CAC Wall of Success inductee Leslie Carlyle-Burnett helps build Ak-Chin Community
By Guy Harrison, Media & Marketing Specialist
(This story is one in an occasional series of features highlighting Central Arizona College alumni and Wall of Success inductees)
PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – Born in Casa Grande, Leslie Carlyle-Burnett was raised in the Ak-Chin Indian Community. Not only has she lived there her entire life, she also has put her stamp on the community, serving in several leadership and strategic planning positions for the last 12 years.
It is because of her contributions to her community that Carlyle-Burnett was inducted into the Central Arizona College Wall of Success last November.
“I’m so humbled,” she said. “I still try to figure out how I could be inducted along with such wonderful people.”
When one explores Carlyle-Burnett’s life, one might find an obvious explanation for her induction.
Although she graduated from CAC in 1998, Carlyle-Burnett first enrolled in CAC immediately after graduating from Maricopa High School in 1987. Citing a sheltered childhood, however, she admits that she was not mature enough for college. Even though she dropped out of CAC, she did meet her husband, Dan, at the college and would go on to expand her family with two sons.
After going to cosmetology school and working as a hair stylist for a number of years, Carlyle-Burnett decided that at the age of 26 and as a mother of two she was ready to go back to CAC and finish what she started.
“I wanted so much more for my kids. When you look at those little ones, you just want so much more for your children.”
While pursuing her associate degree at CAC, the Harrah’s corporation began moving forward with plans to construct a casino in the Ak-Chin Community. During this time, the company implemented a fast-track management program for tribal members to gain management skills as it relates to the casino industry.
Intrigued by this program and all of the things she would learn, Carlyle-Burnett happily joined. She completed the management program and earned her associate degree.
Carlyle-Burnett has been a valuable member of the Ak-Chin Community’s administration since 2001. She served the community as an assistant planner for seven years before being elected to the tribal council in 2008. She would then go on to a community vice chairman position before assuming her current role as the Ak-Chin Community senior planner.
As the senior planner, Carlyle-Burnett processes and administrates the paper work for the community’s planning and zoning commission, through which all of the planning and development of the community is filtered.
“What I love most about my position is that it allows me to grow and develop my community. I come from a long lineage of relatives who have all helped this community grow to be what it is. For me to be able to carry on the same focus as my ancestors, it’s extremely important to me.”
When she reflects back to her time as a CAC student, Carlyle-Burnett has fond memories that go back as far as her early childhood, when her mother attended the college in the early 70s.
“I remember CAC not being nearly as beautiful as it is today,” she said with a laugh. “It literally had no landscaping, just buildings and dirt.”
She also recalls being taught by some of the same professors who instructed her mom, something that she believes is a testament to the college’s consistency.
“CAC was definitely a foundation. If I hadn’t earned my associate degree, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
Given time to reflect on her career and her induction onto the CAC Wall of Success, the example her accomplishments have set for her two sons stand out as the most important reward gained from her achievements. Carlyle-Burnett recalls evenings where she missed out on memorable events and outings with her sons like going to the movies because she had to study.
“I always wanted to be a role model for my boys. I wanted them to know that working hard is the only way to go; there’s no easy way out.”Carlyle-Burnett’s name permanently etched on the CAC Wall of Success serves as indisputable evidence that hard work pays off.