Superstition Mountain Campus’ Cole McClary earns March CAC Student of the Month Honor

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. – The son of a Mesa police lieutenant, Gold Canyon resident Cole McClary is unofficially a non-traditional college student despite being of traditional college age. 

McClary’s entire schooling, until his enrollment at Central Arizona College, was completed at home. Despite being homeschooled, McClary saw the transition as no big deal. 

“It wasn’t that bad. But there’s always that concern, ‘Is he going to be the socially awkward kid that doesn’t speak to anyone and just sits in a corner?’” 

McClary has done anything but sit in a corner since first stepping onto CAC’s Superstition Mountain Campus in the fall of 2011. Because of what amounts to a vast array of engagement, both on- and off-campus, McClary has been selected as CAC’s March Student of the Month. 

“It’s humbling,” the bespectacled, curly-haired McClary describes the honor. “And I’m almost apprehensive to use this word, but I would use the word ‘embarrassing.’” 

Clearly, McClary is a student who is loath to call attention to himself; but his actions and accomplishments have taken care of that - so much so that members of the CAC community can’t help but notice him. 

“As a valuable leader and an actively engaged student at CAC, Cole works hard to set other students up for success,” Tamara Cochran, honors professor at CAC, said. “His creativity, initiative and dedication continue to benefit those around him.” 

McClary benefits the students around him by working as a tutor in the SMC Learning Center for starters. When students walk into the Learning Center they know they are likely to receive the help they need. 

“Cole demonstrates excellent academic ability in his tutoring areas, and students appreciate his positive attitude and natural problem-solving ability,” Cochran explained. 

McClary’s academic ability was instilled during his homeschooling and has continued at the collegiate level as he progresses toward entry into an academic program of study - nursing - that continues to hold a reputation as one of the toughest in America. 

McClary has done so well academically that, in addition to recently earning a scholarship as part of the All-Arizona Academic Team, he is fully engrossed in the CAC honors program which requires its students to prepare and present an intricate research project. 

Naturally, as the son of a police lieutenant, McClary’s signature honors project was geared toward law enforcement - but with a twist. He studied the effects that stress has on a police officer’s reaction time. 

“Law enforcement was a field that I’ve considered going into,” he said. “But my project allowed me to go into more of the scientific side of how your body reacts. It was an anatomy, physiology kind of thing.” 

Through his project, McClary was able to take what he had learned in the nursing program and apply it to a field that surrounded him as he grew up. These are the kinds of challenges that McClary enjoys most about the honors program. 

“The honors program is great for allowing discussion. Whereas some classes are ‘Here’s the syllabus,’ there’s a lot more conversational type of stuff and a lot more group learning that occurs in the program.” 

Although his work with the Learning Center and the honors program might seem like enough to fill any student’s plate, those are just small bites in McClary’s world. 

In addition to those two time-consuming endeavors, McClary also is the treasurer of SMC’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa - the honor society of the two-year college – and vice president of SMC Student Leadership. He also is president of Christian Challenge, a group he founded with the help of a clergyman he met on campus. 

Despite not necessarily wearing the label as the “awkward, homeschooled kid,” McClary had some growing to do before he could establish himself as one of the most engaged student leaders on campus. 

“When I first came to CAC, I was more quiet, reserved. I went to class and went straight home,” he said. “But after I started getting involved, I started to expand who I was and I started to grow more confident in myself.” 

That confidence has led to what has now become a smorgasbord crammed onto McClary’s plate. The question then becomes: How does he find time to stay on top of all this? In answering this question, of course, he is quick to deflect any credit away from himself. 

“I am blessed to have friends who help me out. Other people who are in leadership positions and who are in my classes have all helped.” 

McClary cites a trip he took to the recently-held Student Public Policy Forum in Washington, D.C., as a prime example. Busy during the weeks directly before and after the weeklong trip, McClary nearly fell behind with his schoolwork. But thanks to notes taken by friends, he was able to stay current in his studies while tending to his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in Washington. 

When he’s not studying for classes McClary explains that most of his “social life” is either spent at CAC or at functions that are being held through the college. 

Due to his many leadership roles, McClary has had a chance to play a major role in Student Leadership’s participation in Relay for Life and has assisted in planning the upcoming Women’s Luncheon. 

But when he is actually able to tear himself away from all things CAC, McClary considers himself to be an outdoorsman. Mountain biking and backpacking are just some of the things that interest him away from school. 

As for his plans for the future, McClary hopes to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing and would, at some point, like to earn an ESL certificate so that he may teach English in a foreign country. 

Further down the road, McClary, who one would assume was born with a flair for working in emergency situations, hopes to use his education as a flight nurse, which he simply describes as working in “an ambulance in the air.” 

Between what he has already accomplished and what he hopes to achieve in the future, it’s safe to say that this homeschooled student has defied a misguided stereotype and refuses to put himself in a corner.

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