Three student nominees announced for Harry Jacoby Award

Published by Rachel Arceo on

A singular exceptional student is chosen every year for the Harry Jacoby award at UCC.  Named after former UCC President Jacoby, who was president from 1964-1975, this award is given to an exceptional student who excels beyond academics.

Harry Jacoby Awards are given to one exceptional student every year.
Rachel Arceo / The Mainstream

The award is chosen by a faculty led committee made up of the committee chair, the present faculty supervisor, two volunteer faculty and an administrator, and traditionally announced at graduation. All nominees receive a medal to be worn at commencement.

Robynne Wilgus, assistant to the UCC Board of Education, explained in an email the benefit of receiving the award. “The awardee is recognized during Commencement; they receive a plaque (to keep) and a check from the UCC Foundation,” Wilgus said. “Two perpetual plaques are kept in the Student Center (behind the information desk) of the yearly winners.”

Associate Professor of psychology and Jacoby Award Committee Chair Georgann Willis explained by email the eligibility criteria for the Jacoby Award. “All students have completed at least 72 credit hours at UCC, completed 6 terms at UCC, have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and have met all graduation requirements by the end of summer term 2022,” Willis said.

“The nominees for this award are selected based on the three criteria:

  1. Scholastic achievement — comparative GPA and difficulty of academic program
  2. College service — participation in student activities or other volunteer service to the college
  3. Community service — activities during UCC attendance or during the last two calendar years.”

Meet the Nominees:

Tyla Elam, Graduating UCC with AAOT
Transferring to Whitworth University,
Spokane Washington

Tyla Elam, is described by Associate Professor of History Charles Young:

“The Ancient Greeks’ highest virtue was called ‘arete’ and was given to those who invariably pursued excellence in everything they did. Tyla Elam would definitely be described by the Athenians as one who always does his or her best, hence earning that honored description. Tyla Elam has arete!

Tyla Elam, a dual-credit transfer student, began UCC in 2019 while she was still a junior in high school. She is determinedly pursuing the long path of higher education to be a doctor.

“Being a small community doctor is a big dream of mine,” Elam said. “I like to set a goal for myself and achieve it, and I have had that goal for quite a while,” Elam said.

“I’ve always been good at school I am not bothered by how long it’s going to be,” Elam said.”

Having achieved her AAOT by winter term, Elam during spring term was usually found in the science labs finishing up her biology and chemistry series.

An admitted fan of rural communities, Elam will transfer to Whitworth University, a small Christian college in the fall.  She is excited about finding a location that both aligns with her faith and her desire to be in a close supportive community.

“It has really small class sizes, so that’s a lot of one-on-one with the teachers, kind of like UCC, and I wanted that same dynamic,” Elam said.

“I have always wanted to be in a position to give to the community I am in.  I am a very big people person, so I love to be around them,” Elam said. This shows in her active involvement at school and in her church.  Elam has done volunteer work in her church and as a scholar for the Transfer Opportunity Program.

Destiny Hunt, TOP coordinator said in an email, “Tyla is truly an outstanding student. I have watched her journey here at UCC and am always amazed at how well she takes on new challenges and has a great attitude through every obstacle.”

“I am so thankful I have gotten the opportunity to be a part of her educational journey, from registering for her first class to helping her apply to graduate,” Hunt said.

Elam believes strongly in the importance of good mental health but admits maintaining mental health can be a challenge in school.  She has a strategy to keepher sanity through all the challenges, though. Elam simply and calmly says, “I read and I pray.”

Dexter Patching, Graduating UCC with AAOT
Transferring to Pacific University,
Forest Grove, Oregon

Dexter Patching, is described by UCC Director of Music Jason Heald:

“I believe that I can safely speak for my UCC colleagues and for his fellow students in expressing our appreciation for Dexter’s intelligence, compassion, quiet leadership, and sunny disposition that make him such an extraordinary individual.”

Dexter Patching, music student, Umpqua Singer performer, and ASUCC vice president, can usually be found on campus Mondays through Fridays studying, practicing, tutoring or volunteering through ASUCC.

“UCC is more than just my school,” Patching said over the phone.  After a reflective pause Patching continued, “It’s kind of like my second home.”

After graduation, this member of both the Umpqua Singers and UCC Chamber Choir is headed to Pacific University to begin a four year degree as a certified music therapist.

“Before I became a music major, I had always thought about majoring in health, so hearing that there was an option for music therapy, helping people with music, that was really appealing to me,” Patching said.

Last year music, cross country, and track and field occupied Patching’s time at school, but this year he temporarily stepped away from running to focus on his role in ASUCC student leadership.

A self-described introvert, Patching didn’t imagine being ASUCC vice-president when he began his UCC journey.

“I hadn’t planned on running, but when I voted (last year), I did notice that many positions didn’t have a candidate. So when those positions opened up again later, I thought if no one else is stepping up to take a spot, why not me?

“At the start, I had to force myself to get out there a bit more, which was kind of difficult, but I think it really helped to have other people like Marjan (ASUCC academic advisor). ‘There’s this event we need it planned and you’re in charge of it.’ I’ll throw you in and see how you fare kind of thing,” Patching said.

Continuing that thought, Patching added, “But staff here are all really friendly.  If you have any questions or are not sure what to do, this is a good place to learn how to jump in to that situation.”

“I’m really, really glad I did go for it, because I definitely learned a lot from it. It’s been a very good experience.  It really improved this year as far as me enjoying school and getting to be involved with the campus,” Patching said.

Tori Ruiz, Graduating UCC with AAS in Medical Office Administration
Transferring to Eastern Oregon University,
La Grande Oregon, Online Program

Tori Ruiz is described by Assistant Vice-President of Enrollment and Student Services Missy Olsen:

“From the day Tori started working at the information desk in the Student Center, she has gone above and beyond to learn how to help students navigate college processes. She cheerfully answers phones, fills in during events, has helped a student prepare for their welding final, and developed a detailed spreadsheet to track common classes offered in all the degree and certificate programs”

Tori Ruiz, UCC resource navigator and former peer mentor, is a nontraditional student regularly found in her shared office in the Student Center with a smile at the ready as she helps students navigate barriers in education.

Ruiz always wanted to go back to school, but as single-mother of four, there was not much time to do anything but work. “I was working two to three jobs a day in order to support them,” Ruiz said. 

Ruiz worked in both her children’s day care and as a supervisor for a latch-key kid program supervising 100 kids. Now, as a grandma to two other UCC students, she is focusing on her own education.

“I’m going for my bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies, a minor in communications, and a minor in business administration,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz attempted college at UCC earlier in 2015 after a nearly fatal car accident left her unable to work.  Unfortunately, she financially could not continue for long. 

In 2020, under Oregon’s Training Unemployment Insurance program, Ruiz was able to earn unemployment income while she attended college as long as she maintained a 3.0 grade average.

Last summer, Ruiz also began representing UCC as a student ambassador, greeting guests, fielding questions, and connecting students to the resources they need while still being a full time, high-achieving student.

“I’ve never taken a term off,” Ruiz said. “I would lose my momentum.”

Eventually Ruiz went from work as a peer mentor to applying and being hired as resource navigator at UCC.

Ruiz credits the success she has had with the support she received from staff. Her eyes watered and she wiped at tears as she said, “I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.  They are just your support system; they are like my cheer squad; they push me to reach my limits.”

“If you want to succeed in something, you have to take every step to get to that goal, and that’s my thing — I want to succeed,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz’s deep motivation to thrive is school is rooted in an old promise she made to her son 19 years ago. With more tears in her eyes and a deep breath, Ruiz explained her higher education promise she made to her son before he died.

“I lost him at 19, he was in a crash that killed eight young men.  His one thing was he wanted me to go to school,” Ruiz said, her voice catching. “And so I did.”

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