WALLA WALLA - As a young mom, wife, student and activist, Christina Stamper keeps a busy schedule.
The 28-year-old student at Walla Walla Community College has managed to run her own home as well as a small eco-friendly house-cleaning business. She finds time to maintain honor's grades and preside over her college's Go Green Club. And she found a produce-gleaning group, campaigning for Valley Transit and volunteering for various causes.
Stamper's achievements were recently recognized at the national level when she was named one of 20 community college students to make it to the USA TODAY All-USA Community College Academic Team for 2010.
Stamper was among more than 1,500 nominees from across the country to be selected for the top awards.
The honor was not lost on the college, which has selected nominees for the statewide academic team for years, but never had a student chosen for the national team until now.
"This is a big deal for Walla Walla Community College, and I think the community of Walla Walla," said WWCC President Steve VanAusdle.
VanAusdle attended an awards ceremony with Stamper in Seattle recently, and also received an award on behalf of the college.
The ceremony was a chance to meet the students from other colleges who are also doing good by their work, academically and in their communities.
"It just reminded me how important it is what we're doing, and gives you a lot of hope for the future with these young generations," VanAusdle said. "Christina's an impressive person. She has a great future ahead of her."
Stamper's road to achievement was not without obstacles. At 17, she had dropped out of high school and was expecting her first child. Around that time, her mother decided to return to school and earn her General Equivalency Diploma. The act inspired Stamper to earn her own GED in Kentucky, where she was living at the time.
It would be several years later before Stamper took another step toward furthering her education. In 2004, she left Kentucky and joined her mother, who had been living in Walla Walla. Once in town, Stamper spent a few years settling in before making the leap to higher education.
"I started investing in myself and that was important," she said.
At Walla Walla Community College, where Stamper's mother earned her GED, Stamper found a support system that helped her thrive. And she soon started racking up her achievements.
One of her first steps as a student was to quit her full-time server job and form Au Naturale, a house-cleaning business that uses natural products. The job allows her to set easier hours at good pay, while doing work she enjoys.
"I wanted to do more with my life, and I wanted to feel like the work I was doing was important," she said. It also allows more free time with her husband, Nathan; her daughter, Lillian, 10; and son, Zachary, 6.
Through the community college's Students in Service program, Stamper is close to completing 900 hours of volunteer work. Part of her volunteer work in Walla Walla has been with the Sustainable Living Center, and with the Valley Transit campaign that helped save the city's public transportation system.
Stamper sees volunteering, combined with furthering her education, as the best path to success. Although her education will be a boost, the practical experience she has gained from volunteering is what will really pay off, she said.
"I want to be able to be employable," she said.
Stamper graduates from Walla Walla Community College in June and hopes to attend Whitman College in the fall. She has already started taking courses there through the Gateway Program, which sends local community college students to Whitman. Her goal is to pursue degrees in sociology and environmental studies.
The All-USA Community College Academic Team is sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The team recognizes students who demonstrate outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership. Each of the 20 students will receive a $2,500 cash award.
Stamper said one of the highlights of the award was the chance to meet students from community colleges across the country who are also doing impressive things in their communities.
"It was really amazing to see people my age doing really inspirational things," she said. "It gave me ideas."