Jackson, MS, and BOSTON – March 17, 2021 — Twenty of the nation’s top college students have been named to the 2021 All-USA Academic Team and will each receive a $5,000 scholarship. View the full list of Scholars.
The All-USA program is widely recognized as the most prestigious academic honor for students seeking an associate degree or credential. Students were selected for their intellectual rigor, academic achievement, leadership, and civic growth, and for extending their educational experiences to better themselves, their colleges, and their surrounding communities. These students were nominated by their colleges for the scholarship program.
The 2021 All-USA Academic Team is sponsored by Cengage, with additional support from Phi Theta Kappa and the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC). In addition to the scholarship, Team members receive a special medallion, and their college presidents receive a commemorative obelisk in recognition of their leadership. The All-USA Academic Team will be officially introduced and recognized during AACC’s annual convention, to be held virtually on May 13.
“More than 80,000 community college students completed an associate degree with grade point averages that were near perfect and could have been considered for this award,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. “Each scholar was nominated by their college before undergoing a rigorous judging process conducted by a national panel.
“The All-USA Academic team represents the very best students from that process. We are proud of their outstanding work both in the classroom and in their communities, and we thank Cengage for recognizing these student leaders and for investing in their futures.”
Bernard Harrigan of Palm Beach State College (PBSC) in Florida was one of the 20 students named to the All-USA Academic Team. The 45-year-old first-generation college student is a disabled veteran of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division and is majoring in psychology. Prior to receiving this award, he never considered himself a scholar.
“Colleges across the nation have been developing future leaders, entrepreneurs, and high-achieving students for decades,” said PBSC President Ava Parker, J.D. “Programs such as the Phi Theta Kappa All-USA Academic Team showcase that history and our students prove that with the right environment and supporting structure, anything can be achieved.”
Harrigan lost his employment just prior to the coronavirus pandemic and his wife was furloughed in March 2020, leaving them unable to afford childcare for their young son. Now, he feels inspired to model leadership for his sons and for others like him. He plans to transfer to Florida Atlantic University in August.
“To be a black American and living a life less desired or treated as not amounting to much is the usual for me,” he said. “So, the feeling of acceptance and recognition is new, exhilarating, and empowering in so many ways. I know I want to make a difference for many and all who need it.”
In response to the social justice movement in 2020 and the racial inequities brought to the forefront by the coronavirus pandemic, Harrigan planned, co-hosted, and facilitated a two-day intercampus diversity, equity, and inclusion summit, “A Moment of Truth: A Conversation of Racial Injustice and What We Can Do to Help.” The first day gave students an opportunity to share stories of prejudice and racism throughout the collegiate system without fear of repercussions. Day two featured a panel of college and community leaders discussing how they were chipping away at systemic racism. A second summit is being planned for spring of 2021.
“Community colleges play a critical role in educating the majority of underrepresented, low-income and first-generation students, as well as in providing reskilling opportunities that will be critical in our economic recovery,” said Fernando Bleichmar, Executive Vice President and General Manager for U.S. Higher Education at Cengage, an education technology company that provides course materials to millions of college students each year. Its industry-leading subscription for textbooks and course materials, Cengage Unlimited, has helped community college students save nearly $90 million on materials since August 2018.
“Yet, unfortunately, community college students have been most-impacted by the pandemic as many had to forgo or delay their education because of financial or other challenges.
“We’re honored to help these incredible community college students further their education and their impact by supporting the All-USA scholarship,” said Bleichmar.
Another All-USA Academic Team member, Jacquelyn “Jacqui” White, is 24 and pursuing a career as a physician assistant. She attends Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas and has worked for more than three years as a pharmacy technician to pay off $15,000 in student loan debt she accrued during her freshman year of college at a state university. As a non-traditional college student, White — like Harrigan — isn’t eligible for many scholarships typically available.
“Financial challenges can have a profoundly significant impact on community college students and their ability to persist and make meaningful progress toward earning their degree,” said Dr. Andrew Bowne, JCCC President. “The All-USA Academic Team recognition and the corresponding scholarship allows students like Jacqui to take that next step of pursuing a bachelor’s degree. It removes some of the financial pressures and allows them to continue their education more fully focused on their studies.”
As coronavirus cases spread across the country in early 2020, White became curious about how the virus’ symptoms presented differently among various age groups. She partnered with the local health department to research the relationship between age and COVID-19 symptomatic expression and soon learned the most common symptoms in different age groups. For instance, she found the most common COVID-19 symptom among adults 19 and older was a cough, but for children 11 and younger it’s fever.
This experience showed her that she can make a difference in her community and beyond while pursuing her associate degree, and this scholarship award affirms that her hard work isn’t going unnoticed.
“For me, this award is about more than just the generous scholarship,” White said. “This award confirms that my efforts in my school, Phi Theta Kappa, and community as a whole have been meaningful. Anyone can be a catalyst for positive change if they are determined to help others and diligently follow through.”
Cengage, an education technology company serving millions of learners in 165 countries, advances the way students learn through quality, digital experiences. We serve the K-12, higher education, professional, library, English language teaching, and workforce training markets worldwide. We believe that through the power and joy of learning, students can enrich their lives and achieve their dreams — no matter their age, experience, abilities, or environment. Our industry-leading products and services make education more accessible and affordable, including Cengage Unlimited, the first-of-its-kind all-access digital subscription service. Visit us at cengage.com or find us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter.
About the American Association of Community Colleges
The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The association represents more than 1,100 two-year, associate degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students.
About Phi Theta Kappa
Phi Theta Kappa is the premier honor society recognizing the academic achievement of students at associate degree-granting colleges and helping them to grow as scholars and leaders. The Society is made up of more than 3.5 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in 10 nations. Learn more at ptk.org.