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Image of Halianna Piller standing in front of a staircase at West campus

Honors Student Lives her Most Authentic Self at Pima

Halianna Piller shares how she came to Pima and why she's found home at the College.

Sometimes things don’t work out the way you thought they would. They work out better. 

Honors student Halianna Piller didn't always know she would end up at Pima. Yet, through her involvement in multiple student activities and the Business program, Piller has not only embraced Pima's academic opportunities, but also the chance to build community and a sense of self.

Her time at the College has introduced her to people and possibilities she wouldn't have thought were possible a few years ago. She shared, "For the first time in my life, I feel like I am living my authentic self. I have found my purpose in life. Most importantly, I feel like a role model for the next generation of students.”

Looking back at her journey to Pima, Piller shares how she came to the College and how being surrounded by a diverse community of students has helped her discover a renewed sense of purpose. 

Attending College as a Pima Merit Scholar

Piller came to Pima from Tucson’s Catalina High School. While in high school, she worked against many odds to attend college. Piller noted it isn’t common for students from her high school to attend higher education or complete a bachelor’s degree in the traditional 4 year timeline.

Halianna Piller
Halianna Piller

Piller also faced personal academic challenges. Before she transferred to Catalina High School, Piller attended an online high school that wasn't the right fit for her. She struggled to keep up her GPA and failed most of her classes. When she transferred to Catalina, she realized she needed to change course to be an anomaly rather than a statistic.

Today, she is an Honors student with a 4.0 GPA at Pima. 

Pima’s Merit Tuition Award was instrumental in helping Piller attend Pima. The Merit Tuition Award is a scholarship for Pima County students with strong academic backgrounds and experience with leadership and community service.

“My journey at Pima started with getting a notice that I was a Pima Merit Scholar. I didn’t know it then, but the donors of the scholarship fund helped me realize my potential” Piller said. “Without them, my journey would have never even started.”

Now, Piller is pursuing an Associate's Degree in Business and hopes to transfer to the University of Arizona to complete a bachelor's in Finance. After finishing her bachelor’s, Piller plans to be the first in her family to pursue a graduate degree.

Even though Piller’s dreams will take her to many higher education institutions, she believes her heart will stay at Pima long after she graduates: “Despite my intention to transfer, I anticipate that I will still be involved with Pima. It’s a special place, and I love it.”

Getting Involved at Pima

For Piller, falling in love with Pima was not only an academic journey, but a social one as well. She is a member of the Honors program and the Pima Chapter President and AZ Region Vice President of the honors society, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK). Through Pima’s Honors program, students can build community with peers, access faculty mentors, enjoy small class sizes and get assistance on scholarship and award applications. 

Piller also works at the Aztec Resource Center (ARC) food pantry, which provides food and other goods to students and community members, and as a Peer Mentor within Student Life

“One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for students is to live your authentic self.” ~Halianna Piller

One of Piller's advisors, Kyley Segers, knows how hard Piller works to bring about positive change to Pima and the broader community. Of Piller, Segers said, "Halianna has done incredible work during her time at Pima. As a student mentor, PTK member and now Officer of the Honors Club and incoming PTK President, she has tirelessly worked to bring about positive change to her college and community."

Through her diverse involvement at the College, Piller has found it’s the people that matter most. 

“My favorite part about being involved with the college is being able to meet students from diverse backgrounds,” she said. 

“For the longest time, I was shy and feared others. But through opening myself to others, I have been able to become a people person. I love talking to others and learning about them. I am the complete opposite from how I used to be.”

She continued, “One of the biggest pieces of advice I have for students is to live your authentic self. The only person that’s going to be with you 100% of the time is you. Listen to your gut feeling and empower yourself."

Writing, Honors, and Literature faculty member, Dr. Elliot Churilla, also highlighted how it is not only Piller's service in PTK that makes her an exceptional member of the College community: "Halianna is an exceptional role model of what it means to lead by serving, evident in both her words and deeds."

They continued, "The same focus on and dedication to equity and inclusion she brings to our PTK meetings, projects and events, she also brings to addressing the gaps in our education system, and we would be amiss as a College to overlook her research, knowledge and perspective."

Through her transformational time at Pima, Piller has found clarity and fullness. As a Pima community member, she carries with her her time at Catalina High School, new relationships, a more authentic self and determination to take on each dream as it comes. 

In other words, Piller is just getting started.

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