High school dropout supports brother through college, follows own dream to ASU at age 33

September 13, 2013

Editor's Note: This story is part of an ongoing series about student excellence at the university. To read more about some of ASU's outstanding students, click here.

At 15, Tomas Stanton was a high school dropout, a self-described “angry kid with a bad attitude” who was tired of getting threatened by gang members at his school who wanted to fight. Download Full Image

His mother worked long hours to support him and his brother; his father was absent, a drug addict and career criminal. Stanton’s younger brother soon joined him in dropping out of school, smoking marijuana, drifting through low-paying jobs.

Eight years later came Stanton’s epiphany: he wanted the rest of his life to be different, and to achieve that, he had to get an education. By now, working at the Boys and Girls Club, he had passed his GED test, enrolled in Phoenix College and persuaded his brother to do the same.

At that point their paths diverged, as Stanton’s brother Daniel got the chance to attend Arizona Christian University to play basketball. Tomas made the choice to put his own dreams aside, supporting Daniel through four years of college, so at least one of them could get a college degree. Daniel graduated two years ago and is now working in behavioral health and running a nonprofit organization for youth, G Road.

Meanwhile, still working at the Boys and Girls Club, Tomas found a new outlet, discovering a passion and a sense of empowerment in writing about his life. He made a name for himself as a poet and spoken word artist, performing at poetry slams and schools. He co-founded an organization called Phonetic Spit to work with at-risk high school students, teaching them to tell their own stories and express themselves through spoken word performance.

Eventually he was invited to an ASU class as a guest artist. Professor Melissa Britt and instructor Mary Stephens encouraged him, recognizing his talent, his desire to learn and his ability to connect with young people.

Today, at the age of 33, it’s Tomas’s turn to follow his dream.

He is newly enrolled at ASU as a theatre major in the Herberger Institute, also working in outreach as a management intern in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. He visits local schools to coordinate campus visits for students and guest appearances by ASU faculty at the schools. Through Phonetic Spit he is involved in 10 different high school and middle school residencies. This fall, he and other artists will visit each school once a week for 12 weeks to teach youngsters how to find their voices.

“We create a safe environment where kids can write about their own personal experiences,” Stanton says. “We provide contemporary poetry for them to read, but we’ve disguised the writing and reading as a fun experience. They become hooked when they share with each other what they’ve written, and it makes them want to write more. They become very excited and encouraged when they realize they have things in common.”

Stanton will be the first student enrolled in a new interdisciplinary ASU major – performance and movement – when it is formally launched next year. It’s the first program he’s found that meets his needs as a teaching artist and youth development specialist.

“I never thought an opportunity like this would be presented to me, to work at and study something I love, on such a beautiful campus,” he says. “I’m so grateful I can dive into a field I’m passionate about. I want to create a legacy, to pay it forward by helping other young people who are struggling.”

ASU construction, renovations transform more than 615,000 square feet of space

September 13, 2013

Students and other members of the ASU community returning after a long, hot summer may have noticed some major – and minor – changes to ASU facilities and grounds.

Over the summer, Facilities Development and Management wrapped up the renovation and new construction of more than 615,000 square feet of space on the various ASU campuses and sites. Download Full Image

Contractors finished construction on three new buildings this summer: McCord Hall, the new home to W. P. Carey business graduate students; the Downtown Phoenix campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex; and the Tempe campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex. And after a complete interior demolition and renovation, Manzanita Hall opened its doors to students in August.

Executive Vice President, Treasurer and CFO Morgan R. Olsen noted that the scope of the work completed this summer, as well as other projects like College Avenue Commons at the Tempe campus underway, was truly extraordinary.

“These projects will greatly improve the quality of learning and life at ASU, and the delivery of all these facilities for the start of the new academic year deserves recognition," Olsen said. "All the construction teams, project managers, planners, design professionals, building occupant representatives and others involved deserve our thanks and gratitude for the great work they did on these projects. My hat is off to them.”

On projects with critical timeframes, construction crews and project managers worked weekends, nights and evenings to get residence halls, classrooms, labs and offices ready.

“It was a tremendous amount of work,” said Bruce Jensen, director of ASU Capital Programs Management Group. “We are grateful for the effort and coordination from everyone involved in these projects – academic units, administration, project managers – everyone played a role in making these projects successful.”

Shade, Solar and Sustainable Cooling

Work on solar projects continued apace this summer, with 14 solar power plant installations underway at the Tempe campus. Two of the most prominent began in June and July: pedestrian shade structures that double as solar power plants over Orange and Cady Malls near the MU, and the Gammage Parkway medians.

When complete, the two PowerParasol™ systems developed by Tempe-based Strategic Solar Energy are expected to produce enough electricity to power 128 homes, annually. Besides shading pedestrian areas, the 25- and 35-foot-high PowerParasols™ will provide nighttime lighting for better security. The structures will allow some natural sunlight to shine through, creating comfortable, functional environments. They also will provide additional programmatic space below, with attractive features that will improve campus aesthetics, as well.

ASU solar-system installations on the Tempe campus are facilitated, in part, by Arizona Public Service's Renewable Energy Incentive Program. By November 2013, all four ASU campuses and the ASU Research Park are projected to have solar power generating systems totaling 23.5 megawatts DC, producing nearly 41 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually.

At the Downtown Phoenix campus, ASU removed 55 aging air conditioning units at the Mercado and replaced them with energy-efficient systems. The change will reduce electricity costs and allow ASU to take advantage of APS and Energize Phoenix rebate incentives.

Walking Wheels, Ceasing Smoking

Intent on keeping pedestrians safe and reducing vehicle congestion, ASU introduced Walk-Only Zones for the most heavily travelled Tempe campus malls in August. Recent physical changes to the Tempe campus that support the Walk-Only Zones include: signs, removable and permanent bollards, new bicycle racks and locations, and daytime cart parking. Learn about wheeled-restriction times and see zone, cart and vehicle access maps at walk.asu.edu. The Walk-Only Zones make accommodations for the use of mobility devices by individuals with disabilities, and will make the core Tempe campus a much safer and more pleasant place for pedestrians

And beginning August 1, ASU went tobacco free. Permanent signs were installed throughout ASU campuses and 450 ashtrays were removed. ASU joins the nearly 800 colleges and universities across the country that has given up smoking and chewing. This student-driven initiative encourages members of the campus community to kick the habit and create a healthier learning environment. For more information, see https://eoss.asu.edu/tobaccofree.

Top 5 projects completed this summer

1. McCord Hall/W.P. Carey School of Business

This one’s hard to miss. The curved, red brick, three-story structure is just northeast of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and houses 14 classrooms, eight break-out rooms for executive MBA students, a graduate career center and interview rooms for recruiters. The 129,000-square-foot building also boasts four conference rooms, a café and a multi-purpose room to house thesis/dissertation, recruiting and other events.

2. Manzanita Hall Renovation

After nearly three years of construction work, Manzanita Hall has been reborn. Gone are the dark corners, creaky elevators and leaky pipes, and in its place are two-story lounges with floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen TVs, and study areas with comfortable furniture. An exterior wall of the once- gloomy basement was removed to bring in more light to the floor that now features arcade games, air-hockey tables, study spaces and meeting areas. Outside are a new basketball court, sand volleyball and dining tables. The 215,000-square-foot building will house 816 students from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in a state-of-the-art living and learning environment.

3. DPC Sun Devil Fitness Complex

Students, faculty and staff now will have access to a large gym, a weight room, an indoor track, multi-purpose space, group activity gyms, locker rooms and a leisure pool on the roof of the new Downtown Phoenix Campus Sun Devil Fitness Center. The department of Exercise, Nutrition and Wellness also is housed in the new building, providing significant new classroom and instructional space. The 73,800-square-foot building is immediately south of the Lincoln Family Downtown YMCA at 350 N. 1st Ave in downtown Phoenix.

4. Tempe Sun Devil Fitness Complex Expansion

This 84,500-square-foot addition to the existing Sun Devil Fitness Complex includes a large, multiple-court gym, strength and cardio areas, a free weights area/small gym, multi-purpose space, wellness space, a social recreation area and partial renovation of the existing building.

5. ASU Preparatory Academy

This renovation project converted a 28,000-square-foot portion of the existing Creativity Hall at the ASU Polytechnic campus into innovative educational space for elementary students. Space for the ASU Preparatory Academy elementary school now allows for traditional instruction, as well as smaller break-out areas.

Other notable projects:

• Hayden Library – Created a ‘learning laboratory’ and additional classrooms in the library lower level, with integrated student services areas and enhanced student study areas.

• Centerpoint renovations – Constructed a New Career Center for the Fulton Schools of Engineering in the Centerpoint Building at the Tempe campus.

• University classroom upgrades – Renovated eight university classrooms across the Tempe campus. The project improved accessibility, life safety, air conditioning and heating systems, lighting, acoustical treatments, furniture and data connectivity.

ASU@Lake Havasu renovations – Lake Havasu now sports a new computer lab and additional faculty offices. The project added glass doors and a storefront with ASU branding, and addressed deferred maintenance items, as well.

Eric Jensen, eric.jensen@asu.edu
ASU Facilities Development and Management

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group