The Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges (MACC) has named three Greenfield Community College students—Kimberly Day, Kellie Girouard, and Brody Trott—to their 2021 Phi Theta Kappa All-Massachusetts Academic Team. They are among only 40 community college students in the state to receive this exclusive honor.
Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) is the international honor society of two-year colleges. Modeled after the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, it has recognized and encouraged scholarship among community college students for more than 100 years while promoting the academic integrity of the associate degree program. Students with grade point averages of 3.5 or higher are invited to join Phi Theta Kappa at their community college.
As members of PTK, students have opportunities to build their leadership skills by organizing events, participating in regional, national, and international conferences, and by serving as officers with their college’s chapter, or with the regional and national organizations. They can also apply for PTK-specific academic scholarships.
GCC’s PTK chapter is advised by English professor Trevor Kearns. The organization sponsors social events and service activities, building a supportive community of strong students within the college. In recent years, GCC’s PTK service projects have included volunteering at Greenfield’s soup kitchen, Stone Soup Café, organizing a holiday Toys for Tots drive, and participating in the college’s Reality Fair, among other events. They’ve also hosted student success panels, where members talk about strategies that have helped them get through challenging academic times and excel at GCC.
Membership in PTK includes a one-time fee of $75, which can be steep for many GCC students. The national PTK orgnaization has scholarships that have helped some GCC students afford the cost, and Kearns has been exploring establishing similar support at the college. “It seems like a lot of money, but in the long run, it is definitely worth it to be a member of this organization,” he says. “The name recognition that it gives you, how it looks on transfer applications, how it looks on job applications—that is going to pay back $75 in your lifetime.”
Each year, Kearns can nominate up to 4 students to be on the PTK Academic Team, based on their GPA and personal statement. Two can be students in an academic track, planning to transfer to a BA program after completing their AA degree, while two can be students who will be going into the workforce after graduating from GCC.
Being on the Academic Team gives students access to more scholarships and a prestigious honor to include on transfer, graduate school, and job applications. Kearns adds that for many community college students, especially those with jobs and families to support, attending school is very challenging, and the award further shows that they’re on the right track. “It’s very affirming of what a student is doing with their lives,” he says. “They’re able to say, ‘Yes, I’m good at this, I’m being recognized, I should keep going, I could do great things.’”
Kimberly Day returned to school at 45 to find a new profession and is completing her nursing degree this spring. She has loved the experience so much that she will go straight into a nursing bachelor’s degree program in the fall. Day has been an officer and active member of GCC’s PTK chapter for three years, and feels the support and guidance she received from her PTK peers and Kearns have been key in her success as a student. She is deeply honored by the PTK recognition. “When I started this journey of going back to school at my age, I never imagined I could be so successful. I have made life-long friends at school, feel treasured at home, and am about to have a career that is rewarding and fulfilling. In short, I feel blessed beyond what words can express.”
Kellie Girouard is an Neo-Celtic singer and songwriter internationally known for her performance of song and chant inspired by myth, magic, sacred places, and ancient times. She has released six CDs and has published two fantasy novels with a third on the way. Girouard started college at 51, planning to pursue an associate degree in accounting and start a bookkeeping and accounting company to service small businesses in her local area. She was concerned about the difficulty of being an adult student but has loved the experience. “Being invited to join PTK and then being nominated for the Academic Team are validation that my hard work and commitment are paying off,” she says. “I always challenge myself to achieve great things in life. For others to recognize my efforts feels wonderful!”
Brody Trott is completing his degree in business administration and will transfer to UMass Amherst this fall for a bachelor’s degree in finance. He is also an animal lover and works as a veterinarian assistant in a local animal hospital. Not surprisingly for someone planning a career in finance, Trott chose GCC so he could get a great education while meeting his goal of graduating debt free. Trott hadn’t heard of PTK when he was invited to join, but jumped at the opportunity to be involved in something that expanded beyond the college. “It feels really good to be recognized for my hard work,” he says of his nomination to the All-Massachusetts Academic Team, “and to realize that I am a part of such a great group of fellow students.”
In most years, Academic Team students and their families travel to the State House in Boston, where MACC hosts an induction ceremony. “It’s really great for their families to go out there and see them honored in the state capitol for being a good student,” Kearns notes. This year, with the limitations of the COVID-19 pandemic, both MACC and GCC have celebrated the students via social media. Kearns plans to honor them at the next GCC PTK chapter induction ceremony as well.