Achieved a new distance

Achieved a new distance

I no longer look outside and hope for clear skies and warm weather . . . now I just put layer upon layer on and go for a run.

Today we were blessed with clear skies and temperatures climbing to 46 degrees. Half way through our run I had to take my sweatshirt off and tie it around my waist. It’s crazy how my body is finally getting accustomed to the cooler temperatures. I was worried that the colder winter weather would keep me indoors this year. But, so far I have been pretty fortunate.

I’m so glad because last year I really experienced cabin fever. I’m determined not to feel that way again this year. Our runs have definitely helped so far.

It’s been kind of neat. I’ve experienced the summer, fall and winter months on the Greenbelt so far. There are far less people on the Greenbelt during the winter months, which I won’t lie is kind of nice.

Saturday morning I ran for the first time in 20 degree weather and surprisingly it wasn’t too bad. I left Lucy home for this run.

I’m so thankful we invested in some new running gear. It has truly been a lifesaver since my race Thanksgiving morning. Yesterday I bought some gloves, the only thing I found to be missing during that crisp run. My body warmed after 2 miles, but my fingers were still a little cold.

After a productive morning of writing, interviewing people and turning two articles in, Lucy and I took advantage of the beautiful day. We of course headed to our favorite place, the Kingsport Greenbelt.

Although Jason’s wonderful mix of music kept us moving today, my thoughts drifted to eight years ago when I walked across the stage at Arizona State University. I cannot believe it’s already been eight years since I graduated, since I finished that chapter in my life.

The career I choose, journalism, has been the perfect fit for me. I’ve worked with some great editors over the years, some of which have taught me a ton about my profession.

It’s exciting to think where my career can still take me.

That chapter, although was a rollercoaster more times than not, was an experience that helped me grow as a person and as a writer. I am beyond grateful that my mom was always a phone call away. Even with more than 2,200 miles separating us, I honestly could not have done it without her amazing support. She was definitely my rock during school and after when the true job searching began.

As those thoughts consumed me, we achieved our longest distance to-date. We ran 4.03 miles with an average speed of 4.5 mph and a maximum speed of 9.2 mph.



My legs carried me to a new personal best.

I used to think two miles was a great achievement.

Now I’m shooting for 4.5 miles . . . .

We passed our starting point, continued past our typical stopping point at the foot of a bridge and kept going. We kept going until the path curved on the Greenbelt and we slowed our pace to a walk.

This was Lucy’s opportunity to explore. She’s becoming a little more adventurous, making her way closer and closer to the water. I of course took advantage and took some photographs.

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As soon as we finished our run and I saw our distance, I instantly became excited about the next time we make it to the Greenbelt. It’s true, whatever you put your mind to you can achieve.



‘I’m all in, let’s do it’

I had a lot of fun interviewing this couple on the phone. Their passion for what they do was great to hear!

Chandler couple followed their dreams to Grand Canyon University

Published in SanTan Sun News March 1, 2014 issue

A true love story blossomed as two passionate former Arizona State University students followed their dreams, eventually landing jobs at the same school, Grand Canyon University, and settling in Chandler.

“Instead of working at a restaurant or flipping burgers, I wanted to spend my time to further my career in teaching music,” Paul says.

He was doing just that when he met his bride to be, Jacque.


Paul and Jacque Koch. Photo provided to the SanTan Sun News

Jacque, who earned a geography degree from Arizona State University before obtaining a master’s degree in education, was also at McClintock High teaching the dance team. One day after rehearsal, Jacque stopped by Paul’s offi ce to ask him out to lunch, but he was not there.

“Our first date was Sept. 1, 2000, at the Chili’s on the corner of Apache and Mill Avenue and it started from there,” Paul says.

Jacque says they joke that they met at band camp.

“I was finishing my undergrad and he was starting his master’s degree,” Jacque says. “It was a good thing for us.”

As he finished his master’s degree, he spent six to 12 hours at a time practicing.

“When I started thinking of her more than my passion, (I thought) maybe this is the one,” he says.

Paul soon set aside time for practicing and Jacque.

“I asked her to marry me,” he says.

During the years, their careers and family grew as they had one son.

“When I graduated, a high school got a hold of me and asked if I would come and coach with a dance team,” Jacque says. “It was a great experience. My first coaching position was his first instructor position.”

Paul first taught at Hamilton High School and then transferred to Perry High School once it opened.

“Our goal was both of us were going to be at Perry High School,” he says. “We wanted to be in the same spot, either in the West Valley or East Valley.”

Unfortunately the plans did not pan out the way they hoped. Jacque was hired by Basha High School to work with the dance team. The couple was still happy because they were now teaching in the same school district.

Paul and Jacque’s careers intermingle

“I always wanted to teach college,” Paul explains.

However, he wanted to gain experience at the high school level before he began teaching college.

“When the position opened, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t selfish.”

Paul Koch and his wife, Jacque, serve as Grand Canyon University’s band director and dance coach, which provides many opportunities for the couple to work together during the school’s basketball games. Submitted photo to SanTan Sun News

Paul Koch and his wife, Jacque, serve as Grand Canyon University’s band director and dance coach, which provides many opportunities for the couple to work together
during the school’s basketball games. Submitted photo to SanTan Sun News

He took the position, instrumental professor of music and director of the Thundering Herd Pep Band. He also conducts the wind ensemble, Thunder Big Band, percussion studio and music education classes at the university.

Paul soon learned that the dance instructor at Grand Canyon University was possibly leaving, which provided the chance for the couple to teach at the same school.

He says his wife says “I’m all in, let’s do it.”

“Things were happening that we were supposed to do,” Jacque says. “It makes sense that we are both at Grand Canyon and do what we both love to do together.”

Paul says they felt accepting positions at Grand Canyon University was the right direction.

“We really felt like this was the direction that God wanted us to go,” Paul says.

She took the dance coach position in September 2013, which she explains as a really big task due to the three rehearsals a week, as well as games.

In addition to being the coach, she also works with the dance education program. Jacque says she started supervising the dance student teachers by evaluating them and supporting them out in the fi eld.

“I have six of them this semester,” she says of the student teachers.

Jacque is also the sponsor for the National Honors Society for Professional Dance Art.

Although she wears many hats, she says none of it feels like a job.

The couple work together creating performances for Grand Canyon University basketball games. Paul does the music, while Jacque choreographs routines for the dance team.

Paul says the university’s administration wanted the atmosphere to change at the basketball games. Paul selects music that will keep the crowd entertained with the hopes of keeping them there until the end of the game.

“The faster the tune is, the more energy it has,” Paul says.

At the beginning of the game, Jacque says they decide on what songs will be used, as well as what choreography she has prepared with her dancers for each song.

The challenging aspect for the couple is choosing a tempo the dancers can perform to.

Jacque says she can be pretty straightforward with Paul when the song will not work.

“We are both really respectful of each other,” she says.

Paul says he and his wife constantly communicate about the songs’ tempo. The couple loves to work together.

“Right now I’m loving the fact that it is something that my family does all together,” Jacque says. “Our job happens during the weekend and at night and it happens all the time.”

Their 7-year-old son is the ball boy for the basketball team, therefore involving him as well.

“It’s something we can all do together,” Jacque says of the basketball games. “All three of us are really in it.”

The next basketball is 7 p.m. Saturday, March 1, against Chicago State. Tickets are $5 for general public seating and $15 for a family four pack, which includes popcorn and drinks.

‘Jeep Girls’

Here is another article I did for today’s SanTan Sun News, a newspaper based out of Chandler, Arizona. I had the opportunity to interview The Jeep Girls, Ashley and Brittany, two extremely nice sisters, over the phone a few weeks back. Their story was pretty incredible to hear, as well as write. Enjoy reading about their adventure.

‘Jeep Girls’ share their story, bring awareness

Published in SanTan Sun News Jan. 18, 2014 issue

Two Chandler sisters dubbed “The Jeep Girls” share their lifestyles with like-minded people by giving back to others as they tour the country bringing awareness of American culture.

“Life is a constant treasure hunt and we are able to learn about our culture through the people, landscape and industry,” says Ashley Hill, who makes up the Jeep Girls with sister Brittany Hill.

The two are relative newcomers to Arizona, having moved here from Illinois when Brittany, now 25, was just out of high school.

“It was quite a culture shock,” Brittany explains.

She says when they moved to Chandler, they learned that life can be sunny and colorful. Arizona offers a very laid-back atmosphere, Brittany says.

Before the ‘Jeep Girls’

The love of Jeeps resonated at a very young age for the Hill sisters. The duo has a family video where they are in a Power Wheel flame red Jeep Wrangler.

“In this video Brittany is 3 or 4 and I am 1,” Ashley says. “In this video our parents taught us the word ‘Jeep.’”

The girls purchased matching flame red Jeep Cherokees as teens and, in 2005, they went on a nationwide search to find a Jeep Wrangler, which they found in Chicago.

In 2005 Ashley and Brittany Hill, otherwise known as the Jeep Girls, went on a nationwide search to fi nd a Jeep Wrangler.  Photo provided to the SanTan Sun News

In 2005 Ashley and Brittany Hill, otherwise known as the Jeep Girls, went on a nationwide search to fi nd a Jeep Wrangler.
Photo provided to the SanTan Sun News

“The Jeep is a symbol of that ultimate freedom machine with the ability to take the doors off and the top,” Ashley explains. “The freedom machine celebrates American history.”

Brittany earned a fi ne arts degree from Arizona State University’s Herberger School of Fine Art in 2008. Ashley graduated summa cum laude in 2009 from Arizona State University with a communication degree from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

Both of the girls went into the news business after graduation but were dissatisfied with that career choice.

Brittany quit on a whim. Ashley followed.

“I am much happier not being competitive in terms of trying to climb that corporate ladder,” Brittany says.

The American Legend Tour

The American Legend Tour kicked off on July 4, 2012. Ashley explains that they are focusing on learning and understanding what it means to be American through their tour.

The jaunt was so interesting to Chandler Public Information Officer Jim Phipps that he shared the story with the council.

Councilman Jeff Weninger says as an entrepreneur he’s excited anytime when he sees people doing what they are passionate about.

“I think it’s exciting,” he says. “Even at their young age, look at what experiences they are having.”

Phipps found out about the Jeep Girls through his subscription to a Jeep magazine, because he, too, is a Jeep owner. He explains that he found it interesting that these two young ladies can do what many people dream about.

“(They) throw hair to the wind and get in a vehicle and see the world and do it through help of sponsors,” Phipps says.

Phipps says the Jeep Girls are good role models.

“We are letting them know that their city is proud of them, letting these young ladies know that we think they are a good example for the community and the youth,” he says. “(It sends) messages of inspiration to young people that there is a great big world out there and go conquer it.”

Ashley and Brittany Hill with Old Faithful. Photo provided for SanTan Sun News.

Ashley and Brittany Hill with Old Faithful.
Photo provided for SanTan Sun News.

The Hill sisters have traveled to such states as Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York and many national parks on their tour. In 2013, the sisters trekked more than 17,000 miles.

“We take everything as a learning experience and we try to evolve and bring awareness to our home community and what becomes our global community as we interact with people,” Ashley, 28, says. “We like to spend a lot of time in person with people and learn from people.”

At the end of January they will head to Aspen, CO.

“This is a very exciting time to explore what’s in front of us,” Ashley says. “Our main focus right now is our American Legend Tour. The goal is simple. By leading by example, we want to inspire others to live an active lifestyle, explore and follow their dreams.”

The Jeep Girls traveling on the Rubicon Trail.  Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

The Jeep Girls traveling on the Rubicon Trail.
Photo submitted to SanTan Sun News.

On the back of the American Legend Tour, is the American Legend Artists series featuring U.S. fashion designer Nanette Lepore. The tour explores artists, designers, storytellers and musicians. The jaunt will involve heritage vehicles to inspiring heroes and historical sites.

“We want to open the conversation to allow other people to interpret what you are proud of,” Brittany says. “It doesn’t have to be related to what we do. We want to stimulate and activate people to live a colorful lifestyle and see no limits.”

Ashley says she does not think they would be doing what they are doing today if they were not living in Arizona.

“We really owe a big thank you to the community,” she says. “We wouldn’t have the encouragement anywhere else, I would think.”

Brittany says even though they do not make money right away, they have to be OK with that because of the rewards, including seeing America.

“So far it has been this growing, wonderful thing for us,” she says. “We wantto keep running with it.”

For more information about the Jeep Girls visit their website

‘Study Abroad’

A recent article I wrote for the SanTan Sun News highlighted two Arizona State University students who are studying abroad. It was an interesting article for me to write, since I too graduated from ASU.

Published in the SanTan Sun News Dec. 21, 2013 issue

Two Chandler residents named Fulbright scholars

Two Chandler-based Arizona State University students have received 2013 Fulbright scholar awards to study abroad.

The program, which is a premier fellowship program of the U.S. State Department, is aimed at increasing mutual understanding while helping develop creative responses to problems. A record 26 students received the Fulbright Award from ASU last spring representing 19 different countries.

“I was overjoyed when I found out that I had been chosen as a Fulbright Scholar, but it took until our orientation in London to understand what it meant,” says Jaleila Brumand, 22. “This program is really unique because, while it enables students to go abroad to pursue their field of interest, it also encourages ambassadorship and involvement in their new, local community. I find that balance both exciting and extremely important.”

Before Chandler resident Jaleila Brumand began her courses at Lancaster University, she took a trip with her mother to Bath, the location of Pulteney Bridge and weir are shown. (Jaleila provided me with the photo)

Before Chandler resident Jaleila Brumand began her courses at Lancaster University, she took a trip with her mother to Bath, the location of Pulteney Bridge and weir are shown. (Jaleila provided me with the photo)

Brumand arrived in London in early September for orientation at Lancaster University in England. She began her master’s program of environmental science and energy the following month.

“The U.K. has set a particularly lofty carbon reduction goal and I wanted to explore how this national policy actually operated through society,” she explains of her reasoning for choosing Lancaster University. “The Lancaster Environmental Centre on campus is also incredibly forward thinking in its research and has some very distinguished faculty, which is certainly an added bonus.”

She will return to Chandler in December 2014.

Brumand is living in an apartment on campus with fi ve other postgraduate students. She attends lectures twice a week, as well as clubs on campus a few times a week in between reading and writing essays. She has also had an opportunity to travel to Liverpool, Durham, Whitby and York in some spare time.

“The people in the north of England are very warm and welcoming,” Brumand says. “I’ve never been in a place where you strike up genuine conversation on a bus or at a store, and here people seem to do it daily.”

After her studies abroad, Brumand plans on pursing a Ph.D. to supplement her technical skills. She would eventually like to become a professor of environmental science. Brumand, a Mountain Pointe High School graduate, entered ASU in 2009 to study environmental science. She earned her bachelor’s in sustainability with a concentration in economics; a bachelor’s in geography and earned a certificate in geographic information systems.

“I learned at a very young age that the environment is important,” she says. “When I started pursuing different options for college majors, I found that there were many aspects of environmental science that I could study.

The variety and breadth of the field is what really attracted me to it. The fact that it has become very interdisciplinary, which I believe is essential to solving problems especially when they involve so many different sectors of society and the natural world, really crystallized that decision.”

Teagan Adamson

Teagan Adamson, 23, a recipient of the 2013 Fulbright scholar award, is studying at Academia Sinica in Taipei.

Teagan Adamson, 23, a recipient of the 2013 Fulbright scholar award, is studying at Academia Sinica in Taipei. (Teagan provided me with the photo)

Teagan Adamson, 23, also a recipient of the Fulbright scholar award, arrived in Taiwan at the end of August to study at Academia Sinica in Taipei. The research institution is home to the lab environment best suited for her project. She is living in an apartment in the center of Taipei and has traveled throughout Taiwan. She will return to Chandler in July.

“It’s a dream come true,” she says of the award. “Having the opportunity to live a year abroad conducting cutting edge research and improving my Chinese speaking abilities is truly amazing.”

Adamson’s typical day consists of taking Chinese for two hours in the morning before she rides her bike to the shuttle that takes her to the research institution where she spends a few hours on her biomedical engineering research project. She also attends relevant science classes in the evening for molecular medicine courses.

“I am actually doing a dual-fellowship,” she explains. “While both are under the Institute of International Education, the Whitaker International Program sends biomedical engineering and bioengineering researchers overseas to study in their field and conduct research.”

Adamson says she is working on a project that aims to develop unique antibody therapeutics to improve current cancer treatments.

Once her studies abroad are complete, Adamson plans on continuing her work in the biomedical engineering field to develop new solutions and treatments addressing human disease.

“In the future, I plan to work at a research institution that focuses on international teamwork and collaboration,” she explains.

While Adamson attended Horizon Honors High, which is a school linked with Horizon Community Learning Center, she developed a strong interest in Chinese culture.

She entered ASU in the fall of 2008 and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in engineering and master’s in biomedical engineering in December 2012.

“I was able to study Chinese in a program organized by my local school district that enriched my education and motivated me to search for academic institutes with reputable East Asian language programs,” Adamson says. “Because of the additional exposure to medicine and engineering through my grandfather, a physician, and my brother-in-law, an aerospace engineer, I chose to attend Arizona State University.”

During her time at ASU, she majored in biomedical engineering and minored in Mandarin Chinese.