The annual All-Washington event celebrates two outstanding students from each community and technical college in Washington. The event, which will be celebrated online April 15, is hosted by South Puget Sound Community College. Gina Marie Jones and Katrina Wangen will represent TCC.
Gina Marie Jones
Maintaining a 4.0 GPA while working two jobs isn’t easy, but Gina Marie Jones is motivated by two factors: an intense need to continue learning, and a life experience that has taught her to work hard to reach her goals. Jones’s family was not financially well off, and as a child she was very aware that she was working towards adulthood. She focused on school, something she could control.
“School brought me joy, because with learning, I found my horizons expanded,” Jones said. “Experiences were greater to me than things I could buy. You can’t buy knowledge; you have to pursue it with an open mind.”
Though she is a member of international community college honors society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), Jones has had little time for PTK involvement between school and jobs. She hopes that next year will bring more free time for volunteering and school activities.
Jones currently helps her fellow students as a Head Tutor in the Math, Advising and Resource Center (MARC). Last spring she and her fellow tutors found themselves challenged by the sudden need to move all tutoring online. Jones was part of the team who figured out how to make online math tutoring work, and her role was to create the online tutoring manual for staff and students.
Majoring in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Jones plans to earn a doctorate and pursue a research position as a geneticist, researching genetic diseases which currently have no treatment or cure.
“It grieves me immensely to know that there are children who suffer from the day they are born until they die due to these diseases. I am sure that with my motivation and determination, I could help someone,” Jones said.
Jones is keenly aware of the unwelcoming and discriminatory environments women entering Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields often face. She feels ready to not only face such challenges herself, but to improve the environment for other women.
“I hope to build a research team that advocates for women in the STEM field, as well as minorities underrepresented in the field,” Jones said. “Once I become a researcher, I will make it my mission to advocate at schools so that other girls are aware that they can become a researcher.”
After Katrina Wangen finishes her associate degree at Tacoma Community College this summer she plans to transfer to the University of Central Florida. Eventually, she hopes to obtain a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering.
Wangen is a Running Start student, and in order to graduate with both her high school and college diplomas this summer she had to regularly take more than 15 credits per quarter – including one memorable quarter when she took Chemistry, Physics, Calculus and Statistics. Wangen credits her mother, who served in the military, with teaching her how to truly believe she can do anything, no matter how long it takes.
“Thanks to my mother, her experiences, and her encouragement, I have become a woman who is not afraid to work hard and who is willing to go above and beyond to finish the things that need to be done,” Wangen said.
At TCC, Wangen is active in international community college honors society Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). She has won multiple awards, including national recognition for leadership and academics. Her involvement with PTK’s Edge program, along with her hours spent volunteering with the Tacoma Rescue Mission, the Tacoma Pierce County Library System and the YMCA have taught her about service-focused leadership.
“A leader is not necessarily the person who is the best at something, instead, a leader is the person who will work hard while still connecting with people and putting others first,” Wangen said. “I believe a leader should be the team member working the hardest and trying to set the standard for the group.”
Wangen’s own life didn’t change much as a result of the pandemic, and she knew that made her one of the lucky ones. So she chose to spend more time volunteering at the Tacoma Rescue Mission.
“Volunteering at Tacoma Rescue Mission has broadened my horizons and made sure that I will no longer fall into the trap of judging people based on their outside appearances,” Wangen said.
Wangen plans to carry her service-oriented attitude forward into her career as a Chemical Engineer. She hopes to work for the United States Food and Drug Administration, testing pharmaceutical drugs to make sure potential problems are caught and fixed before products reach consumers.