From Waiting Tables to Serving Global Needs

July 03, 2019

A Bear Scholar Success Story

Sarah Lawson was a typical young adult. After high school graduation, she followed her parents' footsteps and found a job to pay the bills. She was living on her own now, paying for rent, gas, electric, and other typical expenses.  No one in her family had ever attended college so, at first, she did not even consider higher education an option.

Eventually, she started taking a few classes at a local college to try it out. Unfortunately, medical and financial circumstances caused her to withdraw. She needed to work full time to pay the bills and could not find a way to juggle both. Lawson felt defeated but continued to hope that she would find passion in her work.

Serving Others

At the age of 22, Lawson was still working in a lower wage job - serving tables at a local restaurant. While she liked the work, there was a constant tug at her soul that maybe she could do more. One day, as she was serving a group of young business professionals, who were not much older than she was, she made a silent commitment to herself; she would try college again.

Taking a Chance on Herself

A bit timid after her first college attempt, she signed up for a single art class at Phoenix College (PC) in the following spring. After a few classes, Lawson felt at home walking amid the red brick buildings, tall trees, and bubbling fountains in Sophomore Square. 

When it was time to decide on whether or not she would take fall courses, she was comfortable enough to enroll full-time. Though taking several courses at once was a challenge, she felt supported by her faculty and fellow students. The small class sizes, a welcoming atmosphere, and her personal convictions convinced her that Phoenix College was the place she belonged.

Wanting to become more involved in extra-curricular activities, Lawson soon joined the Honors Program and several clubs, including Phi Theta Kappa, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Women Rising, and the Theatre Club.

Alumni Support

During her second year at PC, she applied for the Alumni Association Bear Scholarship Program. After moving to round two of the process, she was invited to interview with several members of the alumni association. In fall 2018, Lawson was selected as a Phoenix College Alumni Association (PCAA) Bear Scholar. In addition to a full scholarship, she was assigned an alumni mentor.

Lawson saw the world through a different lens at Phoenix College. Through her involvement in clubs, the Student Life & Leadership Office, and making friends, she became more acutely aware of the issues facing people across the globe. Phoenix College opens its doors to all, including refugees from other countries. Lawson's eyes were opened and she finally found the passion she longed for. 

The PC Alumni Association matched Lawson with PCAA Half-Century Club Member, Peter Banko '64 as her alumni mentor. Banko spent most of his career overseas and has a wealth of knowledge to share. 

"He prepared me for conversations I may have in the future especially about current events. He made me realize I have much to learn about the world. He clarified for me the different directions or paths that I can go down in global studies and helped me narrow down my career choices." - Sarah Lawson

Serving the World

Lawson threw herself into her international studies program. Through her classes, she made a strong connection with Dr. Albert Celoza, Liberal Arts Faculty Chair and Model UN Advisor.  In Spring 2019, with Dr. Celoza, she joined more than 40 participants from Phoenix College, Arizona State University (ASU), Mesa and Scottsdale Community Colleges, in the Phoenix Intergenerational Model UN Conference held at the State Senate, Arizona Capital. The Model UN Conference discussed solutions towards Sustainable Transportation.

In May 2019, Lawson walked across the stage and proudly received her Associates Degree in International Studies 

"When I went back to pursue my education, many doubted whether I could succeed. Phoenix College provided an environment and resources that helped me excel academically and rediscover my passion for learning which I thought had been lost forever." - Sarah Lawson

Lawson looks forward to her bright future. She will be pursuing a degree in Global Studies through Barrett, Honors College at ASU in the fall. She also plans to travel overseas and pursue her passion for international affairs and social equity.

A Success Story

The Phoenix College Alumni Association is proud to call Sarah Lawson a successful graduate of Phoenix College and the PCAA Bear Scholars Program! Congratulations Sarah and welcome to the Alumni Association!

Watch Sarah's Story in Her Own Words

The PCAA Bear Scholar Program helps students like Sarah, achieve their dreams of a college education. The program is unique to Phoenix College, offering both financial and mentor support to students. If you are interested in supporting the PCAA Bear Scholarship Program, please consider making a tax-deductible gift now. Every size gift helps to bring this program to more PC students.

Support Students Like Sarah

About Phoenix College

Phoenix College is one of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. Phoenix College offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates and short-term job training to more than 11,000 students annually.