Naomi Story

Naomi Story worked with the Maricopa Community Colleges from 1984-2014. She was instrumental in creating the Achieving a College Education (ACE) program.

Naomi Story, ca. 2020. Source: LinkedIn.

Naomi was born in Wailuku, Maui Hawaii where she says she “[ran] around Wailuku town jumping around, enjoying street life” as every little kid.

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Naomi’s father served in the highly decorated 442nd infantry in World War II, while her mother experienced the war from her family farm in Japan. Given the two drastically different perspectives of her parent’s experiences regarding WWII, Naomi grew up understanding there are two sides to every story. In high school Naomi’s perspective and desire to help drew her to student government where she was able to “be a voice for other students.” Naomi gained valuable leadership as the backstage manager for the school drama program, an experience that would help her later on in her career. Naomi’s parents always encouraged her to continue her education and go to college. After high school Naomi moved to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to attend Coe College, where she earned a bachelors degree in English (year?)

After college, Naomi returned to Hawaii, got married, earned her teaching certificate, and began teaching. A few years later (year?), Naomi and her husband move to Phoenix to attend Arizona State University (ASU). Though she liked school and earned advanced degrees, Naomi struggled sometimes to adjust to the culture of higher education. “It was kind of like tripping and falling and getting up by myself.”

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It may not have been easy, Naomi earned several degrees. She holds a bachelors in English from Coe College, a masters in instructional media from ASU, and a doctorate in Educational Technology and Instructional Design from ASU. After earning her masters in Instructional Media Naomi once again began to help and be a voice for students by working within the Maricopa Community Colleges system as an instructional designer. She later helped to create the ACE Program, which is a district-wide program for college students that started at South Mountain Community College.

The ACE program was first started in the summer of 1988 fueled by Naomi, Nancy Jordan and Liz Warren. Nancy Jordan grew up in Mexico but was educated in California and was working for the Chancellor in Maricopa Community College. Liz Warren was raised in Gilbert on a farm as a cowgirl and worked for the Maricopa Community Colleges. Together, the three women launched a program to seek out and support first-generation students who were underserved in their access to higher education. Naomi’s “own experience taught me why… something like ACE [was needed.]”

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The ACE Program was fueled with the goal of helping those first-generation students to achieve a college education. An ACE student may earn up to 24 transferable college credits. Naomi remembered, “ We really trying to built a program for first-generation low income students”

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Naomi and her colleagues built something really remarkable. It was nationally recognized and funded by a major grant from the Ford Foundation. What sets ACE apart is that it goes beyond scholarships. The ACE Program builds strong academic behaviors with students and families, beginning early, with high school sophomores. They wanted to focus more on the students in the middle with Bs, Cs and Ds because they knew that those students were the ones most lost in what was the next step. “We knew counselors always paid more attention to A students or F students…so the people in the middle Bs Cs and Ds were the ones we really targeted because they were kind of lost.”

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When asked to share advice for students struggling to achieve an education Naomi said, “Be persistent, be motivated and you can’t just give up.” Naomi Story is someone who has spent her life helping others succeed. She learned from her own successes and failures, she then uses that experience to help others who are in a similar position succeed as well. Over the course of her career, the ACE program reached over 16,000 students and their families.

NarratorNaomi Story
Place of OriginWailuku, Maui, Hawaii
Place of ResidencePhoenix, Arizona
OccupationInstructional Designer, Maricopa Community Colleges
Years Active in South Phoenix1984-
Recording Duration1:24:56
DateFebruary 25, 2021
Interviewed byStudent researchers Karen Trejo and Charter Treseder
Story written byStudent researchers Karen Trejo and Charter Treseder