Schwabenlander, Salazar named to all-state academic team.

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

Kaity Schwabenlander and Luis Salazar are majoring in vastly different fields, but despite that, they have become great friends.

"We're BFFs," Schwabenlander said, to which Salazar laughed and said, "Well I don't know about that."

The two sophomores are members of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Garden City Community College, and Salazar said if it weren't for that, they would have never met.

"If it weren't for PTK, I probably wouldn't even say hi to her. And not because I'm that unfriendly, it's just that I don't see her at all. We don't have any classes together," Salazar said.

Salazar is a graphic design major, and Schwabenlander is a pre-med major.

The two recently were named to the PTK All-Kansas Academic Team.

According to a press release from GCCC, students from Kansas two-year colleges were named to this year's team in recognition of academic achievement, leadership, and community service. Students were nominated by their respective college and are now eligible for the All-USA Academic Team, sponsored by the American Association of Community Colleges, Phi Theta Kappa and USA Today.

For being selected to the All-Kansas Academic Team, each received a medal, a certificate and a $300 stipend. It also¬ guaranteed them a minimum scholarship of $1,000 at one of the six Kansas Regents' public universities, Washburn University or one of several private colleges in Kansas.

PTK is the national honor society of two-year colleges. Students must have at least a 3.5 grade-point average or better to be accepted to the organization.

Salazar, of Holcomb, said that being a member has helped him come out of his shell.

"I was really quiet and reserved, and I could not for the life of me speak in front of so many people," he said. "So it really helped me get out there and meet new people, instead of just having people wanting to be friends with me. I could make friends, and not even just that, the leadership skills and all that will help me in any career I have, potentially."

Salazar's GPA is 3.66, and in addition to being a PTK member, he is an executive officer of the chapter. He also serves as the vice president of the western district's Kansas Regional Officer Team; is a representative of the college's student government association, and he volunteers for the Garden City Art Gallery, the Tumbleweed Festival and Lee Richardson Zoo.

He is a member of the GCCC art club, but said his original plans when starting college weren't art-related at all.

"When I first enrolled, I wanted to be a major in business administration or management, since my dad owns a store. I was thinking, you know, get a degree in that and take over that," he said.

But in his second semester, Salazar took an art appreciation course and after completing a project, GCCC art instructor Brian McCallum persuaded him to become an art major.

"My second year here, I was an art major, and I took this class, commercial design. And the way she was teaching it, it incorporates making your own design, like a graphic designer, but you could make your own business by creating logos and stuff, so that's when I changed my major from business to graphic design," he said.

Salazar has been accepted to Fort Hays State University, where he will begin attending in the fall. After graduating from FHSU, he hopes to either work for a graphic design company or start his own graphic design business.

Schwabenlander, who is from Baxter Springs, said she has made close friends at GCCC, particularly with other members of PTK.

"My PTK group is like my family. I love them to death," she said. "Even though Luis doesn't want to admit it, we're all besties."

Schwabenlander's GPA Is 3.70, and, in addition to being a PTK member, she's also an executive officer of the chapter, is a member of the Student Support Services leadership group, is a science lab work study and volunteers for Legacy 5K, Operation Christmas Child and cheerleading clinics. She's also a member of GCCC's choir and cheer team.

"I love sports in general. I don't really play them — I'm a cheerleader for a reason," she said, laughing. "Because I'm awful, but I do love watching sports."

She always has loved science and remembers her dad, who she calls Papa, getting her little chemistry sets when she was a kid.

"I had one, and I babysat this little kid back home and he had one, and we used to play with it all the time. I love chemistry and exploding things. I guess with the little kid ones you don't explode things, but it changes color, so at least it makes you think something happened. But I loved them. That's what I entertained myself with," she said.

She hasn't entirely decided on her major yet.

"Right now, I think my major says medical chemistry on it, but I think I finally decided that I'm going to do forensic science," she said, adding that her favorite TV show is NCIS.

Her original plan was to attend the University of Kansas Medical Center, but since she is considering forensic science, she may opt instead to attend a college in Oklahoma.

"There's a school in Oklahoma that's kind of close to my hometown that has an amazing forensic science program, so I'll probably end up going there," Schwabenlander said.