He’s at the top of his class, But he never sits in one!

April 7, 2003

(East Valley) — One of the nation’s top 20 community college students is a dynamic Rio Salado (Tempe) scholar and aspiring economist who has never stepped foot inside a formal classroom in his life. Mesa resident Christopher Burton, 19, has taken his college courses primarily through e-learning while running two Internet-based businesses and serving as caretaker for his homebound mother. His K-12 and high school education were completed through home schooling.

On Monday, April 7, Chris was officially designated a member of the prestigious All-USA Academic Team by USA Today, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society (PTK).

Two Consecutive All-USA/New Century Scholars

Chris had previously been named Arizona’s New Century Scholar, meaning he received the highest scores in the state’s 2003 All-Academic Team competition held in February. The honor comes with a $2,000 scholarship from the Coca Cola Foundation and the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation. Christopher has also received a $1,000 stipend from Rio Salado and an additional full tuition waiver that can be applied at any of Arizona’s three state universities.

“Chris Burton is the complete package: an intelligent, ambitious, serious student,” according to Janine Adkins Pierce, his Phi Theta Kappa advisor. “His growth potential

appears limitless. He is living proof that those who do—do more.”

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, the AACC and PTK sponsor the New Century Scholar competition across the U.S. each year. This is the second consecutive year Rio Salado College has produced an All-USA and New Century Scholar. Last year Bambi Kalwarovski was also a distance learning student who went on to be named one of the top 20 community college students in the nation by USA Today.

A National Reputation

Rio Salado, the only Maricopa Community College without a traditional campus, is nationally known for its distance learning formats and 200 online courses. Last year, Chris was one of more than 15,000 Rio distance learning students who chose to compute rather than commute. Chris has maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average while taking a full academic course load that includes business, math and science. Although most of his courses have been taken through Rio Salado over the Internet, he has also used mixed media and print-based distance learning formats.

Prior to college, Chris was home-schooled by his mother from K through 12. He plans to finally enter a bricks-and-mortar environment for the first time this fall when he enrolls at Arizona State University. Undaunted at the prospect, he thinks his biggest challenge will be finding a parking spot.

Chris is philosophical about his unusual schooling. When asked if he ever felt he had missed out on some of childhood’s normal school experiences, he replied, “Not at all…I would have missed a lot had I gone to a traditional school.”

His older brother, Patrick, currently attends Arizona State University and was also home schooled by their mother. They are the sons of Cynthia and John Burton of Mesa.

Cynthia is homebound from multiple sclerosis, and Chris is her daytime caretaker.

An Entrepreneurial Spirit

Lest it appear that Chris is a total bookworm, it should be known he is also a full-fledged entrepreneur with not one but two businesses. He uses e-Bay to locate and purchase rare videos, then resells them through the Amazon dotcom web site. In addition he deals in rare U.S. gold and silver coins, buying and selling them over the Internet and at coin shows since 1998.

All USA scholars typically participate in extracurricular or community activities, and Chris is no exception. He is co-captain of his neighborhood’s Blockwatch, an officer in Rio Salado’s Alpha Theta Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and recently traveled to Washington, D.C. on behalf of the Maricopa Community Colleges’ Student Public Policy Forum.

Chris will complete his associate degree and graduate from Rio Salado in May. Down the road, Chris hopes to pursue an MBA and enjoy a satisfying career in banking.