Stanford University Awards MHCC Instructor for Exceptional Teaching

Nicci Harwood (right) receives an award from Stanford University via Diane Noriega, chair of the Mt. Hood Community College District Board of Education, and Debbie Derr, MHCC president.
Nicci Harwood (right) receives an award from Stanford University via Diane Noriega, chair of the Mt. Hood Community College District Board of Education, and Debbie Derr, MHCC president.

It was a well-kept secret at Mt. Hood Community College – until the Nov. 13 Board meeting, that is. Under the guise of hearing a report about a program in which Nicci Harwood serves as adviser, the Board instead turned the tables and announced that she had won the Teacher Tribute Initiative award from Stanford University for exceptional teaching.

Members of Stanford’s incoming class were invited to acknowledge one former teacher or mentor “who played a significant role in their intellectual, academic, social and personal development.” Tuan Anh Tran Caraballo, a 2013 MHCC graduate and pre-med student who received a “full ride” scholarship to Stanford, nominated Harwood, his adviser in the TRIO program.

In a letter to Harwood, Richard Shaw, Stanford dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid, wrote, “President John Hennessy and I are proud to join Tuan in recognizing the commitment and care with which you approach your teaching and mentoring. Throughout the next few years, Tuan will undoubtedly call on the important foundation and support that you have helped craft. We look forward to joining you as we proudly watch Tuan’s continued successes at Stanford and beyond.”

Upon hearing that she had won the prestigious teaching award from Stanford, and that her coworkers had secretly videotaped a message from Caraballo that played at the board meeting, Harwood said she was “shocked and thrilled.” Also, “Helping Tuan and other students to achieve their dreams is just part of my job.”

Tuan Anh Tran Caraballo, Class of ‘13
Tuan Anh Tran Caraballo
Class of ‘13

Harwood recalls their first meeting. “Tuan told me he was going to transfer to a top caliber university. He had all the confidence in the world, and I believed him. He’s very focused. When he says he’s going to accomplish something, you just know it’s true.”

Caraballo wrote the following for Harwood’s nomination: “There is an eastern philosophical belief that says that human evolution has been able to progress swiftly due to the incarnation of great spiritual entities. I can definitely say that Nicci Harwood is a spirit of light; a great soul, because she has made me evolve and grow not only academically, but also personally. She has listened to me, and she has given me confidence, guidance and love in the moments I have most needed it. Without her presence, I would not have achieved what I have. Thank you, Nicci.”

And, Caraballo has achieved much in his 23 years.

After high school in Havana, Cuba, he set his sights on the U.S. He flew first to Vietnam (his father is Vietnamese, his mother Cuban) and then to Mexico. Once in the U.S., he had just enough cash to make it to Gresham, where he knew he could enroll at MHCC and take classes to help him learn English.

He entered MHCC’s TRIO Student Support Services, a federal program that helps eligible students pursue a bachelor’s degree. He excelled at English and was soon able to enroll in college-level classes.

Just prior to Caraballo’s graduation from MHCC, Harwood and many others weren’t a bit surprised when he announced that he had been awarded a full scholarship to Stanford. He beat out more than 1,500 other transfer students for only 34 scholarships.

He credits his “alchemy of success” for his achievements thus far. He explains, “Something doesn’t come from nothing. It’s not your intelligence or aptitude. It’s not your money. It’s your hard work that makes the difference.”

He also credits many others for helping him along his journey, including MHCC instructors, advisers and administrators -- especially Nicci Harwood.

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 Last Modified: 11/15/2013 11:05:16 AM