Focus on Faces

Shannon Watkins

Shannon Watkins photo 2/26/2007 9:28:40 p.m. - Hobbs, NM. When students stop by the Registrar's Office at New Mexico Junior College nowadays, chances are they may be greeted by the smiling face of Shannon Nicole Watkins. What they might not realize, however, is that behind that perpetually calm, professional, and friendly demeanor is one of NMJC's finest and most highly regarded students.

In recognition of her academic achievements, Shannon, the daughter of Harrison and Brenda Watkins of Hobbs, was honored in Santa Fe on February 21, 2007. Shannon began the morning as guest of honor at a private breakfast that included state legislators and college dignitaries. Senators Gay Kernan and Carroll Leavell, along with Representatives Don Bratton, Keith Gardner, and Shirley Tyler were in attendance, along with NMJC President Dr. Steve McCleery, Vice President for Instruction Dr. John Gratton, Vice President for Student Services Dr. Regina Organ, Vice President for Training and Outreach Robert Rhodes, and Phi Theta Kappa sponsor John Klepper. There was no doubt it was Shannon's moment, however, as President McCleery proudly introduced her as "one of NMJC's success stories" and shared her many academic accomplishments and future goals with the group, followed by congratulatory messages from the district legislators.

Later that morning at the State Capitol, Shannon joined 31 other outstanding students from across the state where they were honored as the 2007 New Mexico All-State Academic Team. Lt. Governor Diane Denish was among the legislators who addressed and congratulated the team, referring to them as the state's "academic elite."

No stranger to such honors, Shannon had once before traveled to the State's Capitol for similar kudos during her senior year in high school, when she had written an award-winning essay in government class about her position on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Shannon currently serves as president of the local chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the national honor society for community colleges, a role that she sees as one of the most personally rewarding during her time at NMJC. Though intending to be only a member, Shannon was elected by fellow members to serve as the chapter leader, a responsibility that, she gratefully acknowledges, has opened many doors for her. According to Professor John Klepper, sponsor of PTK, Shannon will undoubtedly enjoy many more future awards and honors as well, largely in part to the many leadership traits she naturally possesses. In addition to PTK, Shannon also enjoys membership in the New Mexico Junior College chapter of Mu Alpha Theta, the mathematics honor society.

She laughingly admits she didn't originally plan to attend NMJC, but was determined to leave Hobbs upon graduation from Hobbs High School in May 2005. In typical fashion, however, Shannon thoughtfully and carefully considered matters and decided that she simply wasn't ready to leave just yet and would instead attend NMJC for one semester. She wound up enjoying NMJC so much, however, that she stayed for two years and during that time has earned not one, but two degrees: an Associate of Science in Biology and an Associate of Arts in General Studies. And with anyone who cares to ask, she's glad to share her plans of attending West Texas A & M University, where she will work toward a degree in Pediatric Physical Therapy, a role that builds upon her time spent managing basketball, track, and volleyball teams back at Hobbs High.

Of her time spent at NMJC, Shannon says that she has enjoyed not only the excellent instruction she's learned from faculty, but also the genuine friendship and support she's received from the staff. She insists that she's especially at home working part-time in the Registrar's Office, admitting that it might just be because her mother had worked in the same office, as well as in the Financial Aid Office, approximately 17 years before. According to co-workers who also knew her mother back then, it's been an extremely enjoyable irony since both possess similar work ethics and personalities. Pat Knapp, Records Administrator with whom both have worked, laughingly calls them "two peas in a pod," but maintains that Shannon is undoubtedly the quieter of the two. "When Shannon graduates this May, we're going to miss her terribly. She's a rare exception nowadays. Not only does she have an outstanding work ethic and fantastic personality, she's thoughtful and considerate -- a real sweetheart to work with and to know personally. We hate to see her leave, but we know she's destined for bigger things, and we're excited for her."

When it comes to giving advice to high school juniors and seniors, Shannon has some solid pointers: "Be sure to take as many advanced placement classes as you can in high school so that you're prepared for college-level work. Along with that, take all the dual enrollment courses you can at a community college so that you have the basics out of the way before you even graduate high school. My younger sister's doing that, and I think it's a really good way to maximize your education. Then, if you're still not ready for a four-year college or university, be sure to attend a community college close to home for as long as possible so that you can be fully prepared and successful when the time does come."

Well-spoken words of wisdom from someone who obviously knows.

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