2023 Jacoby finalists; educational goals, personal struggles, academic achievements

Published by Molly Kay on

The three finalists for the 2023 Jacboy Award are (left) Lori Yeo, Rachel Arceo, and Lakia Burnside-Atkinson.
Elyse Prowell / The Mainstream

What is the Jacoby Award?

The Harry Jacoby Award is given to a graduating student on commencement day, the funds are provided by the UCC Foundation for this express purpose. Eligibility requirements for the award are intense: “All eligible students have completed at least 72 credit hours at UCC, completed six terms at UCC, have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and have met all graduation requirements by the end of summer term 2023,” the Harry Jacoby Award Committee chair Georgann Willis says in an email.

The Jacoby winner is awarded a scholarship as well as a commemorative plaque: “The winner gets a $1000 check and a plaque with their name on it plus their name on the plaque that hangs in the UCC Boardroom,” Willis says.

Student nominations come from the faculty who are asked to use three criteria:

  • Scholastic achievement: Comparative GPA and difficulty of academic program
  • College service: Participation in student activities or other volunteer services to the college
  • Community service: Activities during UCC attendance or during the last two calendar years.

The three finalists for the 2023 school year are Lakia Burnside-Atkinson, Lori Yeo and Rachel Arceo.

Lakia Burnside-Atkinson

Lakia Burnside-Atkinson, a human services certificate pathway of addiction treatment student, works toward her goal of becoming a counselor at UCC while also taking care of her family and herself as a part-time student.
Elyse Prowell / The Mainstream

Being a mother of two hasn’t stopped Lakia Burnside-Atkinson from pursuing her UCC educational journey which began here in 2016. She has since been involved in campus life in all aspects.

Burnside-Atkinson is both a student and a member of the U.S. AmeriCorps service agency who posted here at UCC to help as the multicultural resource facilitator: “I honestly just love being engaged in our vibrant campus community. Building relationships with students, faculty, staff and our community has been a highlight of my time spent here as both a student and AmeriCorps service member,” Burnside-Atkinson said in an email to the Jacoby Committee.

Managing a family does not stop her from enriching campus life and providing opportunities for other students. As an AmeriCorps volunteer, she hosts events on campus including health and wellness meetings, and volunteer, jobs and resources fairs. Burnside-Atkinson also has established connections with 46 organizations, groups and individuals, bringing them onto campus so students can connect with local leaders.

“I enjoy being involved so much that when I was approached about serving another year-long service term at UCC, through United Communities AmeriCorps, as the Multicultural Resource Facilitator, I said YES!” Burnside-Atkinson said in an email to the Jacoby Committee.

Burnside-Atkinson can commonly be seen around campus setting up book displays in the student center, putting out flyers, hanging posters, hiking our trails and engaging with students. She also started the multicultural club and is involved with IDEAL, the safety committee and Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Burnside-Atkinson is taking her schooling slow and steady and has been enrolled as a part-time student in order to take care of both her family and herself. “I’m a lifelong learner; that’s just the way I am; I value family, my mental health and connections.”

After losing a family member to addiction, Burnside-Atkinson enrolled in the human services certificate pathway of addiction treatment. Her plan after UCC is to be a counselor: “There are people that need support. I wanted to be a drug and alcohol counselor so that I can help people. I think it’s a good way to honor them, to help people who are struggling.”

Lori Yeo

AAS Cybersecurity student Lori Yeo wants to combine web-mapping data along with aerial photos to help wildland firefighting, a major passion for her after working with the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Elyse Prowell / The Mainstream

Lori Yeo is a non-traditional student who enrolled in UCC when she was looking to branch out within the fire service. Yeo, who had previously completed her bachelor’s degree in business management, is now graduating from UCC with her AAS in cyber security as a step toward starting a unique fire service business.

Yeo wants to develop and use web-mapping data with aerial photos for wildland firefighting to help fire mop-up crews find hot spots. Yeo has worked a seasonal job with the Oregon Department of Forestry for the past eight summers operating a wildland fire helibase as a communication operator. Her passion for the industry sparked her educational journey.

“I am willing to spend the time and effort to create a viable solution to assist wildland firefighters’ relief efforts in real-time transferable geographic data. This is my passion,” Yeo said in an email to the Jacoby Committee.

Yeo plans on moving to Bend, Oregon to transfer to Central Oregon Community College where she will enroll in the geospatial mapping and drone program, a two-year degree.

Yeo has not always been tech-savvy. “For cyber security or any kind of computer knowledge I have come to the table very late, I didn’t start out with computer skills like many others in the younger generation,” Yeo says. Despite the gap in knowledge, she was determined to learn and did well in her classes. “I know my strengths and weaknesses, as well as having that maturity. I cannot be afraid to be wrong, I cannot be afraid that I have to impress you with anything because I know the only way I’m going to learn is if I keep asking questions,” Yeo says.

Yeo has received support from her family who pushed her to keep pursuing her education despite the struggles of returning to school during COVID and having to navigate online courses. “It was overwhelming; it was scary; I didn’t want to fail. It pushed me to not be afraid to ask questions,” Yeo says.

Yeo works in the student success center as an accessibility services specialist: “My position on campus allows me to support students, faculty and staff in a healthy, and safe environment,” Yeo says. This position also allows her to build close relationships with students and staff: “If you were to ask me how I view myself in general, it would be that I have wide shoulders (to cry on), I have a quick smile (to brighten your day), and I have a super hug (for those that may need a little bit more of a connection),” Yeo said in an email to the Jacoby award committee.

Rachel Arceo

AAOT student Rachel Arceo commutes to-and-from Eugene as a UCC student to volunteer on campus as a TRiO/TOP tutor, work in multiple school clubs/organizations, and work for the school newspaper.
Elyse Prowell / The Mainstream

Describing Arceo is difficult, but she is much like the campus’s cool aunt, or as Arceo would say, “tía divertida.” Students who know Arceo wouldn’t be surprised that she followed this up with an explanation of how the “cool aunt” idiom doesn’t really exist in Spanish, and if it did, words would differ depending on which Spanish-speaking country the speaker was in.

Rachel started at UCC in the fall of 2021 pursuing her AAOT degree which she will use to major in psychology at the University of Oregon.

Living in Eugene for most of her time at UCC, she commutes to campus at least three times a week to attend most classes as well as participate in The Mainstream student media, Spanish club, TRIO/TOP program and Phi Theta Kappa honor society. The long drive does not bother Arceo: “I used to live outside LA and drive into LA to work. You’re spending three to four hours minimum on the road.”

Starting her education after a 20-year absence, Arceo has found her niche at UCC helping fellow students excel as a TRiO/TOP tutor, and in her free time, she volunteers her time helping students struggling with Spanish, writing, social science and life.

Sometimes that academic tutoring has even extended into vacation time when the campus is closed.

Tutoring has taught her a lot about fellow students and herself: “(You have to) be willing to switch it up; just because you have a system doesn’t mean it works for everybody,” Arceo says. For example, Arceo once tutored an English-as-a-second-language student enrolled in an English literature class. Arceo read the sonnets aloud so together they could analyze the cadence and the meaning.

In 2016, Arceo was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. Her experience was so difficult that she spent most of 2017 in bed, nearly died, and has almost no memory of that year. In spite of lupus, Arceo says she deeply values life and is grateful for where she is today. However, dealing with flare-ups during school while maintaining her GPA and extra-curricular activities has been tough. “Stress makes me sicker, (so I) try not stressing, but I’m in school,” Arceo says, laughing.

During her time working on student media, Arceo most enjoys learning about other students and sharing their stories: “I have been a reporter for our student media since I began classes here in fall 2021.  I spend at least seven hours a week developing stories that feature various students and staff, highlighting both their accomplishments and struggles, from mental health to sobriety challenges to chronic illness,” Arceo said in an email to the Jacoby award committee.

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