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Meet Your PALS

Your highly trained PALS are students like you who come from diverse backgrounds, and many are the first in their family to attend college. They have experienced similar challenges to those you may be going through and can share what they did to overcome them and create success at EMCC.


Cassie Kline

Cassie Kline

Field of Interest (FOI): Health Sciences (Nursing)

How to Contact Me: or on Cranium Café

Major/Degree Pathway: In Spring of 2021 I earned my Associates of Arts degree. In late June I applied for the Nursing program at Estrella. I plan on doing the Nursing program at Estrella along with the Concurrent Enrollment Program (CEP).

Expected Graduation: Spring 2021

Next Steps: I plan on getting a spot in the Nursing program at Estrella while I do the CEP program with Ottawa University. Also, work part time during that time. After all that start working as a registered nurse.

Career Goal: I want to become an experienced nurse to discover what more I want to do/be as a nurse. As I continue my schooling and career, I will learn more about who I am as a nurse.

Why I Wanted to be a PAL: I struggled my first year of college and some life things made it a bit more difficult. I did not have a mentor to help guide me through steps I should take for health sciences. I do not want you to feel lost and not have someone to help you along your journey. I have a passion to help others and will try the best I can to help you.

What I'd Like You to Know About Me: I was born in Arizona and lived here for most of my life. When I was about preschool age my family and I lived in Iowa for 2 years because my dad is from Iowa. I have a beagle named Paris Snoopy and I love her so much. I love to listen to music while I clean, cook, or do any art crafts.

Grant Smith

Grant Smith

Field of Interest (FOI): Computer and Information Technology

How to Contact Me: or on Cranium Café

Major/Degree Pathway: Associate of Arts and Applied Science, Emphasis in Information Technology; Microsoft Networking Technology, 90/30 program at Estrella and Northern Arizona University.

Expected Graduation: Fall 2021

Next Steps: After I graduate from EMCC’s 90/30 program I will continue to Northern Arizona University online. I want to try and participate in internships while I am in school at Banner Health, Honeywell, or Intel when they are available. I plan to graduate from NAU by 2023.

Career Goal: To work for a government sector/department as I already do. While the pay is less, the job security is fantastic along with the benefits I receive with the job.

Why I Wanted to be a PAL: I want to be a PAL and mentor other students because of a personal experience that I had with Estrella Mountain's program called Engage Estrella. Engage Estrella is where I found my actual degree, a great mentor, and it pushed me forward to look for internships.

What I'd like You to Know About Me: I was born in San Antonio but I have lived in Florida, Hawaii, and Japan. I have visited Los Angeles, Santa Cruz and the Philippines. My hobbies and skills that I want to learn more about are: playing guitar, luthier, cooking, trying new dishes and drinks, soldering, and exploring. My favorite movie genre is Horror and a few of my favorites are: The Green Room, Noroi, I Saw the Devil, and Martyrs (2008, the French version). I like to watch soccer (Italian Serie A), NFL, and NBA. Lastly, I have two dogs and one is a German Shepherd pure breed and the other is a lab and pitbull mix.

Jacob Riesgo

Jacob Riesgo

Field of Interest (FOI): Behavioral Science and Human Services

How to Contact Me: or on Cranium Café

Major/Degree Pathway: Behavioral Science and Human Services

Expected Graduation: Summer 2022

Next Steps: I plan to graduate with an Associate in Arts, Emphasis in Psychology, and transfer over to ASU to complete a bachelor's degree in psychology.

Career Goal: After graduating with a Bachelors I hope to be working in the field while pursuing my masters degree as well.

Why I Wanted to be a PAL: I wanted to be a pal because I understand the struggles that come with adapting to college life. I also wanted to be part of an environment that welcomes students and allows them to be more immersed in the lifestyle that is being a college student. I love to meet new people no matter where they are in their journey and I love to help others and support them along the way.

What I'd Like You to Know About Me: I was born in Arizona so I know that the heat here can be brutal, but I absolutely love the weather when it’s nice and cool outside. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family whether that involves eating a meal with them, watching a movie, or just making conversation. Some of my hobbies include lifting weights and playing video games. I also love to watch NFL football. I have a love/hate relationship with coffee and energy drinks because they are so good, but I try not to lean on them for energy super often. Lastly, I try my best to meditate often, as for me it is one of the things, I do to alleviate stress. I hope I can be a great PAL!

Stephanie Peak

Stephanie Peak

Field of Interest (FOI): Elementary Education (AAEE)

How to Contact Me: or on Cranium Café

Major/Degree Pathway: Elementary Education (AAEE)

Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

Next Steps:I will begin my Bachelor of Science in Education (BSED) at NAU through EMCC in Fall 2022.

Career Goal: My short-term career goal is to become a kindergarten teacher, within the next five years. My long-term goal in the field of education is to become a principal, with a Master’s degree in Education (MED). My out of this world goal is to become a professor with a Ph.D. in Education.

Why I Wanted to be a PAL: As a first-generation college student, and single mom, I wanted to become a PAL to help others in similar situations succeed in their education. I believe if I had the advantage of a PAL when I started my degree 13 years ago, I would have graduated a lot sooner. I am looking forward to helping you be successful as you move forward in your education, please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you may have.

What I'd Like You to Know About Me: These are my two favorite quotes by C.S. Lewis: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”, “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.” These two quotes have gotten me through the most difficult times in my life, when I truly believed I could not go on. “The future is bright, and you are the future.” - David Granger, Former President of Guyana :)

Taylor Gilbert

Taylor Gilbert

Field of Interest (FOI): STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

How to Contact Me:

Major/Degree Pathway: Associates in Science, Emphasis in Engineering

Expected Graduation: Spring 2023

Next Steps: After getting an associates in science here at EMCC, I plan to continue my education at Arizona State University to get my bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Career Goal: I want to pursue a career in mechanical engineering, where I can help design and create new projects/ideas to better our future.

Why I Wanted to be a PAL: I wanted to become a PAL to try to get more connected to other students and to play a part in helping Estrella Mountain. I struggled quite a bit to get used to my classes along with trying to figure out how to study while balancing my outside life. I know how hard it is to adjust to college, and I want to help other students have an easier time than I did.

What I'd Like You to Know About Me: I was born and raised here in Arizona. I have traveled to Canada, Mexico, and about twelve different states in the US. Some of my hobbies are longboarding, art, trying a lot of new things (especially food), and spending a lot of time with family and friends. I also enjoy sports, as I have been in competitive swimming and soccer for a large portion of my life, but I also enjoy watching volleyball and snowboarding.

Thomas Mitchell

Thomas Mitchell

Field of Interest (FOI): STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and Applied Technology

How to Contact Me: or on Cranium Café

Major/Degree Pathway: Associates in Science with a major in Physics (emphasis in Astrophysics), 2NAU Program @ Estrella Mountain Community College

Expected Graduation: Spring 2022

Next Steps: After I graduate from EMCC’s 2NAU program, I will continue to get my BS (with a major in Astrophysics) at NAU. I want to also participate in internships over the summer in order to get some hands-on experience in my field of choice. After I graduate with my BS in Astrophysics, I plan to get my PhD in Astrophysics as well.

Career Goal: Now, my plan is to work either for government entities such as NASA, or private sectors like Space X or Blue Origin. If things change, I may try to go into research in order to make new discoveries in my field of Astrophysics. Either way, if my work has a net positive gain for humanity, I will be happy.

Why I Wanted to be a PAL: I wanted to be a PAL, because I remember coming into college with no clue to how things work. I was lost and ill-informed. I did not know where to go or what to do when I found out. To have a person to guide me and mentor me through that process, would have been a life saver. I never want any of my peers to feel like that. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I knew that I could make a difference. I just enjoy working with others as well, I am excited!

What I'd Like You to Know About Me: I was born here in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1997. I was born in South Phoenix but was moved to West Phoenix in 2000 by two of the most amazing, adopted parents in the world. I have a HUGE family. I have 16 siblings, not including me. I love them all, and I always have an amazing time with them. I have one dog that I love, her name is Sassy. She is 10 years old and still a firecracker! I also love music. I play the piano, bass, organ, and drums. I oftentimes make music during my free time. I love movies as well, my favorite is “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. Not saying it is the best movie, just that it is my favorite. As you can assume, I am a math and science lover. Some people call me a mad-man, others call me inspirational; I am just a guy who loves space and how it works. One final thing, I love to meet new people. This is a huge part of my personality, so I hope you are as excited as I am!