Posted on April 30th in General

We are PTK: The 2019-20 International Officers

Five students were elected during PTK Catalyst 2019 to represent more than 250,000 active Phi Theta Kappa members as International Officers for the 2019-2020 academic year. It will be a leadership development experience like none other.

As a group, the officer team works together to impact the mission, strategic plan, and vision of the organization, and the team members provide professional development to members at local, regional, and international events. Individually, each officer is given personal and professional development opportunities to promote success in their next steps in life — whether that is to transfer to a four-year college or university or enter directly into the workforce.

You’ll be seeing a lot of these students over the year ahead — get to know them each a little better below.

James Elliott, International President
Delaware Technical Community College – Wilmington Campus, Delaware

What was your primary reason for accepting PTK membership?
At the time, my primary reason was to be involved with my chapter’s Honors in Action Project. I did not know much about PTK, but I was eager to help with the project. It was the summer of 2017, and they had chosen to research the spike in violence in the city of Wilmington. Having just been released from prison, this was a topic I discussed and researched to a great extent during my incarceration. Involvement in this Honors in Action Project exposed me to all the great opportunities Phi Theta Kappa has to offer community college students, and needless to say, I became hooked.

What is your college major? What was the biggest factor in deciding on your major?
I am currently pursuing a dual degree in Human Services and Drug & Alcohol Counseling. Before my incarceration, I did not have a purpose or any direction in life. Much of my time revolved around drugs — selling and using. Being incarcerated opened my eyes to all the opportunities I wasted. As a result, I became very active in the prison’s programming, facilitating numerous programs while also working in the chapel. This work helped me develop a servant’s heart. Additionally, I enrolled at Ohio University and started courses to learn about the field of Human Services. This foundation of servitude carried over to my release. When I enrolled at Delaware Tech, I knew serving others was my purpose in life. I believe my story could be used in this field to help others overcome similar situations as mine.

What is one hobby or interest you enjoy in your free time?
Playing with my daughter Vaeda is easily my favorite thing to do. Every day she is discovering something new about this big world, and I love to witness and be an active part in her discovery. Watching her walk, developing her vocabulary, and learning how to play with new toys is very gratifying. Hearing her say, “Dada,” seeing her smiles, and watching her waddle — all make me laugh. She is my new best friend, and I am so proud to be her father.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
If I could travel anywhere, it would be Greece. The ancient Greek culture has a rich history of inventions, discoveries, and art. The ancient Greek ruins, along with the artwork of that era, are spectacular. I love to read about and have always been fascinated with ancient mythology on the Greek gods and goddesses. In particular, Santorini is a city I would love to visit. The landscape there is the most beautiful thing I have seen, at least in pictures. The houses and buildings on the side of the mountains that overlook the bright blue ocean are breathtaking.

Jenna Santacroce, International Vice President, Division 1
Bergen Community College, New Jersey

What is your college major? What was the biggest factor in deciding on your major?
My college major is environmental sustainability and policy, with a focus on animal rights. I’ve been told that if you choose something you love, you will never work a day in your life. I chose to pursue this degree because I have a great appreciation for both nature and animals. There is a serious threat to our Earth, and I do not want to see any species, including humans, suffer from our faults. It is our job to maintain a healthy Earth for both ourselves and for our children, and I would be happy to spend the rest of my life doing everything in my power to lessen the threat posed to our planet.

What is your ultimate career goal?
My ultimate career goal is to become an environmental policy analyst. This career will allow me to do my part in protecting our planet by researching and evaluating current policies and their effectiveness. As an environmental policy analyst, my team and I will have the ability to reconsider ineffective policies and propose new suggestions for legislation. To me, this is increasingly important because, in order to see a change, we need to work as a whole. New laws that focus primarily on environmental conservation will help us do just that by providing a positive structure for us to follow.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
I would like to travel the world as much as possible. If I could choose one place to begin this journey, it would be Kruger National Park in South Africa. Kruger National Park is a protected nature preserve that operates as a wildlife conservation initiative. This park aims to better the relationship between humans and wildlife by establishing a conservation-friendly community. Visiting Kruger National Park, supporting this wildlife conservation initiative, and observing the elephants, leopards, and other wildlife the park is home to would be an incredible and rewarding experience.

My best friend says that I am…
An optimist, and I always find the good in any situation. She says I am positive and view every setback as an opportunity for growth. She also says that I can be a bit of a goofball.

Neville Scott, International Vice President, Division 2
Mountain View College, Texas

What was your primary reason for accepting PTK membership?
Well, honestly, for scholarships. This is because I did not know much about PTK. After joining, I got introduced into a family of exceptionally motivated students who are extremely inspired to excel, and who would later play a major role in my growth as a scholar and a member of society. Since then, I have never regretted the choice.

What is one hobby or interest you enjoy in your free time?
I am a musician. I play a lot of piano, when sad or happy. I do write music, and I love using music to heal. I do play at several hotels and churches, and it really is something that I really enjoy doing. I enjoy reading and traveling, too.

Why did you run for International Office?
Everybody has a uniqueness; a shine that ought to be shared. I realized my shine after battling depression, low self-esteem, and mental health. This made me understand that most scholars go through the same but are often unable to handle them appropriately, so that led me to wanting to use my existence as a personal testimony, my voice as a voice of reason amongst my peers with nothing but a message of love, and my entire existence as activism for better mental health practices.

What are you passionate about?
Reconstruction of humanity. The state of humanity is wanting, and that has never been okay with me. In our current society, hate drives people to commit outrageous atrocities against people who subscribe to different beliefs. This is why it is normal for one to walk into a religious institution such as churches and mosques and open fire on the congregants. Recently, there have been a lot of school shootings thanks to hate, and I really do feel we can do something to resuscitate the state of humanity for the better.

Tyler McKenzie, International Vice President, Division 3
Redlands Community College, Oklahoma

What is your ultimate career goal?
I would eventually like to attain the position of a physician — more specifically, an endocrinologist. My father was diagnosed with diabetes at a young age, and I have witnessed its detrimental effects on one’s health. I want to help not only people like my father, but also anyone struggling with the burden of illness.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
On my bucket list, I have made it a priority to visit Rome. The historical value of Rome is too great to ignore. My grandparents, who have visited multiple times, have told me how enveloped the area is with spectacular architecture, beautiful art, and an abundance of food. I would love to experience this for myself one day.

The food you could eat every day is…
I was introduced to pho about two years ago by my boyfriend. Pho is a type of Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, steak, and delicious broth. Ever since then, we visit Pho OKC practically every other week. You can tell we go too often because the manager knows us on a first-name basis and our exact order.

What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about equal opportunity and merit. I am the type of person that will dignify others based on their character rather than the background they may come from. We live in a world where this aspect of judgment is severely lacking. I have encountered multiple discrepancies and missed opportunities because of my sexual preference and not whether I was qualified for them. I have made it a goal in my life to eliminate stereotypes of the LGBT+ community and prove that who I love does not make me any less worthy of ambition.

Adrian Balaj, International Vice President, Division 4
Sacramento City College, California

Why did you run for International Office?
I ran for the position to be a role model and example for many students to follow. Through my experience of going to a four-year university, failing, dropping out, and making a comeback by re-enrolling at a two-year community college, I want to advocate for upcoming college freshmen to not listen to the mainstream society that tells them they must attend a university right out of high school. Through PTK, I want to show them that a two-year colleges offers much more for new college students.

Describe your campaigning experience:
Campaigning for the position was an amazing experience. I did not expect so many people to attend the conference. I met many wonderful individuals who had unique yet so similar stories, which I related with so much. I also had a very supportive and close campaign team and had my amazing boyfriend Omar lead my campaign as manager. I believe even if I knew I was not going to be elected, I would have still gone through the process of campaigning.

What are you passionate about?
I am very passionate about people and politics. I am a political science student and would love to work in public policy. I love how public policy impacts everyday human lives, and for me, serving others is the highest fulfillment in life.

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
One of the places I would love to go is Africa to explore the diverse and unique culture they have and learn about the motherland of where all people originate from.

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