Student ambassadors tout 'The Mitchell Advantage'
BY KARISSA MILLER
When Jessica Scarborough decided to go back to school, she found the offerings of Mitchell Community College to be just what she needed.
Scarborough, who is almost 30, is currently a full-time student who will graduate in May.
She is also a student ambassador for Mitchell. In that capacity, she helps guide incoming students and visitors who are interested in following her footsteps as a non-traditional student.
Scarborough shared her Mitchell story with a group of about 30 middle and high school counselors, along with other education groups and partners in the college’s alumni lobby, this week.
In high school, “I was a very good student,” she said. “I didn’t struggle. I graduated early.”
Like many students, she believed attending a four-year college or university was the next step.
“University, university, university -- that is your ticket. I went to university … and I failed miserably,” she recalled.
“I just couldn’t keep up,” Scarborough said.
Being one of 300 students in a classroom auditorium trying to keep up with a fast-paced curriculum was not a recipe for success.
“I quit school” and came home, she said.
She got a job and worked in management for about six years. She got married, had a child and when it was time for son to start school, she decided to return to the classroom.
“I came in and did my placement testing and jumped right in,” Scarborough said.
During her first semester, she took 16 hours and made straight As.
“Smaller classrooms, one-on-one teachers and the accessibility that you get when you offer community college first,” she said.
On the Mitchell campus, students often see the phrase “be prepared to excel” underneath the college’s logo. For Scarborough, that motto sums up her experiences.
She is one of many students living what school officials call “the Mitchell Advantage.”
Another student ambassador, Jakob Schall, 19, is a programming student.
He led a demonstration in which he showed guests a map of the world that he created with Python, using light visualizations to showcase the 20 biggest cities.
Schall said that he’s still uncertain about what he wants to do, but he is interested in website development.
The faculty at Mitchell seems to be genuinely concerned about student success, he explained.
While some of his friends chose four-year schools to have the whole college experience, Schall says he doesn’t regret his decision.
“I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on anything. I’ve met so many different kinds of people, from different life experiences … and it’s been eye opening,” he said.
Sachid Meadows, 24, came to Mitchell with no idea what he wanted to do and learned programming was a good fit for him.
He said that saving money on college was important and that Mitchell is an affordable option. He enjoys the classes because of the teachers.
“All the teachers here are really great. They each have a unique teaching style and you’ll learn a lot,” Meadows explained.
Loraine Watt, one of the department’s teachers and the program coordinator, said several of her students have found a job after finishing the Information Technology program.
“We prefer them to take some industry wide certification -- earning certification credentials before they go out to the workforce,” Watt explained.
The Mitchell Advantage event
Middle and high school counselors and Crosby Scholars directors took part in the first-of-its-kind event on the campus of Mitchell Community College.
Porter Brannon, vice president for Student Services, led a walking tour in a speed dating format with 10-minute presentations, with five minutes for Q&A and five minutes to travel to the next location.
Student ambassadors spoke with guests and counselors learned more about their programs, which included nursing, music and arts, Information Technology, Agribusiness, Welding, public safety careers and pathways and culinary arts.
“The Mitchell Advantage” provided hands-on experience of Mitchell and highlighted why a student might want to choose a community college before attending a four-year college or university.
What are the advantages?
Camille Reese, vice president for Instruction, detailed some of the many Mitchell advantages, including size advantages, cost advantages, extracurricular activities, and college transfer programs.
Reese explained that Mitchell has an articulation agreement with N.C.-based public universities that helps to ensure students transfer smoothly to their next school.
She said that graduates who earn a two-year Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degree from Mitchell who are accepted into one of 17 UNC schools, such as Appalachian State University or UNC-Charlotte, can transfer in with junior status.
“If they don’t finish the degree, classes are evaluated on a course-by-course basis,” Reese said.
The typical class size range for a Mitchell class is 12 to 30 students. If students show signs of struggling, the college will help to get them back on track.
“We reach out to those students and let them know we’re here and provide them an additional source of support. It might be tutoring, the career center or other resources,” Reese said.
During the jam-packed event, counselors were also briefed on advanced manufacturing jobs that payt $12 to $18 an hour with great benefits, along with clean work environments.
They learned about the North Carolina Manufacturing Institute that will train students for free and have them working in no time. The only cost to the student is a $40 drug test. Participants also must have reliable transportation.
Iredell County has a diverse manufacturing sector, with more than 300 manufacturers employing more than 24,000 people.
Participants also toured the new Agribusiness center, which is housed on the Technology and Workforce Development Center campus near the college’s urban farm.
The group’s next stop was a walkthrough of the AIMS lab. Advanced Integrated Manufacturing Systems are designed for students and employers, covering topics from electrical and industrial controls.
Lunch was provided by the school’s culinary art students inside the executive training center.