5 things we learned from our 2019 WTCS Student Ambassadors

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By Erin Eagan

 

Every spring, one student ambassador is hand-selected from each of the 16 technical colleges in Wisconsin. These outstanding students are chosen because of their leadership, enthusiasm and commitment to their colleges and communities. They are the embodiment of perseverance and determination.

As ambassadors, they speak to potential students, community leaders, community groups and others about the value of a technical college education — and how it has impacted their lives.

Each one of the selected students has a unique story to tell, and while their personal journeys are unique, they share similarities with many others they hope to inspire.

The ambassadors recently shared their stories at an awards banquet in their honor, and here are 5 things we learned:

1. Without a clear path laid out, finding yourself can be a struggle

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Angela Haney, GTC

Angela Haney, Gateway Technical College

“I was lost for a very long time…” — Angela Haney, Gateway Technical College

We’re not born with a compass or a map to guide us along our journey. While some people know for certain what they want to do and be, for others it takes trial and error. In the meantime, it’s common to feel lost. This was a common theme among this year’s ambassadors until technical college helped set them on a career path they are truly passionate about.

“It’s hard to know what you want and need to do when you’re 18 years old,” said Joseph Maier, a student at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC). Like many others who graduate high school, Maier was undecided on a career he was passionate about and dealt with psychological issues while attending UW-Madison. After enrolling at NWTC, he’s confident his education has set him up with a great foundation as he enters the field of Mechanical Design Technology.

Gateway Technical College Student Angela Haney faced many hardships growing up in a violent neighborhood in Chicago. Out on her own at age 14 and later becoming a teen mom, she felt confused, disappointed and hopeless. “I was lost for a very long time.”

Not wanting to be defined by past traumas, Haney enrolled at Gateway to become a first-generation college student. “Life changed when I entered the doors of Gateway Technical College,” said Haney. “At that moment, I decided it was possible for me to transform myself into the person I have become.” Haney plans to graduate in May of 2020 with a degree in Human Services, and has her eyes set on obtaining a PhD.

2. Your college has to be the right fit

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Vikram Signh Gill, Mid-State Technical College

Vikram Signh Gill, Mid-State Technical College

“I struggled in a four-year setting…” — Vikram Singh Gill, Mid-State Technical College

In the last few decades, there has been a push to pursue higher education at a four-year college or university. But the problem is, four-year college isn’t for everyone — and it doesn’t need to be. Some students know this right away, while others don’t make that realization until after experiencing it for themselves.

“I struggled in a four-year setting,” said Vikram Singh Gill, who attended UW-Stevens Point after high school. Faced with an overwhelming pressure to succeed, Gill turned to drugs and quickly found himself on academic probation. Wanting to start anew, he enrolled at Mid-State Technical College. “When my journey at Mid-State began, I discovered what I was missing in my education: small class sizes, affordable tuition and instructors who continually challenged and engaged me.” Gill is currently pursuing a degree in Business Management with a goal of a career in higher education.

Oftentimes, students don’t realize their career goals can be achieved without a four-year degree. “After high school, I enrolled in UW-Whitewater and soon realized I felt lost,” said Kwamesha Milsap. “I transferred to Blackhawk Technical College to complete my general education courses and begin my journey to becoming a nurse. I know BTC will allow me to accomplish my goals and is a much better fit for me because everyone is my personal cheerleader and everyone knows my name.” Milsap is a first-generation college student who aspires to work as a nurse at a local hospital in the endoscopy department.

3. Education is still possible during financial struggles

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Kelly Gonzales, Waukesha County Technical College

Kelly Gonzales, Waukesha County Technical College

“I can try out a few different programs to find out what I truly enjoy without breaking the bank...” — Kelly Gonzales, Waukesha County Technical College

Every student deserves an opportunity in higher education regardless of their financial situation. With a lower cost of tuition than four-year colleges and universities, technical college makes that possible.

After working in retail, Brandy Mouledoux decided to enroll in Chippewa Valley Technical College while raising her son. “The endless options allow me to take low-cost, quality courses at a comfortable pace,” said Mouledoux. “CVTC has made it possible for me to begin my journey.” Mouledoux is currently enrolled in pre-program nursing and will start the core Nursing program in January of 2020 as she continues to follow her dream of working in the health care industry.

A lower cost of tuition also proves advantageous for students who are unsure what career path to pursue. “One of the reasons I love technical college so much is the fact that I can try out a few different programs to find out what I truly enjoy without breaking the bank,” said Kelly Gonzales, who has been taking classes at Waukesha County Technical College since 2015. After trying a few a pre-requisites for occupational therapy and trying her hand in the human services program, she has found her passion in Baking and Pastry Management. Her goal is to open her own bakery.

4. Technical college students are never alone in their journey

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Bess Corn, Nicolet College

Bess Corn, Nicolet College

“My advisor, my instructors; they believed in me…” — Bess Corn, Nicolet College

The day students walk onto a technical college campus, they are surrounded by people who want them to succeed — as well as the tools to help them do so.

Bess Corn is a single mom of two, a pre-school teacher, a full-time college student at Nicolet College and a waitress on the side. “I can’t say enough about Nicolet,” said Bess. “No matter all the personal struggles I’ve been through in the last two years, they were always there for me. My advisor, my instructors; they believed in me. I couldn’t let them down.” Corn plans on graduating in December 2019 with her associate degree in Early Childhood Education, and will continue her education at UW-Whitewater in the spring of 2020 in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in Education.

In addition to the instructors, advisors and mentors, Kwamesha Milsap and her fellow student ambassadors have made the most of the available resources on campus. “I benefit from the free writing labs, free transportation to campus, supportive staff, flexible class schedules and access to life skills as well as academics,” said Milsap. “All of these resources have been advantageous in the pursuit of my nursing career.”

5. Our student ambassadors hope to inspire others

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Marissa Nicholson, MATC

Marissa Nicholson, MATC

“I am on a mission…” ­— Marissa Nicholson, MATC

Our student ambassadors are proud of their success, and rightfully so. By sharing their stories of achievement, they hope they will be an inspiration to others who face similar situations.

Marissa Nicholson felt like she was on a downward spiral for 19 years until she realized that something needed to change. Looking for a new beginning, she enrolled in Milwaukee Area Technical College where she is now seeking her associate degree in Criminal Justice. “I believe I was brought into this institution to make a difference in the lives of others,” said Nicholson. “I am on a mission to encourage positive behavior, attitude and dedication. I am committed to MATC because I strive to witness adults uncover hidden layers to reach their full potential.”

Joseph Maier knows there are others like him who could benefit from hearing his story. “I believe the technical college route is truly a fantastic choice,” said Maier. “My goal is to reach out to high school students and others to explain the benefits from my personal experience.”

A special thanks goes out to Baird Public Finance, who has sponsored the WTCS State Ambassador program since its inception more than a decade ago.

Stay tuned for our next installment, when we’ll share a few more things we learned from our ambassadors!

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