Thursday, 25 June 2020 10:47

Class of 2020 persevered despite pandemic

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Milestone birthdays, anniversaries, performances graduations, and community celebrations of every variety  ­the pandemic threatened to overshadow the joy and pride these events bring to our lives, but true to form, the human spirit prevailed.

Pursuing a degree while working full time takes commitment and discipline, especially for those overcoming the challenges and cancellations caused by the pandemic. More than ever, we need to celebrate our graduates.

Every May, City Savvy issues a call for sources seeking employees who recently completed a college degree program. A record-breaking 20 employees responded, sharing their academic accomplishments, educational aspirations and plans for the future.

Remember to give these folks a pat on the back if you see them. They are setting an example that learning is a lifelong pursuit.

And the graduates are:

1SharonBrown PipkinSharon Brown-Pipkin
Senior 911 PSAP Supervisor, Houston Emergency Center
Master of Science in Leadership
Belhaven University in Houston

“My goal is to apply my degree to a promotional position, ideally within the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) — also housed in HEC — while working to obtain my Ph.D. in emergency management with a concentration in critical infrastructure and key resources from Capella University-Online campus. I just want the opportunity to do more. I know I have more to offer. It’s just a matter of when, not if, I will be given the chance.”

3JesseCarballoJesse Carballo Jr.
Community Liaison, Department of Neighborhoods
Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies
University of Houston Downtown

“I decided to continue my education because I wanted to give my kids a better future and be an example for other Latinos that you can get it done. I plan to apply my newly earned degree in my recent promotion with DON as a Community Liaison and hope to take it with me to new opportunities.”

4MichaelDonaldMichael Donald
Service Writer, Fleet Management Department
Associate Degree in Computer Information Systems
Houston Community College

“As the first generation of college-educated individuals in my family, I would be setting a positive precedent for my future generations. I want to be a role model for my children and grandchildren, motivating them to achieve their goals. Me going to college would be an essential step in helping my family achieve upward social mobility. Furthermore, I would be making my ultimate life goal. My mom and family would know that their hard work and education will always pay off.”

5N.Edwards SrNa’Shon Z. Edwards
Sr. District F-Director of Constituent Services and Research Assistant
Master of Science in Community Development
Prairie View A&M University

“I chose community development because I was compelled by the different actors and influences associated with community and quality of life. I plan on integrating every aspect of my degree in community development to research community needs, develop inclusive plans of action, and execute community-led projects. Moreover, I want to do my part to improve the quality of life in District F.”

6Kristen ElliottKristen Elliott
Senior Procurement Specialist, Houston Airport System
Master of Business Administration
University of Houston

“The pandemic definitely impacted my final term and made things very challenging, and I experienced many nights between work and study, where I was running on a couple of hours of sleep. All classes had to move to an online format, and project groups could no longer meet in public on weekends or after class, as was the custom for many of us. It was a difficult transition for the professors as well since many do not teach online regularly, so everyone had a crash course in learning to use the online format and Zoom or Teams to conduct project meetings and class discussions. Although we were only down for about two weeks, between worrying about getting sick, working remotely, and whether or not you would have a job made staying motivated tough at times. Even though the commencement ceremonies are postponed until the end of 2020, I’m proud the students and faculty were able to work together to finish out the semester on a positive note. I believe the challenges that all the graduates faced this semester will only serve to make us stronger as individuals, and better prepared for whatever may come in the future. My next step moving forward is to continue my education to the next level beginning in the fall of 2020.”

7LGarciaLuis Garcia
Firefighter / Station 6, Houston Fire Department
Master of Architecture
University of Houston

“My goal is to solve design problems before they become fire department problems.”



8AndreGarnerAndre A. Garner
Airport Operations Supervisor, Houston Airport System
Master of Business Administration in Energy Finance
Texas Southern University

“I chose to continue my education to strengthen my academic background, as well as prepare me for future promotional opportunities within the City of Houston job force. I plan to apply my recent learnings by identifying opportunities that will aide in cost savings, improve productivity utilizing technology, develop strategic plans for team involvement, and increase efficiencies in the Houston Airport System.”

9DonellaGomillionDonella Gomillion
Financial Analyst III, Planning and Development Department
Master of Public Administration/Government Management
Keller Graduate School of Management

“After my time in the Navy and working within the Department of Defense, I knew I wanted to stay in service of the public. Getting my first position within the City of Houston, was a great opportunity to achieve that goal. Completing this degree has allowed me to increase my pace of professional development and stay within the public service and nonprofit fields of work.”

10Sarah Robinson headshotSarah Gossett Robinson
Senior Community Liaison, Houston Public Works 
Master of Natural Resource Development
Texas A&M University

“I chose to pursue a master’s degree while working full time because I saw the need for an advanced degree to achieve future career goals, but was too happy in my current job and career path to give that up. Plus, my degree’s focus on natural resource development balances my passions with my current job in outreach and education about water issues in Houston. I hope this balance will reflect in future opportunities within my position to better merge the conversation around infrastructure, development, and natural resources. The concepts I’ve learned through this program have already provided so much valuable insight to my professional job!”

11AbrahamIzaguerreAbraham Izaguirre
Administrative Aide, Legal Department
Associates Degree in Accounting
Houston Community College 

“After high school, I started working for the City of Houston back in 2008. I decided to go back to school to get my associate degree but I wasn't sure in what. I did it for my family and show my kids that they can do anything they set their minds to.”

12Lohoues Washington, Metchm PictureMetchm Anne-Jesus Lohoues-Washington
Grants Analyst/Administrative Coordinator,
Housing and Community Development Department
Master of Public Services and Administration
Texas A&M University Bush School of Government

“When I was a child, I was blessed to know the career I wanted to pursue early on. Continuing my education was part of a step towards fulfilling my ‘why’— that deeply planted seed to contribute to the well-being of others. As a public servant, I plan on integrating the innovative concepts and theories learned through the rigorous MPSA program by further developing and efficiently implementing the city’s resources and processes to better serve our vulnerable residents.”

13CyranoMacheyCyrano P. Machey
Senior Customer Service Clerk, Houston Public Library
Associate of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies
Lone Star College

“I decided to go back and complete my degree because I finally decided what career path I want to pursue. I would like to pursue a career in Education. I will be starting baccalaureate coursework at University of Houston-Downtown this fall. I will be pursuing a Bachelor of Science in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in English. I am hoping to become an English teacher.”

14RenitaMaduRenita Madu
Physician Assistant, Houston Health Department
Doctor of Public Health
University of Texas Health Science Center 

“My main goal is to educate new generations and ultimately consult in building healthier communities in association with my clinical background as a PA-C. I also feel that I can make a more permanent and profound impact with a degree that allows for the potential for growth in educating and influencing future teams and leaders, as well as building and creating systems that benefit all populations accessing our health care systems.

“I focused on a degree that combined all facets of public health: research, management, policy, epidemiology, economics and biostatistics, ultimately providing me with a foundation for strategic leadership and operations management to not only fulfill the goals of adequately managing and establishing set workflows in community settings but to specifically understand the complexities involved in the delivery of healthcare while considering costs, quality and the health of populations influenced by social determinants of health.”

15PhillipMalekPhilip Malek
Senior Human Resources Generalist/Recruiter,
Human Resources for HFD
Bachelor of Arts in applied administration
University of Houston Downtown

“I chose the Applied Administration program because it tied directly into my work with the city. I decided to continue my education endeavors at the University of Houston Downtown and I’m currently in a Master’s Program for Nonprofit Management.”

16CharleseaMontgomeryCharlesea Montgomery
Administrative Assistant, Human Resources Department
Master of Business Administration in Human Resource Management
University of Houston-Victoria

“I chose to continue my education and obtain my master’s because I felt that I would benefit from expanding my knowledge and acquire new skills within the field of human resources. The skills that I obtained while pursuing my master’s has better equipped me for the field in which I am.”

17NoeSanchezNoe Sanchez
Senior Plan Analyst, Houston Public Works
Master of Business Administration
University of Houston-Clear Lake

“It has always been one of my goals to continue my education and grow into becoming a great leader. Being a first-generation college graduate, I also wanted to make my parents proud, as they sacrificed so much to help me succeed in my career. After two years of working full time while going to school, I finished my MBA program and will apply my knowledge and skills into a management position.”

18KennethSansonKenneth Sanson
Senior Captain, Houston Fire Department
Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences
Texas A&M-San Antonio

“As one of the senior officers assigned to Hobby Airport, I felt that is was imperative to finish my degree. With Homeland Security Laws and Regulations always in a constant flux and interacting with numerous local, state, federal agencies and the private sector, I felt that it would benefit me to learn as much as I could to better serve not only my firefighting crew but the flying public as well.”

19Ashley SprigginsAshley Spriggins
Administrative Specialist, Human Resources Department
Master of Business Administration
American Intercontinental University

“I chose to continue my education to achieve my goals as well as be an example for my family. Most importantly, I wanted to be an example for my children, by reminding them to always chase their dreams and to never settle.

“While continuing my education I was able to identify my truest passion, which is to someday become a business owner. Furthering my education helped me to improve both written and verbal communication skills to support my career. I am now able to apply tools received from my time served in the Air Force as well as management skills I’ve attained from receiving my Master of Business Administration. My MBA degree provides me with tools to communicate more effectively, complete tasks more efficiently, embrace innovation, as well as new leadership skills. Continuing to further my education in the midst of a pandemic, has also reminded me that I am resilient. We tend to become complacent with life and this experience has allowed me to see that if I remain focused and determined, I can achieve anything. Therefore, I encourage those willing to further their education to not only go for it but also end it with great success.”

20RachelSteppeRachel D. Stepp
Mass Care Coordinator, Office of Emergency Management
Master of Science in Emergency Management and Homeland Security
Walden University

“Most of my career had involved responding to disaster. Some of those disasters include the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, the 2011 Tohoku tsunamis, the Laotian Civil Crisis in Laos, Asia, and countless disasters within the borders of our country. However, it was not until Hurricane Harvey happened that I gained a passion for true emergency management. During Hurricane Harvey, I was a Raleigh, N.C.,

resident deployed to Texas for storm response with Team Rubicon. Day in and day out, I watched on as leaders came together from the city, county, region, and state to inspire the Houston community to remain strong. These leaders used their power to delegate empowerment through the entire response and recovery phase. It was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. The cohesion and respect left me awestruck. When I returned home to North Carolina, I decided that I too had the same passion, knowledge, power and enthusiasm to be a part of the team in Houston. Immediately I enrolled in this master’s program (this is my second master’s degree), sold my business in North Carolina, changed Team Rubicon chapters, and moved to Houston.

“The graduate program took me 18 months to complete. It was difficult working eight hours per day or sometimes more, then coming home to do four to five hours of research and homework every night of the week to include my weekends. I recall not having time to eat many of those nights. But it was worth it! The knowledge that I gained throughout the program has strengthened my understanding of the emergency management and homeland security field. I’m proud to be a Houstonian and proud to be equipped to serve my city!”

21ChatsubaWalterChatsuba J. Walter
Customer Service Representative I, Houston Public Works
Associate in Business Management
Eastern Gateway Community College

“I believe that furthering my education, no matter what age, shows the willingness to learn new things. As a newly acquired Business Management Associate Degree holder, I plan to use what I’ve learned as a platform to gain a new position in the utility department and someday own my own bookkeeping business.”

Rachel Quevedo Jimenez 2020Rachel Quevedo Jimenez
Public Health Investigator, Houston Health Department
Division of Disease and Prevention and Contro
Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Navigation – Summa Cum Laude

As a first-generation graduate, my perseverance and determination came from the desire to set a good example for my family. I am honored and grateful to achieve this milestone with highest honors at the University of Houston-Downtown.

My future academic goal is to pursue my master’s degree in Public Health, so I can be a continuous help to my community.