Two Spokane Falls Community College students received recognition and scholarships for their educational prowess last week in a virtual ceremony by Phi Theta Kappa, the international honor society for two-year colleges.
Ruth Briggs and Branden Untiedt were honored as members of the 2022 All-Washington Academic Team for their academic achievement, community service and involvement in college.
Briggs and Untiedt were among other top scholars from the state’s 34 community and technical colleges who were recognized during the May 12 virtual awards ceremony hosted by South Puget Sound Community College. Untiedt also was selected as an All-Washington Academic Team Top 16 scholar.
Community Colleges of Spokane Chancellor Christine Johnson, who is also the president of the Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges and who was one of the presenters at the ceremony, offered remarks on the success of the students.
“As an All-Washington scholar, you represent the highest success of our colleges and the best of our students,” Johnson said. “Congratulations to each of you. You make us so proud.”
Johnson also presented Jan Yoshiwara, Executive Director of the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, with a gift from the statewide college presidents and chancellors of an endowed $2,500-a-year scholarship for an All-Washington Scholar.
All students received a $250 scholarship from KeyBank, while the top 16 , including Untiedt, received a $750 scholarship from the Washington State Employees Credit Union, and the top three each got $1,000 from the Washington State Association of College Trustees.
The top-scoring student also received the $2,500 Jan Yoshiwara All-Washington Scholar Award. This year it went to a student from Lake Washington.
Untiedt, a 24-year-old who holds a 4.0 GPA, is currently pursuing a psychology/sociology degree and hopes to achieve a doctorate in psychology from Columbia University.
Untiedt says the global pandemic has highlighted the dire need for mental health professionals and the necessity for “expanded efforts to integrate psychotherapeutic methods and education on a larger and more diverse scale.”
His path toward one day opening a mental health clinic started in 2017, when at 19 as a freshman at the University of Idaho, his mother was diagnosed with stage-4 metastatic breast cancer. Around the same time, a college friend was unable to find the support she needed from the school after becoming the victim of a violent crime.
Untiedt spiraled, dropping out of college, and receiving treatment for mental health. He says over the next four years, he worked diligently with psychologists and therapists to mend his psyche.
“This process has been tumultuous but incredibly rewarding,” he said. “I have a reinvigorated sense of self and purpose, I have learned to cherish life and seek meaning, my eyes were finally forced open.”
Briggs, who lives in Tacoma and has a 3.9 GPA, is studying foreign languages, literature and linguistics and plans to become an ASL interpreter.
She plans to earn a master’s degree in education at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., a goal she dreamed of after becoming an English as a Second Language instructor.
Briggs says the pandemic and the challenges she’s faced balancing her coursework and the needs of her family – particularly her son – have been difficult.
To overcome these hardships, she’s prioritized tools and methods to keep her organized and focused, leaning on learning platforms such as Canvas to bring much-needed structure into the daily chaos.
She also speaks highly of the community and friendships she’s garnered since being involved in school clubs.
“To encourage fellow CTE students, I would share my experiences being connected to my campus and community,” she said. “Leading by example is the best motivator.”
The All-Washington Academic Team program is sponsored by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges, Washington State Association of College Trustees and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.