Utah's American Graduate Champions

2017 Stories of Champions 2017 Promising Youth 2016 Let's Make It Happen
Deborah Young
Director, Literacy Action Center
Deb is passionate about helping English-speaking adults build literacy skills and achieve new levels of empowerment. She also provides opportunities for volunteers to become mentors through the center’s tutoring program. “Deb works with students in a manner that reinforces their worth and builds their confidence,” writes a colleague. “It’s pretty amazing to speak to her students and listen to their experiences with the program.”
Elaine Peterson
Counselor, South Park Academy
Elaine’s students are involved in the Utah State Prison system, and many consider postsecondary education out of reach—until they meet Elaine. A stalwart advocate for her students, Elaine makes ACT preparation and testing available to every learner in her school, and she finds opportunities through which students can expand their skills. She encourages successful students to teach struggling students, sharing with all the philosophy that despite challenges, they can achieve a brighter future.
Elizabeth Davies
Teacher, South Park Academy
Elizabeth has helped hundreds of students graduate or earn their GED diplomas during 24 years of service at the Utah State Prison. She has guided learners ages 16 to 70 in reaching educational milestones that, for many, are their first experience of success. The South Park Academy’s 2017 Teacher of the Year also mentors other educators so that even more inmates gain the skills they need to successfully rejoin society and enter the workforce.
Jamie Vargas
CTE/Comprehensive School Counseling Program Specialist, Jordan Academy for Technology & Careers
For Jamie, mentoring is more about showing than telling. With a calm approach, strong listening skills and excellent advice, he coaches school counselors and new teachers, passing along the behaviors and knowledge they need to mentor students more effectively. Jamie’s colleagues say he is “irreplaceable” and that his leadership “raises the bar” in their workplace.
Jerry Hansen
Heavy Duty Diesel Technician Instructor, Tooele Technical College
Jerry goes out of his way to make time for students. In turn, his students appreciate his expertise, patience and encouragement so much that many keep in touch with him long after they’ve completed the program. Jerry also creates an atmosphere that encourages students to seek insight and learn from their peers.
Jim LaMuth
Admissions Specialist, Uintah Basin Technical College
Jim works tirelessly to help students register for technical education classes, obtain financial aid, complete programs and obtain employment. Understanding that people come to technical education for a variety of reasons, he supports students and colleagues in realizing their full potential and has been described as “the type of person that makes everyone around him better.”
Kate Brainerd
Director, Guadalupe School
A tireless advocate for English Language Learners, Kate teaches workplace skills by running a thrift shop where students practice their English while performing various roles. Kate also designed a course to help students get workplace ready by learning English while preparing for the Certified Nursing Assistant exam, and she mentors school volunteers who then mentor students.
Katie Blunt
Educational Technology Specialist, Canyons School District
Each year, Katie helps hundreds of students expand their worlds and develop technology skills that help them get career ready. With Katie’s support, Youth In Care classes in her district participate in the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, preparing to become the next generation of public media. From curricula and Professional Development to the broadband capacity of the facilities in which she works, Katie depends on public media resources to change students’ lives for the better. Watch Katie’s video profile here.
Lisa Birch
Director of Technology Programs, Mountainland Technical College
Lisa collaborates with local professionals working in industry to connect technical college students with mentors. Through a 900+ hour program in Web Programming and Development, Mountainland students can learn industry technology, intern with a local company and earn credentials as junior level programmers with little to no educational debt. Lisa is passionate about helping students realize the potential of building on their technical degrees and advancing both academically and professionally.
Madison Keltner
Career Development Coordinator, Ogden-Weber Technical College
Madison partners with high school students, employers, school districts and higher education to set up internships for students. Through her efforts, enthusiasm for the Utah Aerospace Pathways program has grown and more students and parents are learning about how technical training can build into a rewarding technical career.
Mark Hugentobler
Principal, Central Utah Academy
Mark works to give students involved in the justice system better access to postsecondary opportunities through programs such as Building Trades. Through this program, students construct and sell sheds to the community, gaining work experience that can help them enter the workforce in the future. Mark encourages students to mentor one another, supporting social skills and enhancing learning.
Matt Fuller
Robotics & Composites Instructor, Bridgerland Technical College
When most teens are hitting the snooze button, students in the AM STEM Academy are up and ready to learn robotics from Matt Fuller. Through this innovative program, students can earn a 900-hour certificate and walk out of high school with in-demand job skills and up to 30 tuition-free credits toward a college degree. The program, which celebrated its first batch of graduates in Fall 2016, uses UEN’s distance learning technology and other public media resources to provide effective virtual instruction. Watch Matt’s video profile here.
Nick Tankersley
Volunteer, Girl Scouts of Utah
As a coach for Girl Scouts participating in robotics competitions, Nick guided “The Cookie Bots” as they tried new things, overcame failures and learned they could achieve anything. When the team aged out of their league, Nick found new competitions for his team and recruited and mentored new coaches to pass the robotics torch to the next generation.
Scott Leavitt
Employer Services Director, Southwest Technical College
Scott develops customized training plans with employers that help workers advance in technical careers. He also helps develop leadership training for local businesses, building the next generation of leaders and mentors for Southern Utah’s small businesses. A former business owner himself, Scott brings to his work an appreciation of the challenges and need for hiring and developing a strong workforce.