Vicki Patterson

Vicki Patterson

San Juan College helped student Vicki Patterson achieve a lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. Along the way she found a way to make a difference in the lives of children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

After working 15 years as a teacher assistant in Pagosa Springs, Colo., she and her husband relocated to Farmington in the fall of 2006, and she began working toward her degree in education at San Juan College.

“Both of my daughters went to college and got their degrees,” Patterson says. “They decided it was my turn to go back to school, and San Juan College has been a great experience for me.”

She enrolled in the advanced composition course taught by Chris Strouthopoulos. The main reading source for the class was Three Cups of TeaM, by Greg Mortenson. The New York Times best seller is an inspiring account of one man’s campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 1993, Mortenson was unable to complete a K2 ascent after an exhausting rescue of one of his climbing partners and was separated from his companions. He stumbled into a little village at the base of the Himalayas where the people generously helped him to recuperate. When he offered to do something for them, they asked for a school. He vowed to build them one and has now built over 130 schools in Central Asia, giving children a chance at a better life and helping to counteract the extreme views of the Taliban.

“When I first read the book, I wanted to do something to help, but I didn’t know where to begin,” Patterson recalls. “The class further encouraged my desire to make a difference.”

For the honors portion of the class she worked with four other students and created what is now called the Peace Quilt Project.

Patterson created a quilt to raise money to donate to the non-profit organization, Central Asia Institute (CAI). Founded by Three Cups of Tea author Mortenson, the organization’s mission is to promote and support community-based education, especially for girls, in the remote regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

“My goal is to raise $5,000 to send to CAI,” Patterson explains. “That will fund the entire cost of a school for one year, including teacher expenses and school maintenance. We have already nearly reached $1000!”

The quilt is displayed at Andrea Kristina’s in downtown Farmington and will remain there through the summer. Anyone who donates money will have their name printed on the quilt.

“When we reach our goal, we plan to send the quilt to CAI and hope that other quilters might follow our lead and make additional peace quilts to raise money,” she says. Patterson received her associate of arts degree in teacher education in May 2010. She was awarded with a San Juan College Student Excellence Award from the School of Humanities in English in April.

In Patterson's nomination letter, SJC faculty Jenia Walter, Chris Strouthopoulos and Karla Hackman wrote: “Vicki combines outstanding critical thought and creativity with a deeply compassionate and connected sense of humanity, both within and outside of the classroom. She is an inquisitive, hardworking student who asks insightful questions and is highly deserving of this award for her excellent work.”

Patterson hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree in education from the University of New Mexico in 2012.

“I believe in education and want to make a difference in the lives of children,” she says.