Beating the Odds: Manchester Student Receive National Recognition for Academic Achievement

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Ashley Odell
Manchester, CT - (April 17, 2008)… Ashley Odell, 22, of Manchester is not the average college student. Despite being diagnosed seven years ago with a rare, debilitating neurological disorder, this Manchester Community College student has excelled, not allowing her illness to prevent her from accomplishing her goals. She maintains a 3.93 GPA, is the student representative for the Connecticut Community College Board of Trustees and most, recently, has received national recognition from Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and awarded three prestigious scholarships for her outstanding academic and civic achievements.

Odell has been named the 2008 Guistwhite Scholar; she made the All-USA Community College Academic First Team after being nominated and was named the 2008 New Century Scholar; and was recently featured in the USA TODAY education issue.

Guistwhite Scholars are chosen by application, and awarded $5,000 based on academic achievement, participation in Phi Theta Kappa programs, and service to their colleges and communities. Odell was the only recipient to be named in New England.

The All-USA Academic Team program annually recognizes 20 outstanding two-year college students. The student receiving the highest All-USA Academic Team application score in each state were named New Century Scholar, and represented their state in the opening ceremonies at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) annual convention. The New Century Scholars program is sponsored annually by AACC, The Coca-Cola Foundation, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation and Phi Theta Kappa. All 20 members of the All-USA Academic Team and their colleges received extensive national recognition through coverage in USA TODAY.

Odell is a full-time student majoring in liberal arts, has held a variety of leadership positions on campus and volunteers for several organizations. She was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa in 2005 during her first semester at MCC. In 2006, she was elected vice president of the New England region and, in 2007, was elected president. “Phi Theta Kappa has giving me the opportunity to network with other students of similar interests, travel and gain leadership training,” stated Odell. The leadership training gave her the confidence to run on the ballot for the Connecticut Community College Board of Trustees, where she represents college students across the Connecticut community college system as a student trustee.

Odell was home-schooled and completed the requirements for a high school diploma at 15 years old. Naturally shy, Odell has immersed herself in the community college environment, and has been praised for her ability to organize events to discuss issues such as health care, the war in Iraq and global warming.

She has taken advantage of the many opportunities presented to her at MCC, including interning for a state representative, and working on the campus newspaper, Live Wire. She has expressed how her experience at MCC helped to transform her personally and academically. “Community college gives people a second chance, and that’s what I needed.” Facing a major illness, Odell states how the environment at MCC is “disability friendly.” “I would not have been able to attend college if it were not for MCC,” explains Odell. “One of MCC’s greatest strengthens is it diversity; MCC is my home and they have been really good to me.”

Odell intends to pursue her bachelor’s degree studies in social science, philosophy and English and has applied to numerous colleges, including Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. She particularly selected all-women’s colleges because according to Odell, “women’s colleges are know for taking young women who are good, but need that extra push to be great.”

Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, headquartered in Jackson, MS, is the largest honor society in American higher education with, 1,250 chapters on two-year and community college campuses in all 50 of the United States, Canada, Germany, the Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, the British Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates and U.S. territorial possessions. More than two million students have been inducted since its founding in 1918, with approximately 100,000 students inducted annually.

Students of any age who possess the desire to pursue higher education are welcome at Manchester Community College. MCC is proud of its academic excellence, new facilities, flexible schedules, small classes, low tuition and faculty with both academic and “real world” credentials. The College offers over 60 programs, transfer options, financial aid and scholarships, as well as access to baccalaureate degrees through guaranteed admissions programs with several universities. MCC is situated on a park-like campus and is easily accessible from I-84.

News Item Posted On: April 17, 2008
For Additional Information Contact: Endia DeCordova-Murphy at (860) 512-2914