Susanna Dart

Susanna Felicitas Dart was one of two student speakers at the Paradise Valley Community College graduation ceremony held on Friday, May 13, 2011. Susanna is a Presidents’ Scholar who maintained a 4.0 GPA and graduated with High Distinction as a member of Phi Theta Kappa and Honors. She received both an Associate in Arts degree and an Associate in Science degree. Susanna’s dual interest in arts and science combines a rare blend of artistic self-expression along with a scientific, analytical mind.

Susanna’s academic experience has always been uniquely her own. A homeschool graduate, Susanna was homeschooled from Kindergarten through 12th grade. Susanna’s parents developed an educational model that was a compilation of unschooling and classical education, highly influenced by the Moore’s approach, which included work and service. The goal of their educational model was to create an atmosphere where Susanna, and her two sisters, could explore subjects that were interesting to them and have the freedom to learn about the subjects for as long as they wanted. When formal curriculum was needed, Susanna’s parents chose curriculum that was developmentally appropriate and allowed for different learning styles. All subjects were complemented with hands-on activities, including math. The more senses involved in learning, the greater the retention. Susanna’s parents strove to foster a love for learning new things, a wonder for creation, a joy for research, and an appreciation for primary sources.

After graduating from high school in 2009, Dart entered PVCC as a full-time student with a Presidents’ Scholarship. Awarded to high performing high school seniors, the Presidents’ Scholarship is full tuition waiver for up to four consecutive fall and spring semesters. Even though Susanna was active in the Honors Program and exhibited stellar achievements as a student, her college experience was much more than exams and essays, grades and credits. She was active in service learning and volunteer projects, which included organizing a collection of 698 pairs of shoes and 1,125 pairs of socks to benefit the homeless in the Phoenix Metropolitan area.

Alongside her academic course of study, Susanna enjoyed participating in the PVCC Dance Program under the direction of Sonia Valle and Slawomir Woźniak. In the Fall 2010 semester, Dart was one of 15 students afforded the opportunity through a Maricopa Community Colleges learning grant to work with a professional dance company. Susanna was cast in the Master Ballet Academy’s production of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, performed at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix.

Despite a busy class schedule, Susanna found the time to start a small business, DartsArts Custom Tie-Dyes. She makes and sells high quality tie-dyed clothing items, available for sale at art fairs and farmer’s markets across the Valley, as well as online at Susanna also volunteered at a community after-school arts program teaching tie dye to children, and donated her time as a tie-dye instructor with All Saints Lutheran Church’s summer arts camp.

Susanna will be participating in the University of Arizona’s Collaborative Research in the Chemical Sciences Research Experience for Undergraduates (CRCS REU) internship program this summer. In the Fall, she will transfer to Northern Arizona University (NAU) to pursue an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science. Additionally, Dart will study at the University of Konstanz, a prestigious research institution in Germany, as part of an international exchange program with NAU. She hopes to become an environmental consultant performing environmental impact studies that help companies lessen their environmental footprint.

In addition to her other accomplishments, Dart was honored this year as a Phi Theta Kappa All-USA Academic Team nominee, and awarded All-Arizona Academic First Team status for her outstanding academic achievements, distinguished leadership skills, and positive extra-curricular activities. As an All-Arizona Academic Team scholar, Susanna is among the top 22 community college Honors students in Arizona. Dart was chosen to represent Paradise Valley Community College by the Honors Faculty Committee on the criteria of academic achievement, leadership, and community service. In conjunction with this honor, Susanna received a four-semester tuition waiver from the Arizona Board of Regents and a $1,000 award.

Susanna credits the dedication of faculty such as Professors Sherry Adams, Rick Vaughn, Hank Mancini, Scott Massey, Hildegard Koester and Slawomir Wozniak for her success at PVCC, and her parents, Steven and Christiana Dart for their unending support and encouragement. Susanna is inspired by the words of Gandhi when he said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Class of 2011 Commencement Speech, by Susanna Dart

Leonardo de Vinci once said, “people of accomplishment rarely [sit] back and wait for things to happen to them. They [go] out and happen to things.”  Paradise Valley Community College’s graduating class of 2011, let us congratulate ourselves on being people of accomplishment who chose to go out and happen to things.  And on behalf of the graduating class of 2011, I would like extend a thank you to the people who have helped to make it possible for us to succeed.  Thank you to our professors, mentors, tutors, all of the staff at Paradise Valley, as well as our friends and family.

As I look over the past two years at PVCC, I am proud to say that I have had the honor to attend a school where people happen to things.  A school where students form a community and work with faculty and staff on a close and personal level.  A school where there is an environment that encourages individuals to pursue dreams and accomplish goals.

Two years ago when I went to register for classes, I handed the representative my enrollment form, I was going to school with no particular plan.  Although I was a recipient of the Presidents’ Scholarship and had joined the Honors Program, I was directionless.  When I left the KSC building that first day, I was surrounded by a sea of strangers.  However, within the first few weeks of class, I had begun to work with students who were motivated and professors who were engaging and committed to helping students on their educational journeys.  By the end of my freshman year I had decided that I was going to stop sitting around waiting for things to happen.  I resolved to go out and “happen to things.”

A few weeks ago I had a series of experiences that were particularity illustrative of my time at PVCC.  I was back at the Admissions and Records desk, but for a very different reason than two years ago.  I was there to request a transcript for a yearlong study abroad program in Konstanz, Germany through Northern Arizona University where I will be finishing my bachelors in Environmental Science.  This opportunity was made possible by a tuition waver gained by being nominated to Phi Theta Kappa’s All-Arizona Academic Team.  Before I could hand Stefanie Jones, the representative, my ID, she said “Oh Hi Susanna, how are you today?” Because of PVCC’s small campus size, we are individuals in a community of learners, surrounded by supportive faculty and staff.

Unlike two years ago, as I left the KSC building, I was no longer in a sea of strangers, rather surrounded by friends and familiar faces.  Outside the KSC, I passed Professor Hildegard Koester my German professor from a year ago who stopped to ask how my classes were going.  When I look back over the past two years, the professors stand out as the heart of the campus.  It has been a privilege to have been in a learning environment with professors who are dedicated to teaching their students.  This environment has been integral to my decision to happen to things both in and out of the classroom. There have been many individuals who have influenced this decision.

From Mr. Slawomir Wozniak who, although I was not a dance major, encouraged me to explore Ballet, an endeavor which, through a Maricopa Community College District Learning Grant, cumulated in an opportunity to dance in the Nutcracker at the Herberger Theater; to Dr. Scott Massy who not only furthered my interest in Chemistry, but also recommended University of Arizona’s Chemistry Department’s Collaborative Research in the Chemical Sciences Program that I will be participating in this summer; to Professor Sherry Adams who seems always to run into me when I need the motivation to keep “happen[ing] to things.”

As we leave our commencement ceremony this evening we are leaving with the accomplishment of a Certificate or an Associates Degree and are now poised to move on and achieve great things.  Some of us will be entering the work force bringing with us the skills and knowledge we have acquired from our experience at Paradise Valley.  Others of us will be going on to a university, where we will take the academic training gained during our studies at PVCC to work towards new educational goals.  For all of us we will be taking the creativity and passion we have developed at PVCC and applying these energies to accomplish new and greater goals.

As we leave here tonight, let us remember that we are capable of great things.  The academic awards we have earned represent the first step on our road to success and accomplishment.  We know that we have the dedication and the perseverance to pursue our dreams and we have proof that we are capable of reaching them.  Class of 2011, continue to challenge yourself, continue to “happen to things.”

Editor’s Note: Susanna’s sister, Emily, will be featured in the July issue of Homeschooling Teen! A recently graduated homeschool senior, she has been named Phoenix 2011 Outstanding Young Woman of the Year. Read her article here.


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