2022 PTK All-MA Academic Team
Brittany Durand, Berkshire Community College
Brittany is honored to have been nominated for the All-MA Academic Team. Brittany currently works per diem between 24- 32 hours weekly within the community as a Licensed Practical Nurse. She loves her work and is continuing her education at Berkshire Community College where she plans to obtain her associate degree in nursing. After graduating from Berkshire, Brittany hopes to transfer to a 4-year college where she can continue her academic pursuits and reach her goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Brittany is also a full-time single mother: when she is not working or studying Brittany can be found spending time with her daughter. Brittany says that her daughter is her motivation for returning to academia after more than a decade and pushing through when things get tough. In the future, Brittany hopes to work in an acute care setting such as the emergency department or a critical care unit. Brittany hopes that this environment will give her the knowledge and skills needed to eventually follow another passion: teaching. Brittany says that her dream is to one day take all her experience in and love for nursing and pour it into others, helping to nurture and teach the nurses of tomorrow.
Rain Hajjar, Berkshire Community College
Rain Hajjar graduated from Taconic High School in 2020 with high honors and will graduate from Berkshire Community College this spring with an associate degree in biological science. Rain plans to return in the fall to complete the pre-nursing requirements and eventually pursue the associate degree in nursing program. In addition to being a full-time student, Rain works at Balderdash Cellars and makes time to volunteer in the community. Her favorite volunteering experience was working with the animals at Hancock Shaker Village through the Berkshire Youth United program while she was in high school. Rain has made the Dean’s list every year since starting at Berkshire two years ago. She enjoys hiking, swimming, and being outdoors, and puts her passion into everything she does.
Esha Boyd, Bristol Community College
Esha Boyd came to Bristol Community College from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Raised by her grandmother in poverty, Esha had a difficult childhood in an area marked by gang violence, and often felt hopeless. She went to prison at the age of seventeen, where, Esha says, she worried that she had completely ruined her life. Luckily, she soon learned that she was wrong. Esha opened a successful small business and sold it in 2018. Esha has a desire to help those who grew up the way that she did, with little opportunity and a lack of role models. She wants to be an example of what hard work and patience can do. Esha plans to obtain her master’s degree in social work with the hope of opening a small residential treatment facility for at-risk youth. She is dedicated and committed to doing the work it takes to bring awareness and reform to the criminal justice system.
Corinne Lepage, Bristol Community College
Corinne LePage is a Liberal Arts major at Bristol Community College. She also works part-time at Bristol as a Peer Mentor and Tutor. Being an active student leader is important to Corinne, and she is a member of numerous college organizations and performs a variety of volunteer work. In the fall of 2022, Corinne will transfer to a four-year university to pursue a degree in Environmental Science. After she graduates, Corinne hopes to conduct research on how island biodiversity contributes to the regulation of climate and diseases. Corinne’s greatest aspiration in life is to make a significant positive impact on the environment and she is confident that her educational and career goals will help turn her dream into a reality.
Iman Fritis Cherif, Bunker Hill Community College
Iman Fritis Cherif is a Biomedical Engineering major at Bunker Hill Community College. Iman’s dream is to apply engineering principles to biology and healthcare, looking for innovative ways to treat diseases and prevent illness. Iman is passionate about helping others and wants to help empower women in STEM fields by creating more STEM education opportunities targeted at women and girls. Iman is a proud first-generation immigrant to the United States and the first engineer in her family. She believes that every woman has the potential to succeed through education.
Sabrina Soltani, Bunker Hill Community College
Sabrina Soltani is a 34-year-old single mother who was born in Mascara City, Algeria. Sabrina is pursuing her associate degree in computer science and plans to go on to earn advanced degrees in computer science engineering. Sabrina chose to pursue higher education in the midst of the most difficult time in her life and is committed to continuing to chase her academic dreams despite the challenges. Her goal is to be a role model for all individuals who have had to put their dreams aside because of challenging circumstances.
Mary Dunaway, Cape Cod Community College
Mary Dunaway is a 28-year-old student in the Medical Assisting program at Cape Cod Community College. A mother of two, Mary’s children have been her motivation throughout her academic journey. She will be the first to graduate from college in her family and is looking forward to her upcoming graduation in May. She plans to work in medical assisting and return to further her education later down the road.
Dylan Girouard, Cape Cod Community College
After dropping out of high school, Dylan first came to Cape Cod Community College eight years ago to receive his GED. The college offered him a sense of community and compassion that he struggled to find elsewhere. After a long and challenging journey, he is now graduating and moving on to UMass Amherst. He intends to major in English with a practice of writing specialization. After earning his BA, he hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a career as an English professor. Teaching English has been a longtime dream of his. He has been inspired by those who taught him at Cape Cod Community College, and he hopes to share that same inspiration with his future students.
Larissa Nichols, Cape Cod Community College
Larissa Nichols is finishing her last semester at Cape Cod Community College and will be receiving an Associate of Science degree in Funeral Service. After graduation, she will be spending her time completing an apprenticeship at Masciarelli Family Funeral Homes in her hometown of Lunenburg, Massachusetts. Larissa hopes to be able to serve her community with compassion and support in the future and is very excited to begin a career in funeral service.
Courtney Cunat Spencer, Cape Cod Community College
Courtney Cunat Spencer is a second career student at Cape Cod Community College studying nursing. Her future education goals include earning a Ph.D. in nursing research focusing on periviable neonatal care. Her biggest cheerleaders are her husband Colin and son Percival. She is so thankful for the supportive professors and staff she has had the honor to learn from at Cape Cod.
Maggie Brisbois, Greenfield Community College
Maggie Brisbois is a social science major at Greenfield Community College and hopes to find a career where she is able to help people in the community. Maggie started at the college in the fall of 2020 and has enjoyed her GCC experience. She is very involved in the student government where she has been serving as a student senator. This spring she will begin her tenure as the student trustee for Greenfield Community College. Maggie has also contributed to campus by giving tours to prospective students and working on the activities council. Outside of school she enjoys spending time with her family and being outdoors.
Nicole Claine, Greenfield Community College
Nicole Claine has a 3.87 GPA and is pursuing a Liberal Arts degree with a focus on Health Science at GCC and intends to earn an RN degree in the future.
Samantha Deblois, Greenfield Community College
Samantha Deblois is completing a Pre-Nursing Certificate at GCC with a 4.0 GPA and intends to pursue her RN degree in the future.
Alina Antropova, Holyoke Community College
New Century Transfer Scholar – Alina Antropova is a graduating sophomore at Holyoke Community College. Alina is an English major who loves reading and analyzing stories from around the world. In her time at HCC, Alina has been a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a peer tutor at the Writing Center, and the chief editor for HCC’s literary magazine, Pulp City. After receiving her associate degree this June, Alina will be transferring to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English and also hopes to add a double-major in social thought and political economy to study the cultural and political systems that inform our society. In the future, Alina aspires to be an immigration attorney and give back to the community. Alina has earned this year’s New Century Transfer Scholar award for Massachusetts.
Courtney Allen, Holyoke Community College
Courtney Allen is pursuing an associate degree in psychology at Holyoke.
Gavin Maloney, Massasoit Community College
Gavin Maloney is graduating from Massasoit Community College this spring as a sophomore majoring in Business Administration Transfer. Gavin will transfer to Bentley University in the fall to continue his studies towards his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Finance. Gavin has been a student in the honors program at Massasoit. He plans to continue to partake in the honors program at Bentley University and challenge himself intellectually to further his understanding of the financial world. Gavin’s focus is on capital markets, with a strong interest in investment banking and private equity. Gavin’s part-time work as a bank teller while at Massasoit has allowed him to gain exposure to the field and solidified his desire to pursue finance. Gavin looks forward to what the future holds and strives to do everything he can to make the greatest positive impact. Gavin would like to thank his family and friends for their support and for always believing in him regardless of his path, and Massasoit for giving him the opportunities it has.
Brandon Spitz, Massasoit Community College
Brandon Spitz is a first-generation college student at Massasoit Community College where he studies mathematics. Upon entering Massasoit, Brandon became dedicated to the campus community, serving as a student senator and later being elected as Student Trustee and Chapter President for the Alpha Kappa Upsilon Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. While attending school, Brandon has continued to care for an infirm family member, an experience he has found both challenging and immensely rewarding. Brandon intends to transfer to a four-year institution to study Finance and later pursue a master’s degree in the area of International Economics and Finance. His ultimate goal is to pursue a career with either the State Department or the Justice Department. Brandon is interested in military history and exploring the concepts behind game theory.
Jessica Ulm,Massasoit Community College
Jessica has a 4.0 GPA and is currently enrolled in the nursing program at Massasoit Community College. She was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa this semester at our latest induction ceremony early November 2021, has volunteering experience, and is hopes to transfer to the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing.
Matthew Tower, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Matt Tower is a human services student, and shares that he is very happy to be included in this ceremony. His plans for the future are to continue developing his skills in the human services field. He hopes to continue working with kids and currently works at the YMCA. His experience at MassBay has been positive and he is glad to see hard work pay off.
Marjorie Bolduc, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Marjorie Bolduc is a returning MassBay student in the process of earning her associate degree in Business Administration. Marjorie’s academic achievements include membership in the Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Beta Gamma honor societies. Marjorie is a Past Worthy Advisor and Majority Member of Hopkinton Assembly #108 and currently serves as Advisory Board Treasurer for Sandra J. Marshall Assembly #47, International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, a Masonic youth organization focused on building leadership skills in young women.
Ryan Halliday, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Ryan Halliday graduated from King Philip Regional High School in 2020. Due to COVID-19, he decided to attend Massachusetts Bay Community College to study Business Administration. He planned on transferring after one year, but shortly after his first semester he realized MassBay was the place for him. Ryan will be finishing up his associate degree this summer and plans to transfer to UMass Amherst to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Marketing.
Skyler Michaud, Massachusetts Bay Community College
Skyler Michaud sits on the executive board of MassBay’s Student Government Association as the vice president of finances. She is also an active member in the Events, Academic Affairs, and Student Affairs committees, as well as the chair of the Finance Committee. Skyler has hosted various events for the SGA and as the president of the Biotechnology Innovations club. She is also the co-chair of the STEM Starter Academy Cohorts of 2022. Having faced food and housing insecurity herself, Skyler has been an active member of the SNACC Committee, which provides resources for MassBay students.
Yuri Joshua Alarcon Diaz, Middlesex Community College
Yuri is a transfer student from Peru who has been enrolled in the Electrical Engineering program at Middlesex Community College since June 2021. Yuri told us that, “it has been a fantastic experience to be part of the Middlesex community as a student and as a member of the PTK honor society.” His dream is to become a Telecommunications Engineer and be able to spread his knowledge and passion in this field throughout the world and be at the forefront of technological innovation.
Maggie Montoya, Middlesex Community College
Maggie is a Liberal Arts & Sciences student from Lowell and is pursuing an Associate in Arts Degree. She has a 3.5 GPA and is a member of PTK and the MCC Bible Study club and has been active on campus throughout her time at MCC.
Karissa Popieniuck, Mount Wachusett Community College
Karissa Popieniuck of Douglas, MA, is a full-time student boasting a 4.0 GPA in the Interdisciplinary Studies – Allied Health associate degree program. Upon her graduation with her associate degree from Mount Wachusett Community College, she will transfer to Fitchburg State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nurse-midwifery. She is an advocate of patient rights as they navigate pregnancy and birthing decisions and hopes to be a strong partner for women in her future practice. Popieniuck earned her GED after dropping out of high school to help support her mother. As a mother of four, she enrolled in college to both earn a degree to support her family, but also as an example for her children. Popieniuck said, “To say that I am honored by this nomination is an understatement and does not even begin to describe how I feel in this moment. I am very proud, and it feels amazing to have my hard work recognized in this way.” Popieniuck serves as Phi Theta Kappa President of the Phi Delta Chapter at MWCC.
Kathleen Dwyer, Mount Wachusett Community College
Kathleen Dwyer of Winchendon, MA, is a 4.0 GPA full-time student in the Interdisciplinary Studies, Allied Health program at Mount Wachusett Community College, working on pre-requisite courses needed for the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to Registered Nurse (RN) bridge program. Following high school, Dwyer began working full time as a certified nurse’s aide, putting off applying to college for several years before pursing her LPN. In addition to her current studies, Dwyer is a full-time LPN, often working up to 50 hours a week while attending school. As a first-generation college student, Dwyer highly credits the TRIO Rx program with helping to guide her through the college process, providing support and assistance.
Samina Mian, Mount Wachusett Community College
Samina Mian is working to complete her associate degree in Natural Resources at Mount Wachusett Community College and will transfer to the bachelor’s degree program in Sustainable Food and Farming at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in fall 2022. At MWCC, she is a member of the Green Society and volunteers weekly at the college’s outdoor greenhouse. She also assisted with the summer and fall CSA seasons at her local community farm and looks forward to returning to her position in the summer. Mian is interested in nutritional education, the relationship between farming and sustainability, and the often-debilitating health effects of consuming mass-produced and highly processed foods. It is her professional and personal goal to use the skills she develops through studying natural resources and agricultural-related fields to develop strategies to educate consumers of all ages about the importance of developing life-long, positive eating habits. In her free time, Mian enjoys visiting farmer’s markets to support local producers, gardening, and spending time with her family.
Zaria Karakashian-Jones, North Shore Community College
Zaria Karakashian-Jones says that “Diversity, equity and inclusion have been at the forefront of every decision she has made,” from her first social justice act in high school organizing a student-led walk out to protest ongoing racial inequalities in education, to organizing her hometown’s first Juneteenth event. As a Black queer woman, Zaria understands the intersectionality and importance of being seen and represented in all of one’s identities. It is important that everyone has representation so that everyone’s voice can be heard and amplified at the highest level. At North Shore Community College, Zaria has had the opportunity to use her voice to further push the boundaries for what people like her can do for their communities and beyond. Zaria is a founding member of NSCC’s SISTERS program, which serves as a safe place for women-identifying Black and Latinx students. Zaria is also the President of Phi Theta Kappa and the Student Government Association at NSCC. Zaria’s career aspirations include going to law school and continuing to use her voice and advocacy for those who are not heard.
Kajal Kataria, North Shore Community College
Kajal Kataria, is a first-generation immigrant of Indian descent. Kajal’s friends say she is determined, social, and able to balance hard work and leisure times to make the most of what life has to offer. Kajal is a dual-degree graduate from North Shore Community College, majoring in Database Management and Security and Computer Networking and Security. Kajal plans to purse a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science – Cyber Security and transition into Cyber Security sales. In addition, Kajal recently obtained her Real Estate license to pursue her goal of becoming a developer as her second career. Kajal shares that her definition of success can be summed up as: “Life continuously throws obstacles at people that are tough but not impossible to overcome – it’s up to them whether or not they want to fight the battle to see what’s on the other side.”
Nyla Page, North Shore Community College
New Century Workforce Scholar – Nyla Page, who is a 2021 graduate of NSCC’s Heath Science Program, is currently enrolled in their Physical Therapist Assistant Program. Nyla was recently named a 2022 New Century Workforce Scholar. New Century Workforce Scholars are selected based on their academic accomplishments, leadership, activities, and how they extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom. Over 2,200 students were nominated from more than 1,200 college campuses across the country. Only one New Century Workforce Scholar was selected from each state.
Mark Pedersen Jr, North Shore Community College
Mark Pedersen is graduating from NSCC this spring and plans to complete a bachelor’s degree and then pursue a career in marketing. Mark is 23 years old and enjoys spending his free time hanging out with friends, watching sports, snowboarding and going to the beach.
Megan Tongol, North Shore Community College
Megan Tongol is completing an associate degree in Respiratory Care.
Alexis Walters, North Shore Community College
Alexis Walters is completing an associate degree in Nurse Education
Daisy Kiyemba, North Shore Community College
Daisy Kiyemba is completing an associate degree in Human Services
Sierra Goodwin, Northern Essex Community College
Sierra Goodwin is in her second and final year at Northern Essex Community College. Sierra decided to study Dietetics after being diagnosed with a debilitating eating disorder in high school. Sierra knew that she wanted to give back to the eating disorder technician profession, in hopes that she could save someone’s life just like it saved hers. Sierra hopes to continue her education at a four-year college and finish her degree to achieve her professional and academic goals as an eating disorder technician.
Saviel Ortiz, Northern Essex Community College
Saviel Ortiz is a Business Transfer major at Northern Essex Community College.This fall Saviel hopes to attend the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst to concentrate in Finance Risk Management. In addition to being a student Saviel also works at Reading Cooperative Bank as a Bank Supervisor. This experience has led Saviel to consider a career as a Commercial Lender in order to help to develop low-income communities across the commonwealth. Ultimately, Saviel plans to work towards receiving a master’s degree in business and continuing his education after completing his bachelor’s degree. Throughout his journey at Northern Essex Community College, Saviel worked closely with Laurie Sorota in the Academic Coaching program. Their work includes time management, test taking skills, and overall organization. Laurie also helped Saviel with his college applications. Outside of college, Saviel participates in Top Notch Scholars, a youth leadership organization run by Joanna de Pena. The program has helped Saviel stay involved in his community through offering community service opportunities.
Shauna Connelly, Quinsigamond Community College
Shauna Connelly has received a degree in General Studies and a certificate in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement from QCC. Shauna has held many leadership roles at QCC, including serving as secretary of student government, vice president of SHE Club and president of the Multicultural and Criminal Justice Clubs. This year, Shauna has served as president of the QCC Student Government Association and is particularly proud of their reading initiative: two Little Free Libraries will be placed on campus so students can have access to free leisure books and school supplies. As an animal lover and member of Phi Theta Kappa, Shauna also presented the idea of adding pet supplies to the QCC food pantry. Outside of school Shauna has done hundreds of hours in community service and is a cofounder of a local organization. Shauna feels that service to others is of the utmost importance and plans on furthering her education by starting at a 4-year university this fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree.
Christina Duggan, Quinsigamond Community College
Coca-Cola All-USA Academic Team Bronze Scholar – Christina Duggan is one of the Co-Presidents in Phi Theta Kappa at Quinsigamond Community College, where she will graduate this spring with an associate degree in General Studies. She will be furthering my education at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in their Radiography program. Christina has greatly enjoyed her time at QCC and has made great relationships with staff and students. In the future, Christina aspires to be a Radiographer in pediatrics. Christina has earned the distinction of Coca-Cola All-USA Academic Team Bronze Scholar.
Paula Mares Ribeiro, Quinsigamond Community College
Paula Mares Ribeiro is a Brazilian, Latino-American immigrant to Massachusetts. Paula began her education at Quinsigamond Community College in 2018 taking English as a Second Language courses. In 2019, Paula was approved for the CNA program, got her state certification, and started to work in healthcare. She found her passion in helping other adults and making them feel comfortable. In 2020, Paula started her path to the Nursing Program, getting an associate degree in science (pre-nursing option). After completing all of the necessary prerequisites, Paula was accepted to the nursing program in 2021 and was placed on the waiting list for Spring 2024. Her goal is to become a hospice nurse. After graduation she plans to continue working as a CNA while waiting for her nursing program to begin. Paula shares that QCC was critically important for her development and personal and professional growth.
Jessika Supreme, Roxbury Community College
Jessika Supreme is graduating this spring with an associate degree in Early Childhood Education, completing with a strong GPA of 3.62. Jessika has been an active member of Phi Theta Kappa, always ready to lead by example with her dedication and service to others. She currently works as a preschool teacher, has two siblings, and enjoys watching sunsets and television.