NMC student is top in the state after overcoming great challenges

TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College student Kathy Tahtinen has been named the “New Century Scholar” for Michigan.

Tahtinen received the highest score in the state on the All-USA Community College Academic Team Application which measures grades, leadership, activities and most importantly, how students extend their intellectual talents beyond the classroom.

This honor is especially meaningful for Tahtinen, a returning college student. She graduated from Traverse City Central High School in 1994 but had only one year of college before her life took a different turn, namely becoming a mother to two sons. She joined the workforce, but lost her job in the economic downturn. After two and a half years of unemployment, she decided to enroll at NMC in 2011.

Returning to school was scary, she told her teachers then. Initial placement exams indicated she was underprepared for college and she was now a single mother to teenagers. On top of all the usual demands teenagers impose, Tahtinen’s older son, Dominic, has been challenged by progressive hearing loss since birth.

But once enrolled in NMC’s Bridge program designed for nontraditional students, her confidence and ambition were unveiled. She has a cumulative 3.95 GPA, even while taking honors level courses. She is a member of NMC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the community college honor society, works full-time for Inland Seas Education Association as well as seasonal part-time jobs and will graduate with three associate degrees this spring.

Tahtinen is considering various options to continue her education, including beginning the process of applying to Harvard University for an extension program.

“It makes me really excited,” she said.

During this last year at NMC she has also shared classes with her son, who’s dual-enrolled as a high school senior. They sit next to each other in science class.

“For me, it’s a proud moment to have my son following in my educational journey,” she said.

Tahtinen will receive a $2,000 scholarship and be recognized March 24 at the Phi Theta Kappa Annual Convention in Lansing, April 20 at the American Association of College Presidents AACC Convention in San Antonio and then May 1 at NMC’s Honors Convocation.

Fifty community college students from the United States and American Samoa were named 2015 New Century Scholars — receiving a total of $100,000 in scholarships. The New Century Scholars Program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Phi Theta Kappa, and the American Association of Community Colleges.

More than 1,700 students were nominated from more than 1,000 community colleges for recognition.

Release date: March 6, 2015

For more information:

Diana Fairbanks
Executive Director of Public Relations, Marketing and Communications
(231) 995-1019



Northwestern Michigan College is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all persons and does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability, genetic information, height, weight, marital status or veteran status in employment, educational programs and activities, and admissions. nmc.edu/non-discrimination