Phoenix College Students Maya Lee and Ro Loucks Awarded 2023-2024 All-Arizona Academic Team Honors

Tuesday, February 6, 2024
Phoenix College student Maya Lee cried when she found about about the award and calls it life-changing.
Phoenix College student Maya Lee with her mentor Joshua James, Math Faculty Patsy Herman and two other PC students
Phoenix College student Ro Loucks is majoring in Marine Biology and plans to transfer to Arizona State University's College of Ocean Futures
Phoenix College students Maya Lee and Ro Loucks, 2024 All-Arizona Academic Team awardees, with other Kodiac Robotic members at the 2023 VEX U competition
Ro Loucks with their mom, Amy McPherson, and dad Kelly Loucks
Maya Lee with Robotics mentor Joshua James

PHOENIX (January 23, 2024) ­– Phoenix College is proud to announce students Maya Lee and Ro Loucks are members of the 2023-24 All Arizona Academic Team. Each student will receive a tuition scholarship to one of the Arizona state universities, presented annually by the Arizona Board of Regents to exceptional Arizona community college transfer students based on outstanding academic performance and community service. 

About Maya Lee

Majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Computing, Maya Lee plans to attend Arizona State University's Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering on ASU's West Campus. A dedicated scholar, she is also President of the Kodiak Robotics Team, which she revived after the pandemic. Maya led the team to a Judge's award at the 2023 VEX U Robotic competition. 

"This scholarship is a big deal for me. Life changing," Maya said. "The day I found out, I cried. I'm an unaccompanied youth with no parental contact, so affording school is a huge struggle. I was homeless a lot during my youth. The only reason why I can go to college is because of the scholarships and my work as a federal work-study student. Transferring is an intimidating process because I don't want to be in debt." 

Even though Maya held leadership positions in high school, she promised she wouldn't get involved in college. She was determined only to earn her degree. But in September 2022, she met Joshua James, Biosciences Lab Supervisor and Robotics mentor, and Amy MacPherson, Communications Faculty and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Co-Advisor. "They saw that I had leadership qualities before I saw it myself, and they motivated me to become a leader. They drove my vision to help students who don't believe in themselves–the way I didn't believe in myself–and support them. At Phoenix College, we have students from all areas of life, especially marginalized communities."

Maya plans to pursue a doctorate in biomechanical engineering, focusing on robotics, and establish a human-centered non-profit engineering firm dedicated to developing open-source software and technology to increase accessibility in the healthcare and technology industry. In addition to her role on the robotics team, she is the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Regional Chief Project Officer, S-STEM/TRAIN Research, and a Las Hermanas Workshop Speaker. Her honors include the President's Honor Scholar, PTK Honor Society, USRA Leadership Award, and United States Presidential Service Award. 

About Ro Loucks

Ro Loucks started taking college classes in the summer between their 4th and 5th grade year. “My mom had read an article about how students lose about 43% of their learning over the summer. Her way of combating that was to place me in an online college class for eighth grade level math,” Ro said.  They continued taking online college math courses until 2018 when they switched to a one-credit music class in person. “I was super excited to be in a music class for my first face-to-face college class. To do my hobby while earning college credit was a lot of fun.”  They returned to online college classes in Fall 2020 when they entered Phoenix College Preparatory Academy (PCPA) as a high school freshman. In May, they graduate with three degrees: a high school diploma from PCPA, and an Associate’s degree in Arts and an Associate’s degree in Science from Phoenix College.    

Ro is majoring in Marine Biology. They plan to transfer to Arizona State University's College of Ocean Futures to participate in the research center on the big island of Hawaii and earn a Doctorate in Marine Biology. “I have an aunt and an uncle who live in Hawaii on the big island. I want to be able to go there and get my education while still being there to support them and experience what life will be like as a marine biologist.” Their career goal is to develop ways to analyze and study the effects of climate change on marine life. 

Vice President of Operations on the Kodiak Robotics Team, Ro is also a member of MESA and a Regional officer of the National Honors Society, Phi Theta Kappa Chapter. Their honors include the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society, the URSA Leadership Award, and the United States Presidential Service Award. Ro found out they had been selected for the All-Arizona honors during a game night on campus. “There were really good applicants who applied, so it's an honor to be one of the two people to be awarded. I knew this would open doors for my schooling. If I didn't get the scholarship, I would be scrambling to find the money for school.”  Ro was also notified recently they are being considered for the All-US scholarship, awarded to only 20 community college students in the country. They were at a robotics club meeting when their mom called and said, “You realize that you're one of the finalists, right?” 

Grateful for the opportunity the All-Arizona scholarships provides, Ro is empowered to become an LGBTQIA+ trailblazer in the fight against climate change.  “I want to be the person that's going to advocate and inspire all people at this college, but especially our LGBTQIA community. I want to inspire them to keep going because the LGBTQIA+ community and females in STEM get looked down on because they're the minority in the field. I want us to be represented.”

Selection Process

To be considered for an All-Arizona Academic Team, students must maintain a grade point average of 3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale, be in good academic standing, work towards an associate degree, demonstrate leadership, and interact with the community as a college ambassador. At Phoenix College, Phi Theta Kappa opens and oversees the application process. Judges review the applications and check their rubric scores for inter-rater reliability to identify the top two scoring candidates. Judges justify to the College President why the two students were selected, noting rubric scores, grades, essay details, service and leadership information. President Dr. Kimberly Britt has affirmed the choice of candidates. This year's judges included Dr. Al Hawn, Dr. Laura Swantek, Julie Magadan, Brenton Cheeks, and Norma Pina.   

The Scholarship and Luncheon

In addition to the full-ride scholarship, All Arizona Academic Team members are eligible for the All-USA Community College Academic Team, which is awarded to 20 students nationwide and includes an additional $5,000. Maya and Ro will be awarded the All Arizona Academic Team Scholarship at a luncheon in late February.  Maya has invited her mentor, Joshua James, to attend the awards luncheon. "He is a big inspiration and huge supporter in my life. He helped write the recommendation letter for my All-AZ application and was a big part of my success here at Phoenix College." 

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Phoenix College is the flagship of the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. Established in 1920, PC offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfers, certificates, and short-term job training.

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