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No longer ordinary, the extraordinary Jan Bates-Withers selected as CAC’s Student of the Month for November

If one were looking for a short summary as to why Bates-Withers was selected, consider this, from the student herself: “I’m just an ordinary person with an extraordinary passion for life and love for people.”

However true this may be, Bates-Withers, a relative of Katharine Lee Bates, author of the lyrics to America the Beautiful, is anything but ordinary to those who have spent significant time with her. People such as Jay Johnson, director of the Title V grant at CAC, for which Bates-Withers has served as a student mentor, have served as witnesses to her grace.

“Her service to the people attending CAC has far exceeded the requirements of a student mentor,” Johnson said. “Jan inspires others to join with her in exceeding service expectations and needs. Her attitude is that everyone, pulling together, can make the college a better place to work and a better place for students to get a true education.”

After further examination, Johnson’s assessment proves quite accurate. Consider the first of two of Bates-Withers’ favorite quotes, this one from Mother Theresa, one that she has found to be inspirational in her life:

“We cannot do great things. We can only do little things with great love.”

Bates-Withers, who lives in Coolidge, came to Arizona from Colorado with her family at a time when, as she says, the world presented many personal and economic challenges.

“Working together, we decided to view this time as an opportunity, not as an obstacle.”

Upon arriving at CAC, she did find some opportunities to begin doing a few of those “little things with great love” that Mother Theresa spoke of many years ago.

“Discovering CAC was like finding a jewel in the desert,” she explained. “It’s such an extraordinary school with so many resources and a level of care that’s hard to find anywhere else.”

While exploring those resources, Bates-Withers came across the Title V program at CAC, which is funded by a governmental program that provides grants to assist Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to expand educational opportunities for, and improve the attainment of, Hispanic students. The HSI program grants also enable these institutions to expand and enhance their academic offerings, program quality, and institutional stability.

“From the beginning, I saw the Title V team working together, doing many small things to make a big difference in the lives of our students,” she said.

Since latching on with Title V and its STEP-UP program, Bates-Withers has gone above and beyond the proverbial call of duty, shining as a student mentor during the program’s orientations held over the summer.

“Jan stayed several nights in the residence hall assuring that all cohort members had someone available to help review his or her schedule, and she assisted students in the drop/add process,” Johnson explained. “She stayed up late each night to join conversations and discussions with students.”

In addition, Bates-Withers, who was an elementary school teacher for 10 years, has become an integral member of the Title V staff, even though she is just a student worker. She speaks with the Title V staff daily about ways to enhance the program’s service to its students

“In a large organization, it is possible for small, nagging issues to slip through the cracks because they are not consistently assigned to anyone for resolution, or because no one claims responsibility or authority for solving the problem,” Johnson said. “But Jan never lets the ‘not me’ syndrome get in the way of excellent service.”

Clearly, Bates-Withers is driven by a passion for helping students achieve their goals. So it should come as no surprise that Bates-Withers is at CAC, double majoring in psychology and sociology, to pursue a career in higher education as an academic advisor and faculty.

“I have been fortunate to have had many opportunities in my life,” she said. “Now I want to help other people find their wings so they have the chance to realize their dreams also.”

Bates-Withers has shown that no matter what challenges (or opportunities, as she would say) reside ahead, the smallest thing can make the biggest difference. Consider the second of the two quotes that inspire her every day, this from 12-year-old AIDS survivor Nkosi Johnson:

“Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”

Jan Bates-Withers - In Her Own Words

“I am both honored and humbled to have been selected as CAC’s new Student of the Month. I am especially grateful to the extraordinary leaders of the STEP-UP Program, as well as to all of the exceptional teachers, staff members and fellow students who have inspired, encouraged and supported me during my time at this wonderful college.

After moving to Arizona from the mountains of Colorado four years ago, I was hoping to begin pursuing a new career path that I had dreamed of for many years. As a card-carrying AARP member, I had some thoughts that it might be too late to start over, but then I discovered CAC.

During my time at Central Arizona College, I have had the opportunity to be a part of several groups that are truly making a difference in the lives of the students. As a mentor for the STEP-UP Program and a work-study student with the advising department, I have seen how students can experience remarkable success with the right kind of support. I’ve also been personally inspired by the extraordinary level of care that I have witnessed from many members of this community.

My life journey has been an amazing one so far, filled with many interesting experiences and opportunities. Along the way, I have been blessed by the support of an amazing family, especially my parents, my brothers, my husband of 31 years and our remarkable son. My life also is richer because of the many friends and other caring people who have shared a portion of the journey with me.

Now, I am looking forward to the future with great anticipation and hope. Because Central Arizona College has become such an important part of my plans for the future, I am especially honored to have been chosen as Student of the Month. I am hoping to use this honor to represent our students and to help others discover all the wonderful opportunities our school has to offer.”

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