Having an active student government is one of the ways Kenai Peninsula College students can ensure their voices are heard. KPC has a new group of student officers who take their roles as student advocates seriously.
Lisa Greenleaf is the new student union president and said she feels that destiny and fate have brought her to the position. Greenleaf said she is honored to have been selected and that she's up to the challenge to be the best student leader possible.
The new president is a 43-year-old single mother of a 15-year-old son. She likes to say she went to kindergarten at Harvard and grew up at UCLA. Actually, her father did his doctorate work on both campuses during Greenleaf's formative years.
After enduring a personal tragedy in 1999, Greenleaf decided it was time to follow her dream to visit Alaska. She settled in Juneau but because of another set of difficult life challenges, she decided to get a fresh start in the Kenai-Soldotna area.
She is quick to give credit to local community resources she was able to tap into for her new lease on life.
Greenleaf is one class away from an associate degree in human services with aspirations of a master's degree in psychology. Not one to limit herself, she sees herself pursing a doctorate at Georgetown University in cognitive neuroscience. Her goal is to bring back her expertise to Alaska and help others.
Bethany Mercurio is returning to the student union as vice president, a position she held last year.
Mercurio is 24-year-old graduate of Skyview High who has a high opinion of KPC. She has attended for almost six years and has earned an associate degree, a small business management certificate and is two classes away from earning her bachelor of arts in business administration.
Although it has been a long haul, Mercurio said she would not change a thing about her educational experience. Staying close to home was paramount and without the college, she would have had to relocate to further her education, she said.
Her list of reasons why KPC works for her include convenience, cost and the personalized attention she gets from her instructors.
"If you miss a class, they actually call just to be sure you are OK," she said. "That would not happen at a big university."
Brian Baker, 23, was born and raised on the peninsula and also is returning to the student union after serving last year. Brian is the production officer and is involved in most activities the group sponsors.
Baker's college experiences mirror what many Alaska students go through. He attended universities in both North Dakota and Oregon before he came back to Alaska. He changed his major a couple of times and then decided what he wanted was a marketable skill.
After some summer work in the oil industry, Baker decided to work toward a degree in process technology at KPC.
KPC holds a special place in Brian's heart and he's not shy about why it has been what he needed.
"The campus is a warm, friendly place," he said. "You get tight with people and build relationships with fellow students that last. Students in your classes work as a team."
Mandy Burg is another homegrown Alaskan. She was born in Soldotna and lived in Kenai in the same house for 19 years, which is all her life. She is the communications officer for the group and will be responsible for letting students know about campus activities.
She attended KPC last year after graduating from Kenai Central High in 2001. She said she likes the small college atmosphere where she gets to know people. Her teachers give her personalized attention and she likes that not all the students are the same age.
Kyle Oldring comes to KPC from Ketchikan where he graduated in 2001. He is athletic and enjoys sports, especially basketball. Unfortunately, he has battled injuries that have kept him off the court for a while.
Oldring is the commerce officer for the student union and handles the money that is raised for student events. He said he got involved with the student union because he thinks it will help him stay connected to the campus and focus on his education.
KPC congratulates each of these students and looks forward to all the events this group will organize on campus.
This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.
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