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Campus News

Meet TCC’s All-Washington Scholars

Meet TCC’s All-Washington Scholars  photo
Grace Sullivan and Catarina Ratajczak will represent TCC at the 2017 All Washington Academic Team event.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017 – Catarina Ratajczak and Grace Sullivan, TCC’s All-Washington Scholars for 2017, will represent the college at the March 23 All Washington Academic Team Recognition event at South Puget Sound Community College.

According to SPSCC’s website, “The All-Washington Academic Team program recognizes and honors our state's finest higher education students. The students who make up the All-Washington Team reflect the diversity of the state, maintain high standards of excellence, and contribute positively to the community. Their stories are often inspiring, sometimes surprising, and always reflective of the larger story of the state's community and technical college students.”

Catarina Ratajczak

Wherever Catarina Ratajczak goes, gardens spring up.

At TCC, Ratajczak maintains a 4.0 GPA while serving as Environmental Club President, a student representative of the Faculty Tenure Committee, and a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Off campus, she serves as a volunteer at the Gig Harbor’s Boys and Girls Club and Wilkinson Farm Park. A commitment to the environment, particularly sustainable agriculture, ties it all together.

“All of my leadership positions are related to my field of study,” said Ratajczak, who wants to focus her career on sustainable food systems. “I always plan with the future in mind, focusing on how my present endeavors can connect to my future.”

As TCC Environmental Club President, Ratajczak has revitalized the student garden, creating a vermiculture system to recycle food scraps from the college’s Early Learning Center and donating pounds and pounds of produce to local food banks. The group is also taking on a new project – a more public garden on the Harned Center for Health Careers roof deck. At the Boys and Girls Club, she helped elementary school students start a “salsa garden” of their own. And at Wilkison Farm Park, she tends the community plot designated as “food bank land.” 

After being bullied in middle school, Ratajczak chose homeschool for eight grade. In high school she gave the public school system another try, and discovered Running Start.

“I am now in my senior year and am flourishing more at Tacoma Community College than I ever have before,” said Ratajczak.  “I see community college as a place for growth and success.”

After earning her transfer degree and high school diploma at TCC, Ratajczak plans to study sustainable urban planning at the University of Washington, eventually obtaining a Master’s degree.

“Urban farming not only helps the environment, it provides an education, jobs and food for all types of people. That is something I want to have a part in.”

TCC Biology instructor Kristen Harrison says she’s impressed with Ratajczak’s leadership style.

“She leads through her intelligence and her positive attitudes. She takes setbacks in stride, and has a good sense of when to keep pushing and when to seek an alternative solution.”

Grace Sullivan  

Nontraditional student Grace Sullivan was raised and homeschooled in a household that emphasized the arts and the natural world. She became a musician, touring and performing for many years while raising her two sons with her husband. However, she had always wanted a formal education. In her mid-thirties she made the leap, enrolling at TCC as a pre-nursing student.

“I was anxious about my ability to succeed in this totally new environment, but quickly discovered that math and the sciences were a wonderful fit for my curious personality and the love of patterns that I had developed earlier in life,” said Sullivan.

While taking a microbiology class as a pre-nursing prerequisite, Sullivan became fascinated by the world of microscopic life. She realized there were still plenty of big questions left to answer in the field of microbiology, and decided she wanted to be one of the scientists that tackled them.

“I hope to become a scientist who not only accomplishes valuable research in this field, but also helps to bridge the gap between scientists and the public through effective communication, community outreach, and education,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan plans to transfer to the University of Puget Sound, where she will major in molecular and cellular biology. Eventually, she plans to obtain a PhD and become a microbiology researcher.

Although she’s maintaining a 4.0 while taking challenging classes and raising two children, Sullivan has made time to get involved at TCC. She served on the Faculty Tenure Committee for two years, and built bridges between secular and religious communities as President of TCC’s Secular Student Alliance. In 2015, Sullivan was awarded TCC’s highest student honor, the Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year award. In 2016, she was the Biology Department Student of the Year.

“If I had to pick the one student in my ten plus years of teaching who is the most committed to academic excellence, it would be Grace Sullivan,” said TCC Biology Professor Kim Harrington. “She was the student who would work harder and longer than anyone else to make sure that she really knew the details of what we were learning in each course.”

For additional information, please contact:
Rachel Payne
Communications Consultant
Phone: 253.460.4381
Email: rpayne@tacomacc.edu


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