Outstanding Students to Be Recognized at MAC Commencement
At Mineral Area College’s commencement ceremony on Saturday, several students will be recognized who demonstrate above-average skill and hard work in service, classroom work, and other areas of campus life. Pictured are (back row): MAC President Steve Kurtz congratulates Outstanding Students for 2013: Courtney Knuckles of Poplar Bluff (Athletics), Aaron Brooks of Park Hills (Leadership & Campus Service), Jared McFarland of Bonne Terre (Music), Penny Griffin of Park Hills (Career & Technical Education), Elizabeth Ferguson of Marquand (Arts & Sciences), Brittani O'Connell of DeSoto (Theatre), and Donnie Adams of Mineral Point (Art).
Mineral Area College’s Park Hills campus was busy May 11, as hundreds of students walked through commencement ceremonies.
Each year the Alumni Association recognizes Mineral Area College students who have been outstanding in service, classroom, or other areas of campus life. The seven Outstanding Student awards are from Art, Music, Athletics, Theatre, Leadership and Campus Service, the Career and Technical Education Division, and the Arts and Sciences Division.
The Outstanding Student in Art was Donnie Adams. Adams, son of Cynthia and Donnie Adams, is from Mineral Point and graduated from Potosi High School in 2009. He has enjoyed his classes here at MAC, especially the art courses. He says that the campus has a great art studio with great faculty members teaching them. Donnie is someone who has extended his stay here at MAC by taking additional courses and fitting them into his schedule. “I have spent four years at this college, and I don’t regret it a bit.” After leaving MAC this spring, he will move on to art school, feeling completely prepared to go on to the next level.
Aaron Brooks has been selected as the Outstanding Student in Leadership and Campus Service. Aaron was nominated by Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) where he has just completed his second year as the chapter’s president. During that time, he was nominated for the All-Missouri Academic Team and was asked to lead a breakout session at last year’s regional conference. He played a key role in organizing this year’s regional conference which was hosted by the Mineral Area Chapter. In terms of leadership, Aaron was integral in leading the chapter to its 5-star status—the highest status a chapter can achieve—and instrumental in increasing the chapter’s enrollment rate to 38% over previous years. He has organized several initiatives, including a food competition for local restaurants, along with a silent auction. The proceeds of over $500 went to local students to receive healthy snacks during the times they were taking MAP tests. Because of Aaron’s effort in this project, his advisors nominated him for Outstanding Officer at the regional level.
Elizabeth Ferguson has been selected as this year’s Outstanding Student from the Arts and Sciences Division. Elizabeth is from Marquand and is the daughter of Ben and Linda Ferguson who home schooled her during her elementary and high school years. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and is graduating this spring with honors and also from the Honors Program. She has had positive experiences in the classes she has taken on the main campus, at the off-campus sites, and as web classes. She especially thanks her education professor, Dr. Shawn Young, for making the education classes so notable, especially Educational Psychology and Field Experience. She will be attending Central Methodist University at MAC this upcoming fall where she will be majoring in education with a concentration on middle school social sciences. She says that her field experience with that age group has led her to a special interest in that area. Although she likes the Mineral Area region and would like to stay in this area after she graduates from CMU, she says that she will locate wherever there is an opening for her specialty.
The recipient for the Outstanding Student Award in Athletics is Courtney Knuckles. Courtney is from Poplar Bluff and is the daughter of Joe and Karen Knuckles. She graduated from Poplar Bluff High School in 2011. Since her enrollment at MAC, she has been a key player for the Lady Cardinals. She says of her experience here at MAC, “Coach Mills’ Sports and Society class was always a fun experience and extremely interesting. I also enjoyed Dr. Gamble’s Human Anatomy and Physiology class and learned a lot!” Courtney will be continuing her basketball career at a 4 year school and plans to graduate with a degree in Business Administration.
The Outstanding Student Award in Music goes to Jared McFarland. Jared is from Bonne Terre, the son of Elizabeth Allen and Brad McFarland, and a 2011 graduate of North County High School. During the past two years, Jared has been part of nearly every group the MAC Music Department has been able to offer: Concert Band, Jazz Ensemble, Jazz Combos, percussionist for MAC Singers and Chamber Choir, drummer for MAC musicals, drums for Studio Music. Being a student in the MAC Music Department has kept Jared busy both here and elsewhere, as he has had the opportunity to play at the acclaimed Elmhurst Jazz Festivals in Chicago, as well as playing at home with internationally known artists at MAC’s Jazz Festival, and with MAC’s own, talented faculty members. Upon graduation, Jared will be transferring to Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, to pursue a degree in Jazz Performance. His long-range goal is to play drums professionally.
Brittani Nicole O’Connell, who lives in De Soto, is the recipient of the Outstanding Student Award in Theatre. Brittani is the daughter of James and Genice O’Connell and was a May 2011 high school graduate. Brittani leaves MAC with a long list of achievements: member of Delta Psi Omega, member of both MAC Singers and MAC Jazz Singers; stage manager, set builder, and performer in at least 10 productions. She has high praise for her experiences at MAC and says of them, “I can honestly say that without MAC, I would not be where I am today. MAC has given me experience, not only in theatre, but in life in general. It has helped me grow and develop into the performer I am today. I really do believe the educators, especially in the Fine Arts Department, genuinely care about their students and their successes. I am very thankful to have been able to attend Mineral Area College.” After Brittani leaves MAC, she plans to transfer to a school in New York and get her B.F.A. in Acting, with a Musical Theater minor, eventually applying all that she’s learned toward achieving her career goal of becoming a Broadway performer.
Penny Lea Sansoucie, from Park Hills, has been selected as the Outstanding Student from the Career and Technical Education Division. She is the daughter of Tony and June Sansoucie and the mother of Nicholas, Cole, and Hannah Chard. Penny came to MAC as a non-traditional student, having graduated from North County in 1987. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa and works with the Mineral Area College IT Services Team in the computer lab/help desk. Penny has taken a broader view toward the application of her education and states that “when I first started at MAC, I wanted to understand not only the class subject but how it would apply to my life. With each class I have taken, my expectations have been fulfilled. My instructors have helped me learn, grow, and have encouraged me to further my education.” After leaving MAC, Penny intends to continue her education, first with a Bachelor’s degree and then a Master’s in Christian Ministry. She hopes to teach some day after she retires from the Air Force Reserves.