CCC2NAU student sees a future in the Grand Canyon and in academia


David Cassidy outside the Foundation office at the Lone Tree Campus. 


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.- He wants to focus on his education while still being a river guide. 


Coconino Community College student David Cassidy has worked as a river guide in the Grand Canyon for the last 13 years. He originally grew up in Yuma, Ariz., but fell in love with the Grand Canyon when he was 17 while visiting with his friends. 


“I was pretty blown away by it and determined to come back,” Cassidy said, adding, “I just thought there is so much to see, even if I come back once a year, I’ll never see as much as I want to.”


Cassidy moved to Grand Canyon Village at the age of 19 and started working odd jobs in the town to be close to the canyon. One day while on a hike, he met someone on the trail who was there for both work and to see the beautiful sights the Grand Canyon had to offer. Cassidy decided that was the career for him. 


“I started out leading one-day bike tours, then leading multi-day backpack trips that were three days long, then a week long. Then 13-day rowing trips in the Grand Canyon. And now the trips that I do are 14–16-day trips,” Cassidy said. 


Cassidy has also led trips in Alaska, Texas, and more. 


During the pandemic, everything changed for Cassidy. Out of work, he decided to see a therapist with the Whale Foundation. The Whale Foundation helps support guides by offering the guiding community free counseling services. It was during one of these sessions that Cassidy decided to go back to school. 


Cassidy chose to start school at CCC because of the affordability and the option to take 8-week virtual classes, which meant he could still be a tour guide in the Grand Canyon. He is now a CCC2NAU student and will receive his Associates in Psychology from CCC. He plans to transfer to NAU to receive his bachelor’s degree with a minor in sociology and anthropology. The CCC2NAU program helps students save money while reaching their educational goals both at CCC and NAU. 


Cassidy has also received scholarships from the CCC Foundation, which helps provide scholarships for qualifying CCC students to offset the cost of school and living expenses, for the 2022 academic year. 


“It kind of goes back to my experience in high school with having the time to dedicate to my education,” Cassidy said.  In high school Cassidy had to start working at a young age to provide for himself and as a result did not do well in high school. Scholarships, he says, will give him the ability to work less and study more.


After NAU, Cassidy can see himself working as a psychology teacher, or as a school psychologist helping other students. During the summer months, he still plans to take trips into the Grand Canyon. 


Who knows what the future holds, he says. Maybe he will even end up working at the Whale Foundation helping others who were in a similar situation as he was. 


For more information on the Whale Foundation and their resources, visit

Friday, 15th April 2022

All Dates

  • Friday, 15th April 2022