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Student ambassadors create impact at Mitchell Community College

Last year, five students at Mitchell Community College were given the opportunity to be student ambassadors with the goal of making an impact on the connection prospective students and families have with the college.

“It gives them a unique platform in enhancing the student experience,” said Career Development Specialist Angela Huggins.

While in the program, they also build lasting relationships, improve interpersonal skills, and grow and develop in a professional environment.

The students come from diverse backgrounds. Ivan Callejas-Cristino arrived at Mitchell after working construction with his dad, often working 52 hours over four days. Hong Zhang worked in his parents’ restaurant and is the first in his family to go to college. Zalia Martorana flew across the country from San Diego to Mitchell and hopes to start a business as a language coach in Canada. She works two jobs while she takes classes but still wanted to join the ambassadors program “to give back to the college for how good it’s been to me.” O’Niel Seme came to college unsure of what to study but through the advising at Mitchell is now interested in physical therapy. 

From left to right: Ivan Callejas-Cristino, Hong Zhang, Zalia Martorana, and O’Niel Seme share their experiences as student ambassadors at Mitchell Community College. Bryan Noreen/EducationNC

For Huggins, these students help show what Mitchell Community College has to offer.

“We’re working on dispelling the myth that community college is second rate,” she said. 

Vice President Camille Reese told us, “Success for the students at Mitchell Community College can take many different paths. We want our students to feel like they are welcome. We want students to feel like they are engaged and part of something bigger than themselves.” 

Mitchell also engages students through its three early colleges. The Collaborative College for Technology and Leadership gives a technical focus in partnership with Iredell-Statesville Schools and Mooresville Graded School District. Mitchell also has a science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) school called Crossroads. 

The third early college, focused on agribusiness technology, is the Agriculture and Science Early College. It is the first agriculturally-focused early college in the state. President Tim Brewer shared that Iredell County, the service area for Mitchell, leads the state in dairy production. He hopes in the future to build a north campus with a full farm and programs with agribusiness and agritourism. For now, the early college is “important to let middle and high school students see behind the walls,” said Brewer.

Together these three schools have roughly 750 students, and 80 percent of the students are first generation in their college-level course work. 

Mitchell Community College has much to be proud of. They’re the only nationally-accredited music program in the system, and they were the first two-year college to send something to space. Yet, they are still challenging themselves to do more to help students be successful. “One of the most exciting things on campus is when we can sit down and say ‘what if,'” said Brewer. 

This school year, the student ambassadors program went from five students to ten, and one of the goals is to double the program again. Ivan and Hong finished at Mitchell and are now roommates at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte seeking four-year degrees. They still come back to support the community college that got them started.

Seme told us, “Going to a place like Mitchell, you will get to where you want to. It’s not a choice.”

Bryan Noreen
Bryan Noreen manages data and engagement on the Reach NC Voices initiative for EducationNC. He received his undergraduate in Mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his master’s in Business Analytics from the University of Tennessee. Bryan is from Apex, North Carolina and has an affinity for NC BBQ.