FLAGSTAFF -- Marie Johnson is a mother of three daughters, a wife and a longtime Flagstaff Medical Center employee. She is also on her way to becoming one of FMC's newest registered nurses and one of 20 students in Coconino Community College's first graduating class from its FMC Institute for Nursing Education.
Mowana Honyumptewa is also among CCC's firsts this spring. After 10 years waiting tables in Flagstaff, she is the college's first graduate from its hotel and restaurant management program.
Johnson, originally from Forest Lake on the Navajo and Hopi Reservation, earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo.
She has put that degree to work in her job in FMC's surgical services department. However, after reaching the top level in her position, she decided to go back to school.
"Education is a priority because it is through education that you have broader opportunities to market yourself for better jobs," Johnson said. "In nursing, you always have a job wherever you are and there are all kinds of specialty areas and opportunities to learn something new."
Johnson plans to take the state nursing test in June and already has a job lined up in the orthopedic medical surgical department at FMC.
"It will be exciting and rewarding to work in that area because I know a lot of the Native American population has orthopedic surgery and that's a way for me to serve my community."
Because she is fluent in Navajo, Johnson said she will be able to help communicate with Navajo patients.
"I think I will be in big demand."
She is considering taking more classes to become certified as a medical translator.
"I am glad to represent the Navajo Nation. I hope a lot of new high school graduates will pursue college educations and healthcare careers," she says.
Meantime, Honyumptewa, who is both Hopi and Navajo, plans to put her educational and practical training to use by one day running her own restaurant.
"I'd like to stay close to home, maybe have a restaurant in Flagstaff or Sedona or Prescott," she says.
Honyumptewa, who has a 3-year-old daughter, says she has been able to juggle her family and work schedule with her at classes at CCC.
"I've really liked the program," she said. "I like what I do and I'm happy to be receiving a degree in something that I enjoy."
Honyumptewa says she plans to earn her bachelor's degree in hotel and restaurant management at Northern Arizona University and recommends the community college route to higher education. "
The classes are small and not intimidating at CCC," she said. "The professors and faculty seem real and you can contact them. You can get help there any time you need it."
Both Johnson and Honyumptewa are part of CCC's graduating class of 2005, the college's largest class ever at 175 students receiving more than 180 degrees and certificates.
(Bonnie Stevens is Public Relations Coordinator at Coconino Community College.)