Alumni Love: Andrea Lewis & Dawn Woodlock

Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Phoenix College was founded in 1920 and has been the educational home to thousands of students since its founding
Phoenix College alumni Andrea Lewis and Dawn Woodlock participating in PC's Storybook Stagecoach while college students
Phoenix College alumni Andrea (Carnero) Lewis and Dawn (Nava) Woodlock at their Phoenix College graduation in 2003.
Friends Andrea Lewis and Dawn Woodlock met at Phoenix College in Fall 2001 and have remained friends for 20+ years.

When Dawn (Nava) Woodlock and Andrea (Carnero) Lewis were in their first semester at Phoenix College (PC) in Fall 2001, they both felt lost. Dawn was a shy and insecure first-generation college student. Andrea wasn’t prepared, mentally or emotionally, for a big university and she didn’t drive, so her dad drove her to PC’s campus. They saw each other for the first time in kickboxing class and then again in a drama class, and something clicked. “It was love at first sight,“ Andrea said. “I knew I wanted to be her friend.” 

Andrea eventually approached Dawn in the locker room after kickboxing: Hey, I'm Andrea, do you want to eat lunch? Soon, their go-to restaurants were China Doll or Original Hamburger Works when they could scrounge up lunch money. “That first year I didn’t know what I was doing in college, but Dawn made me feel confident. She asked good questions and got to know me. Every time we talked, we found out something about each other, and grew closer and closer.”

Dawn said, “Back then, I was not as trusting of other young women, but here was this young woman who was a genuine supporter. She wants to see people win.” While Dawn continued to describe Andrea as down-to-earth and encouraging, it's important to note they almost didn’t meet. As a Maryvale High School student, Dawn took some dual-enrollment classes, but didn’t have any plans for college. An older sibling attended a state university and became overwhelmed. “My family didn’t know how to navigate that and it didn’t work out,” Dawn said. “I was intimidated by that experience.” Yet, Phoenix College recruiters came to campus and noticed Dawn had some college credits and encouraged her to keep going with her education. “I feel extremely fortunate the recruiters were there that day.”  To make her new-found dream a reality, Dawn found a job after high school to pay for college.

Dawn became one of many first-generation college students in Arizona and at Phoenix College.  According to Forbes, Arizona ranks third in the states with the most first-generation college students at 43.8%. According to PC Planning Research Analyst Senior, Marc Surrarrer, the number of first-generation students at Phoenix College is even higher, with 64.5% of first-generation students enrolled in the Spring 2024 semester. Dawn recalled: “Everything was new for me, even going to the bookstore. I didn't have anybody to ask in my family to walk me through that experience.”  However, once on campus, she was invited to join the honors program, which gave her a tuition waiver.

Dawn and Andrea become emotional talking about their 20+ year friendship and the confidence they found in each other. They met during a turbulent time, when their first month on campus was followed by 9-11, which rocked many people’s sense of safety. Yet, Andrea noted, “When I think of Phoenix College, I think about how important and significant those times were meeting good friends after the events of 9-11. We found so much safety just walking around campus.” As theater students they would often sneak into the theater to take naps.  Both were involved in Storybook StageCoach, which brought elementary school students to campus for theater performances. “That really ignited a spark in me [to become a teacher],” Andrea said. Eating lunch with the kids and then performing for them informed both Dawn and Andrea’s futures. 

Andrea teaches 5th grade music and drama at Palm Valley Elementary in Litchfield Elementary District. “When I reflect back to 19-year-old Andrea, and the things that made her feel safe at school, it's about the people and the relationship building.” Now, she brings her experiences to these kids and encourages them to make good friends, and find outlets like performing arts. “That's what Phoenix College did for me and Dawn was an added bonus.” 

Dawn most recently did community organizing around menstrual equity for Go With the Flow AZ. “A few years ago, I heard about period poverty, that girls in school were fashioning menstrual products out of toilet paper or socks and sometimes missing school. When I heard the statistics, that one in five girls in our country end up missing school because they don't have access to menstrual products, it was important for me to do work that helps kids get their education. Education helped me feel empowered, and get my life to a place where I wanted it to be versus where it had been.”  Dawn mentioned a volunteer from Go With the Flow was recently at the PC campus for a Women's Health event handing out period products 

Dawn and Andrea’s friendship has seen each other through their respective marriages, birth of kids, and sickness of parents. “We celebrate each other's wins and see each other through hard things,” Dawn said. “I feel so fortunate for my time at Phoenix College and for this very special relationship that formed while we were there. Today, our kids are friends and our families get together and it feels like home. All thanks to going to the same community college.” 

As Dawn and Andrea's story illustrates, community college can be a beacon of hope and opportunity for first-generation students and those who need a strong community-focused education. For first-generation students, the connections forged on campus become invaluable sources of support, guiding students through any academic and personal challenges. 

Did you meet a significant other or life-long friend while at Phoenix College? Share your story with us and let’s inspire others within our community with tales of friendship, resilience, and the transformative power of education.