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Rocklin, Calif. – It is with great pride and deep respect that Sierra College congratulates Cataleya Carlson – former Sierra College student, basketball star and hero, Captain, C-130 Aircraft Commander (Pilot), United States Air force, who has been chosen to receive the prestigious California Community College Distinguished Alumni Award.

This award is presented to alumni who are accomplished professionals and contributing citizens of their communities. The recipients of the awards inspire us all as they share their stories and remind us of the importance of our efforts.


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Cataleya Carlson was a member of the 1999 Women’s State Championship Basketball Team (36-1). Following graduation from Sierra College, she attended CSU, Stanislaus, earning a B.A. in Chemistry. In 2003, she joined the USAF as a research chemist. Lauded as a top junior scientist, her contributions were critical to nanoparticle toxicity/biomarker development research, garnering several scientific achievement/leadership awards as well as earning her M.S. degree in Pharmacology and Toxicology as the top of her class.

Maintaining her competitive edge from her Sierra days, cumulatively, she earned 5 individual gold medals, 3 Women’s Team Championships, and 2005 MVP honors as a member of the USAF Track and Field Team.

Captain Carlson cross-trained in 2009 and is currently a C-130 Aircraft Commander (Pilot) stationed in Japan. She has logged over 200 combat hours in support of Operations NEW DAWN, ENDURING FREEDOM and HANNIBAL. Following devastating earthquake/tsunami of 2011, she airlifted over 116 tons of water, medical supplies and equipment to Sendai and northern Japan to support displaced citizens. She has consistently been recognized for her leadership, ranked #1 in her squadron and most recently lauded by General North, Pacific Air Forces Commander, as PACAF’s 2011 top mobility pilot and officer.

Awards were presented at the Community College League of California’s’ Annual Convention and Partner Conferences on November 15-17,2012 at the Millennium Biltmore in Los Angeles, CA.