arts. If it had not been for the amazing professors and educators pushing me to continue, I may have buckled under the pressure. I have in turn reached a balance in my life that has made a huge difference to my family and me. In the three years I have spent at SLCC, I have made great memories with many of the people from my classes. Along with my fellow students, I have had the honor of meeting and being instructed by some of the most amazing educators, professors and business professionals. I have been granted the privilege of getting to see the inside workings of some amazing businesses and learned a snapshot’s worth of what it takes to be successful and humble in any business setting. I have learned of hardship and perseverance through times that seemed the most bleak and desperate, and how a little faith and some hard work paid off while creating a relentless and caring company. To all of those who have helped me to achieve this degree and urged me to continue, I would like to say thank you and you were right – I can do it, I did do it.”

General Studies

Brooke Baxter

Brooke Baxter“My time at Salt Lake Community College began when I decided that I wanted to change my current circumstances for the better. Needless to say, I had to work hard to get through it, just as I had to work hard every day. It took me only three semesters to graduate, taking 18, 21, and then 22 credit hours per semester. I managed to do this while suffering with the disability of severe, chronic post-traumatic stress disorder and while working one or two full time jobs (34-62 hours per week) that whole year. Despite all this, I conquered my struggles and graduated as an honor student with an overall GPA of 3.5. Besides making the Dean’s List and graduating with honors, I received a scholarship my final semester that was granted to a handful of students.”

School of Health Sciences

Leah Price

Leah Price“Every single day I reminded myself that I did not return to school to achieve a 4.0 GPA, but I returned to school to gain knowledge and a skill set that would allow me to help people maximize their physical capacities and function. By daily re-focusing on this purpose, I found that when my intention stayed true and centered on excellence in the delivery of physical therapy, my grades sometimes surprisingly found their way to their marks. I had the privilege of completing my degree with 19 of the finest students this school has to offer. We grew together and drew on each other’s strengths, learned from similarities and differences alike, and ultimately brought out the very best in one and all. I know that while my GPA was a personal accomplishment, it was not without the positive influence of those wonderful people. I feel a tremendous debt to my program director and instructors, including my clinical instructors, for their dedication and sacrifice. Their combined years of clinical experience combined with academic achievement and instructional mastery created a perfect environment for nurturing and cultivating knowledge, comprehension and the development of foundational skills.”

School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Ermina Mustafic

Ermina Mustafic“I learned no matter your age, race or background, education is for you. I will be the first person from my family to attend a four-year university after completing an associate’s degree with academic excellence. My family and I came to the United States in 1998 as Muslim refugees with nothing but the clothes on our backs and $100 my parents had saved up. With all of the odds against me, I was still able to find the drive I needed to get me to where I am today. I have been able to maintain a 3.7 GPA by consistently reminding myself I could be just as accomplished as my peers. Now, as much effort as I put into my academics, I could not say I have done it all on my own. My parents’ constant support of my education reminded me of why we came to the States. Each award I have received has been a ‘thank you’ to them. They left their home and loved ones behind to pursue a better life for my siblings and me.”

School of Science, Mathematics & Engineering

Heather Lewis

Heather Lewis“The decision to go back to school was honestly daunting for me. I enjoy learning and have always dreamed of working in healthcare, but with three kids, the obstacles seemed formidable. It initially seemed that the conflict between the duties of a mother and the hours of studying would be an insurmountable impediment. Returning to school, restructuring my daily routine and tackling the doubts that threatened to derail this heartfelt goal helped me to accomplish a seemingly overwhelming feat. The classes were difficult and the work was challenging, but SLCC professors were passionate and available for student concerns, so, I felt confident in accomplishing my goal. Learning has been a blessing for me, and my children have truly been the driving force behind my goals in life. I hope to be a strong example to my two daughters and show them that women, with or without children, can achieve their dreams.”