Named after former a former TCC Trustee and civic activist, TCC’s Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year Award acknowledges high academic achievement, contributions to the TCC learning environment, and service to the surrounding community. At their May Meeting, the TCC Board of Trustees voted to name all three of the 2021 finalists Ellen Pinto Outstanding Student of the Year. Each student will be awarded $1,000.
Currently a senior in TCC’s Community Health Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) program, Malcolm Clay also works as a contact tracer for the Tacoma Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD). His educational journey has been characterized by tenacity and adaptability. Before attending TCC, Clay started as an intended nursing major at another college; he even worked as a medical scribe until he found himself unable to continue these ventures when the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
At TCC, Clay has been involved with the Black Student Union and the Office of Student Engagement’s Identity, Culture and Community (ICC) program since 2019. Additionally, he was a participant in many identity-based workshops, such as the 2021 Student of Color Conference. He applies his educational knowledge through his work at TPCHD to benefit the larger community while developing racially conscious vaccination strategies. Clay states that communities of color require successful strategies to boost vaccine rates which include "mythbusting, transparency, and the distribution of credible and accurate information to the public with the important elements of community outreach, collaboration and feedback."
After he completes his Community Health program, Clay plans to become a Certified Health Educator to help reduce health literacy disparities among Black and other marginalized communities. He is then looking to pursue a Master’s degree in the healthcare or public health sphere. Until then, he will continue to practice his work as an advocate by supporting the patients and addressing anti-racist responses to social determinants of health. His plans involve assisting marginalized communities within Tacoma’s many healthcare systems. He is especially interested in public health and preventative medicine, particularly in the fields of maternal/infant health, emergency management, and bioethics.
“I want to thank my families, friends, and community for their presence throughout my academic and personal journey, especially during the pandemic,” Clay said. “When I did contract COVID-19, although it did weaken me physically, it also stimulated my will to fight for myself, and subsequently, others. While my taste and smell are still gone, my heart, mind, and drive remain to help make this community a better place!”
Clay also has advice for his fellow students:
“Don’t burn yourself out for a system who doesn’t care to address the flames. Drown yourself in whatever makes you happy and healthy.”
With a full load of Human Services Program classes, a job, and two young children, Thi Huynh could reasonably decline to take on any additional projects. But she remembers how hard it was for her when she started as an Adult Basic Education student at TCC two years ago, trying to learn English along with her coursework. Despite the patience of her instructors, she says, she often had to ask classmates to explain what was going on. With the help of the Workforce Education program where Huynh started working as a work-study, Huynh was able to improve her English skills and successfully passed all her classes.
Despite her busy schedule, Huynh serves as an Intake Navigator for English Language Learners in TCC’s BEdA program. Huynh says that learning English and navigating a new transportation system were the biggest challenges for her, and she helps BEdA students navigate these challenges as well as any others they may face. She lets students know that they can call her when they have free time – even though their free time most often occurs on Saturdays.
When the pandemic started, Huynh wanted to go back to her native Vietnam. But her family was counting on her. She continued working, going to school, and raising the children. She navigated the application process for TCC’s College Housing Assistance Program (CHAP) and started stopping by the Max & Margi Harned Titan Food Pantry to pick up food and diapers. It was a challenging year for her family, but her persistence paid off, and Huynh graduates from the Human Services Program in June 2021.
Huynh will continue her education at TCC in the BAS program of Community Health which starts in Fall 2021. If funding is available, she hopes to obtain a Master’s Degree and find work in the Human Services field.
"No matter where you come from and how many challenges you have, if you try hard, you will be successful,” Huynh said. “Do not afraid to ask for help! TCC has many resources to support you to achieve your educational goals."
Mariana da Silva Lima Wray
Mariana da Silva Lima Wray started in the ABE program at TCC in 2019 with the goal of increasing her English skills and gaining a better understanding of American culture. In the Adult Basic Education Program, she met amazing teachers who inspired her to pursue her childhood dream. After graduating from TCC with an Associate of Arts & Specialization in Elementary Education, da Silva Lima Wray will transfer to Central Washington University to obtain her second bachelor’s degree. She plans to work in the public school system helping refugee and immigrant kids to adapt to a new language, culture, and life.
While at TCC, da Silva Lima Wray has worked for the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) as a Student Leader planning and implementing events and activities for students. She is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) and the Black Student Union (BSU). da Silva Lima Wray volunteers and helps to organize the “Personal Item Drive” events that the BSU club has been hosting every month since the COVID-19 pandemic started, distributing personal hygiene supplies to students and members of the community.
“The BSU was the first club I joined at TCC and they became my family. They gave me community and sense of belonging,” said da Silva Lima Wray. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to learn from amazing people at TCC.”