2014-2015 Wall of Honor
Audrey Self knows that life can change in the blink of an eye.
Audrey was homeschooled and came to Richland in 2010 as a dual credit student. She maintained a 3.96 GPA and earned an Associate of Science degree while also volunteering extensively in numerous ways. Her outstanding grades and dedication earned her a full scholarship at Southern Methodist University. Audrey’s hard work was paying off.
Everything changed on November 21, 2013, when Audrey was in a devastating car accident on her way to class at SMU. The accident left Audrey with serious injuries, including severe brain trauma, a collapsed lung and a broken arm in three places. The deputy chief with Dallas Fire and Rescue who was first on the scene didn’t expect Audrey to make it to the hospital. The ER nurse didn’t think she would survive the day. According to the "Journal of Neuroscience", 90 percent of patients with Audrey’s diagnosis never regain consciousness.
But within one month of the accident, Audrey was breathing on her own – a remarkable accomplishment.
Audrey’s goal is a complete recovery. As a gifted musician, she wants to be able to play Vivaldi concertos. After several surgeries and extensive therapy to repair her arm, Audrey recently started taking violin lessons again.
"I want to work and teach and play music and help people," said Audrey.
In addition to her music, Audrey also plans on returning to SMU to complete her education. SMU is holding that full scholarship for her until she is ready.
Bill Holston credits Richland College with getting his professional life on the right track.
"I appreciated getting a quality education I could pay for", said Bill. "My professors all cared, were accessible and provided a great, well-rounded education. I would not have been able to get a degree, a 30-year law career and now a human rights profession without that beginning."
Bill attended Richland College from 1974 to 1976 and later went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Dallas and a law degree from Southern Methodist University.
During his law career, Bill tried jury and non-jury cases in federal and state court and conducted oral arguments in numerous State Courts of Appeal and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. His practice focused on bankruptcy and creditor’s rights, business transactions, civil trial and appellate, church and Canon law, equipment leasing law, probate and surety law.
Since 1987, Bill has provided pro bono legal representation for political and religious asylum applicants, assisting clients from 20 countries in Immigration Court or before the Houston Asylum Office. He has volunteered his services to the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas since its founding in 2000, and in 2012 Bill left his law practice to become the organization’s executive director.
In 1997, Bill received the Outstanding Political Asylum Lawyer Award from the Dallas Bar Association. In 2002, he received an award for Distinguished Pro Bono Service by the Dallas Bar Association’s Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. He was awarded in 2005 with the Angel of Freedom Award by the Human Rights Initiative and was also awarded the President’s Award by the Dallas Hispanic Bar Association. Recently, the SMU Dedman School of Law named Bill the 2015 Distinguished Alumni for Public Service.
Despite living in economic poverty, Claudia Graves grew up in a household rich in love and support.
As the oldest of three children in Lima, Peru, Claudia often helped take care of her younger sisters while her mother sold food on the streets. Her family always encouraged her educational pursuits, and she was a great student.
Claudia noticed the educational system in Peru lacked many opportunities for women. Frustrated and forced to withdraw from school because of limited financial resources, Claudia decided to learn English in hopes it would help her get a better job. Her grandmother, who was illiterate, was especially encouraging and supportive of Claudia’s dream to learn a new language.
It was at this time that Claudia entered a beauty pageant in her native city, and the winner would receive a trip to the U.S. After beating 39 other contestants and winning, Claudia was able to apply for a visa to come to the U.S. and realize her dreams of a better education for herself.
Claudia started attending Richland College in 1998 and received an Associate of Arts. She later received a bachelor’s degree in humanities and a master’s degree in dispute resolution and conflict management from Southern Methodist University. Today, she works at SMU as the director of the international office.
"Richland is and will always be my home," said Claudia. "I became an adult in the halls of Richland. I met my husband and friends I now call family. I held my first professional job, and I was given the chance to help others who felt lost with the system."
"Richland taught me that my dreams were possible."
When Linda Dao first came to Richland College, she spoke almost no English.
Linda grew up in Vietnam; her father was an American who fought in the war but left the family when Linda was only three-years-old. Because of her father’s heritage, Linda was ostracized and bullied by the community, teachers and government officials.
Linda, her mother and sister eventually were forced to do agricultural work in a rural area of Vietnam to survive, and Linda had to leave school in 8th grade to work in the rice fields by day and as a seamstress by night. Linda and her family emigrated to the U.S. in 1991, and Linda worked on an assembly line for several years before finding the English for Speakers of Other Languages program at Richland College.
Linda graduated with her Associate of Science in accounting in 1998 and then transferred to the University of Texas at Dallas to earn her bachelor’s degree in business administration. In 2013, Linda received an M.B.A. from Texas Woman’s University.
"Richland College opened the door for me to learn and pursue my dream," said Linda.
While pursuing her bachelor’s degree at UT Dallas, Linda worked at Richland College. Her husband also works at Richland College, further cementing the school’s important role in her life.
"I feel Richland College is my home since I worked and studied at the same time here," said Linda. "The library was a place for me to do research papers and also a relaxing place after studying. Richland built my confidence, education and career."
Today, Linda works as a financial affairs manager at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Despite a slow start to his educational pursuits, Quentin Rhoads-Herrera is now thriving.
As a teenager, education wasn’t important to Quentin. He got into fights, skipped school and ignored his studies. After being kicked out of school, Quentin got his GED and decided to join the U.S. Army, in which he served for almost five years. His service included deploying overseas.
It was after his military career was over that Quentin decided to give his education another shot. He enrolled at Richland College in the summer of 2013, and since then he has thrived.
"When I first started going to college, I didn’t have very high expectations," Quentin said. "But when I made my first A, which happened to be in my first class ever, I started to realize I could do this. Currently I have a 4.0 GPA, which is a huge success for me, and I am a member of Phi Theta Kappa, which really made me feel proud as it was the first time I was recognized for my education."
Quentin is currently working on his Associate of Science. He hopes to transfer to the University of Texas at Dallas next spring to pursue a bachelor degree and a master’s, and eventually he hopes to earn a doctorate degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
When not at work or doing homework, Quentin helps other students study for tests and grasp difficult concepts in their classes. He also does contract IT work and donates a portion of the proceeds to charitable organizations.