Every grad has a story. Here are just a few from MCC’s Class of 2018

More than 2,500 students make up Metropolitan Community College’s Class of 2018 (commencement is at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 17, at Municipal Auditorium). Among them:

Brandon Baker

Baker’s goal is to become an immigration attorney, and the first step is graduating with his associate in arts transfer degree from MCC-Longview. He plans to study Spanish and sociology at UMKC next, then apply to law school.

Baker praises MCC’s small class sizes and its faculty, in particular Longview political science instructor John Shively. “He doesn’t just teach us things you need to know for class. He teaches you things you can use throughout your entire college career.”

Speaking of politics, Baker has made several trips with fellow students to the state Capitol in Jefferson City. He enjoys getting “to grill (lawmakers) on the things they’re proposing that you know aren’t in the interests of everyday people.”

Emanuel Burnette

Burnette’s story could have ended very differently: He was a high school dropout. Now, he is a first-generation college student and a role model for others once in his shoes. “I’m just leading by example,” he said at a recent MCC roundtable discussion on Pell Grants that featured U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt.

“I wanted to get critical thinking skills and increase my earning capacity,” Burnette says. “I wouldn’t have been able to do that without college.”

A Bloch Scholar and a participant in MCC-Penn Valley’s Project Success program, Burnette is graduating with an associate in arts degree, business track, and will transfer to UMKC.

Monica Fritchey

Fritchey, a student at MCC-Blue River, is graduating with an associate in arts in teaching degree with a goal of becoming a math teacher. Earlier this year she was one of three Missouri community college students named to the 2018 Coca-Cola Academic Team, an honor that came with a $1,000 scholarship. Fritchey, the Coca-Cola Bronze Scholar for Missouri, hails from Iberia, Mo.

“After the first visit (to MCC-Blue River), I knew this was the community college for me,” Fritchey says. “Both the students and staff members were extremely friendly and welcoming, and the atmosphere felt safe and inviting. The clubs, organizations and volunteer work the college provided allows students to thrive both academically and personally.”

Lacy Goettling
Goettling at the MCC Gratitude Reception

“I want to eat, sleep, breathe theater for the rest of my life,” says the MCC-Blue River student, who will graduate with an associate in arts degree and has been auditioning for university musical theater programs. She has been performing since she was 3, including four years at Worlds of Fun. Ultimate goal: Broadway!

Getting involved in Blue River’s Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society (she was elected vice president) gave her “a ton of leadership skills,” Goettling says. “I’ve always been outgoing but it’s made me even more outgoing.”

She recently spoke about her MCC experience at a Gratitude Reception for major MCC scholarship donors.

Christian Hernandez
Hernandez with MCC’s Dr. Jackie Gill (left) and Chancellor Kimberly Beatty at the MLK luncheon

Hernandez is graduating this month from Van Horn High School and from MCC, where through the Early College Program he has earned a certificate in computer-aided drafting and design. His goal is to become an architect. A $50,000 scholarship from the KC Scholars program will help him attend the University of Kansas, where he plans to pursue bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

After being named the MCC-Business & Technology winner of the 2018 Chancellor’s Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship at MCC, which recognizes community service, Hernandez was profiled by local paper 2Mas2KC. He tutors kids at the elementary school he once attended. “My job is to help students realize the potential they have, encourage them no matter what and be a mentor,” Hernandez told 2Mas2KC.

At MCC “I have been exposed to rigorous coursework and a supportive college environment,” he says.

Teeka Hodge

Thanks in part to assistance from KC Scholars, Hodge finished up her associate in arts degree at MCC-Maple Woods in December. She is continuing her studies at Park University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree focused on social work.

Hodge started college at MCC-Maple Woods after graduating from Winnetonka High School in 2010, and she completed 50 credit hours. But she put education on hold in 2013 after learning she was pregnant. Hodge was one of the first adult learners to receive a scholarship from KC Scholars, and it helped her finish her degree.

Hodge says she’s grateful for all the support she received at MCC. She’s especially complimentary of counselor Clayton Robinson. “Don’t do your journey alone — use your resources,” she advises.

Justin Kelleher

Kelleher, the student speaker at MCC commencement, says the theme of his address will be finding success and happiness by embracing discomfort. An MCC early college student, he will graduate this month from both Lee’s Summit North High School and MCC, which will award him an associate degree in computer science. He is a participant in the Missouri Innovation Campus program for students interested in the STEM fields.

At MCC-Longview, Kelleher has been active in the Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society, organizing volunteer opportunities such as at a campus food pantry. He has also contributed many hours to the HELP Humane animal shelter in Belton.

As for being a high school student on a college campus, “at first it was intimidating,” he says, “but I got used to it and made a lot of new friends here. PTK really helped me get out of my bubble and meet people.”

Jacob Lumpkin

Lumpkin used to work at a motorcycle repair business, and one day he heard from a friend who’d left that place for another career: “Hey, you ever thought about becoming a lineman?”

No, he never had, but “next thing I know I was in Susan’s class.” That’s Susan Blaser, lineman program coordinator at MCC-Business & Technology.  Lumpkin is finishing up the 1-1/2-year program to earn an associate in applied science lineman degree. Job prospects look good.

“Every time I’m up in the air it’s basically an adrenaline rush,” Lumpkin says. “It’s always nice to be an unofficial superhero. I get to turn people’s power back on. And the pay’s pretty darned good.”

Haley Marconnet

“Some students come to campus, take their classes and leave,” Marconnet says. “But being more involved in campus helps.” Making new friends, for instance. And forming relationships with faculty and staff who can recommend you later.

Marconnet worked in MCC-Longview’s Campus Life & Leadership office. She also got her MCC tuition paid for by Missouri’s A+ scholarship program. “My parents wanted me to try to get through college mostly on my own,” she says. “So I have a pretty good bank account set up for transferring.”

She is graduating with an MCC associate in arts degree and will attend the University of Central Missouri. She plans to become a high school social studies teacher.

Hieu Nguyen

Nguyen, an MCC-Penn Valley student, is transferring to UMKC to earn a bachelor’s degree in secondary art education. His goal is to teach high school art, including drawing, painting, photography and sculpting. He also plans to work toward getting his master’s degree so he can teach at the college level.

A recipient of a Bloch Scholarship, he is grateful for the opportunity to attend college. “Scholarships like this are important because it gives people hope. . . . This scholarship gave me, an average student, the possibility of seeking higher education without becoming a financial burden to my family.”

Lauren Wilson

As a peer mentor at MCC-Maple Woods, Wilson was assigned a College 100 class to work with. That’s the one-credit First-Year Seminar that introduces students to MCC and helps them acquire academic survival skills.

“It’s really interesting to hear different students’ perspectives on working full time or going to school full time,” Wilson says. “There are so many different aspects of life you don’t think about. (At MCC) there are people who just came out of high school, there are nontraditional students, there’s just a whole diverse group of people who are here for the same thing.”

An MCC associate in arts grad, Wilson is headed to Northwest Missouri State University to study wildlife ecology and conservation. Her career goal is to work for the National Park Service as a park ranger or biologist technician.

Contributing: Laurel Zimmerman