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Student Spotlights

The Student Life and Engagement Department (SLED) is pleased to feature active students and alumni who were involved in different clubs, organizations and other activities. If you’re interested in being featured, please contact Stasia Lopez, alopez@ccac.edu or fill out this Google Form.  These spotlights may be shared as inspirational stories in CCAC newsletters, web pages, and other avenues. Thank you for being featured on our pages!

 

Ellie CalvertsEllie Calvert is working towards her Associate of Science at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in the hopes to become a Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA). I have been doing ballet my whole life, and I am a retired professional ballet dancer! I am currently a Pilates and Ballet Instructor at various ballet schools around the city. 

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process? * 

I haven't had any experience working in a Physical Therapy environment, but I've had a lot of experience being a patient. I always thought I wanted to be involved in the profession, and after my ballet career, becoming a PTA made the most sense for me. I moved to Pittsburgh in 2019, and after seeing CCAC had a successful and accredited program, it was a no brainer! 

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience? * 

I am currently an SPTA Officer for my class and serve as the Education Liaison. Throughout my education prior to CCAC, I never really got involved in any clubs or organizations. That was a goal for me this time around, and it really helps keep you accountable for your work! It has helped me with time management skills, and it's great to have a group of people supporting you!

Ellie CalvertsWhat skills did you gain from being involved and/or working? * 

Being involved in my program and working outside of school has taught me how to manage my time so I can still have fun!

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? * 

So far I love our labs the most. We learn while having fun, which really is the best way!

Anything else you'd like to share for your spotlight article? * 

As a professional dancer, I was able to perform in so many shows and roles, but there are a few that really stand out! Some of my favorite roles have been the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker and one of Juliet’s friends in Romeo and Juliet. I was also able to perform George Balanchine’s Serenade as a student, which is one of my favorite ballets! I like to travel as well, and in 2019 I went to Taiwan. It was definitely one of my favorite experiences, and I really hope to go back someday! 

Megan BujalskiMegan Bujalski is a freshman in her second semester here at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). She’s hoping to earn her Associate of Science degree in Mathematics & Sciences. She also currently works as a cashier at Lowe's Home Improvement Store.

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process? *

I chose this particular major of Mathematics & Sciences for my associate degree because I am planning on transferring to Robert Morris University to earn my Bachelor of Science in Software Engineering. My major at CCAC is appropriate for transferring for a STEM field. I knew I wanted to do engineering since middle school, and as my education went on, I became more and more interested in its aspects--including just math and science as well as beyond that. I chose CCAC because it's financially reasonable, and you get the same value of education for less of a cost. You still have the same opportunities as those starting out at a four-year university, but with less of a financial burden.

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience? *

Megan BujalskiI am involved with the Honors Program and PTK (Phi Theta Kappa). I don't have too much advice for current students about getting involved since I'm just a freshman, but a small piece of advice I do have, would be to not feel pressured to be involved in everything. If you don't find something right away, it’s okay--something will spark your interest at some point.

What skills did you gain from being involved and/or working? *

From working, I have definitely gained skills such as being able to interact with people and learning how to handle different situations in the most appropriate manner--those are two main aspects of my job. Different situations come up unexpectedly all the time at work, like an item not being priced correctly or a customer becoming frustrated with me. And now from having experience with those types of situations, my job has helped prepare me in how to handle those situations properly because there are certain things you should and shouldn't do. That kind of preparation helps for situations outside of the workplace, as well, since things happen all the time. It's best to know how to prepare for them--at least as much as we can.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? *

I don't have any specific memories since it's still my first year here; however, the professors I have had so far have been wonderful. It's nice to be able to make connections with them, and they were extremely helpful. Seeing ones from last semester in the hallways is always enjoyable, too. The resources we have here are also another great part of being at CCAC. The staff in general are just so wonderful, and I appreciate their efforts tremendously.

Katharine RossKatharine Ross is working towards her Associate degree in Business and plans to transfer to a four-year university to complete her Bachelor's degree. Katharine is currently working for her parents’ candy company. She is also participating in NASA's Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS). Katharine is the first CCAC student to be a part of this NASA program and it has been one of the most rewarding things she’s ever done.

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process? *

I chose my major to be business because I knew I wanted to learn about business and potentially follow in my parent’s footsteps of owning my own company. I chose CCAC because I knew I wasn't set on a major and I knew CCAC could give me some amazing opportunities (which it has!) and I knew I'd be guided towards success. I, of course, had my parents supporting me throughout my entire academic career. Also, Professor Fox has been such a light and has really inspired me to get involved and succeed.

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience? *

Katharine Ross NASAI am a member of the Honors Program, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the Academic Planning Committee, and I am a Certified Hearing Officer involved in conduct hearings. I am also involved in NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS), and I am working towards a TechWise program that was just offered to CCAC students. My advice would be to say yes to every opportunity, I didn't take advantage of this my first year at CCAC and now I wish I would have. Professor Fox helped kick-start this all for me by encouraging me to be a part of CCAC and get involved. I would tell students that networking is so important and find people that want you to succeed and surround yourself with those people.

What skills did you gain from being involved and/or working? *

I gained people skills (communication skills), confidence, leadership skills, time management, work ethic, problem-solving, and many more.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? *

Even though I was only on campus for one class at my time here at CCAC, I have made so many special memories. I have made friends, I have met some amazing Professors, I have learned so much, and even on zoom I could feel the atmosphere of CCAC. It has been such a joy being a student here and I would recommend it to anyone. The negative stigma around community college is not one to believe, the environment is awesome and I truly cherished my time here.

Anything else you'd like to share for your spotlight article? *

NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) is a program designed for students interested in a STEM major. My astronomy professor, Professor Huth, encouraged my class to apply for a spot in the program. Even though I am studying Business, I’ve always had a fascination for NASA and engineering. I thought, why not, and I applied. I was accepted for Mission 1 (Virtual), it was a 5-week course where I learned all about NASA and its missions. I was given materials to study and then take quizzes on. At the end of the course, we were to complete a 10-page research paper, I did mine on Habitation System Concept Studies. I chose to do my research on the environmental monitoring of water and the importance of Treatment and Diagnostic equipment for deep space travel. If you received a qualifying score on the course, you could move on to Mission 2. I was lucky enough to secure a spot and started NCAS Mission 2 at the beginning of February. Mission 2 was virtual (due to COVID but would normally be held in person at a NASA center) It was a week-long experience. All the students were separated into groups that were each led by a NASA mentor. During the week we planned a mission to Mars and on the last day presented it. During that week I was able to network and connect with some really amazing people, I learned so much and was able to immerse myself into NASA’s environment. I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the STEM field or just thinks working with NASA is the coolest thing! (It is!) I am forever grateful to CCAC, Professor Huth, and NASA for this opportunity, it was life changing.

Katharine Ross at the London BridgeInternational Travel

I have dreamed of travelling internationally my whole life, anxious to learn about new cultures and meet new people. I decided to take a gap year after high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career path, but I did know I wanted to see the world. I booked my flights to London right after graduating, saved money over the summer and then headed there in the fall. I was completely alone. I left my family, my boyfriend, my house, and my comfort zone. Everything would be new, and I had a month to explore the city. I picked an English-speaking country for my first trip, just so I had one thing that was familiar. I packed my bags and said goodbye to everyone I loved not knowing how my first time in another country would change my life. I stayed in an Airbnb with a small family, I was right outside the city and quickly became familiar with the area. I had my favorite coffee shops, stores, and parks. I had become a regular in just a week! I was afraid I wouldn’t meet anyone and that I would be homesick. Although I spent some nights missing home, I was creating a whole new life in London! I made so many friends, I learned so much about the history of London, I went to basically every museum in the city, and ate so much good food. I saw the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, I went to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theater (it gives me chills thinking about it), and I even went to a concert in the O2 arena, I bought tickets the day of and ended up being in the front row! I learned so much about myself being on my own, I learned the importance of travel and respecting other people’s cultures. My whole life changed after this trip; it was the coolest experience of my life, I lived lifetimes in a month. If you have the privilege of travelling internationally, I promise you, you won’t regret it! I’m a huge believer of spending money on experiences rather than things (and learning about another country’s history and culture is one of the best experiences). Although COVID took away most of my gap year to travel, I’m thankful, I, at least got a taste of the world outside of Pittsburgh.

Alexandria Kovack is currently working on her Business Management degree from the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and has a goal to open a nonprofit organization that helps to rehabilitate Veterans in the future.

Alexandria Kovak photoHow did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process? *

When I first started at CCAC I was actually going for a different degree; about two semesters in I realized that I wanted to change my major to something I truly wanted to do and where my heart truly was in terms of a career. I chose CCAC because of the great things I heard about it. In the beginning I went through an extremely hard time, where to no one’s fault but my own, I procrastinated so badly on figuring out my payments for my upcoming semester that I had no option but to take that semester off. I look at that break as a blessing in disguise because I met my VA Representative, Stephanie Green who has guided and helped me through getting back into CCAC after my semester break along with continuing to support me now.

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience? *

I am currently a member of PTK Honors Society and I am also a Student Ambassador. To any current students thinking about getting involved in any organizations, clubs, sports, and honor societies, I would say to go for it. There is so much good that comes with getting involved like making connections, gaining important skills, and explore new possibilities.

What skills did you gain from being involved and/or working? *

I gained more problem solving skills, business etiquette, more responsibility and even self-confidence.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? *

When I started at CCAC I had all in person classes, it was my first time being in college so I wanted to actually be there. Well that didn't even last an entire semester before everything switched to remote [due to the pandemic]. It was hard for everyone to go through that change and it lasted for what felt like forever. Now we have options to take in-person classes again and we are allowed back on campus; and being a student ambassador, I get to tour new students around campus. So my special memory that was very recent is having the joy and opportunity to tour new students around campus after a long stressful time away and it was awesome to see how many people came to tour.

Symphany HighsmithSymphany Highsmith is attending the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in hopes of earning a degree in Mathematics and Science. She works two part-time positions, one at a mental health hospital and the other at the Van Gogh Immersive Experience here in the Pittsburgh area. She is currently pursuing internships in the region.

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process?

I have always been drawn towards the sciences and have a natural understanding of mathematics so I decided to pursue a degree in what I love. I chose CCAC because of its multiple campus options and how affordable it is.

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience?

I’m currently involved in business, political science club and trying to pursue the basketball team. I’m trying to take advantage of the different club opportunities on campus because they have great connections and are lots of fun!

Symphany HighsmithWhat skills did you gain from being involved and/or working?

I have a greater understanding of people with different backgrounds and becoming more educated of their differences and how I can help.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC?

I’m still making memories at CCAC but one that is really nice is just the amount of support I get from our faculty. It leaves my heart full and me more determined to finish my degree.

Anything else you'd like to share for your spotlight article?

Never give up even if you think you are failing. All your failures lead to success nothing is done right the first time and that’s okay!

Sierra Mitchell's spotlightSierra Mitchell attends the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and is a Theatre major. She is a Sales Associate at Spirit Halloween and also a Bartender when it’s not Halloween season. 

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process? 

I chose my major because it has been my passion since I was little. It’s a very hard career but I want to be able to follow my dreams and be happy. I chose CCAC because I did not want to go to a university just yet, due to money issues, but I also wanted to be able to get my general education “gen-eds” out of the way. I also chose CCAC because my mom went here and she said it was the best decision she ever made straight out of high school. 

What student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience? 

I am in my first semester so I am not in any yet but I want to be a part of the bowling team and doing the shows/films!

What skills did you gain from being involved and/or working? 

People-skills! I love being around people.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? *

So far I love being in technical theatre. We always have funny stories to share and overall just have a good time being around each other.

Nicholas Moran holding a trophyNicholas Mohan is attending the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) and pursuing an Associate of Science in Business Management degree. This is his first semester out of high school. He’s currently working part time at the South Side Goodwill as also interned there during his senior year.

How did you choose your major in college? How did you choose CCAC? Did you have a mentor or person who helped guide you through that process? *

I choose my major in college by wanting a well-rounded option that could be flexible in a lot of different fields as I am still deciding what career route I would want to take. I choose CCAC by wanting to save money and not commit to a four- year program as I recently graduated City Charter High School and wanted to be able to take time and figure my situation out. I had several mentors at my High School who helped me get connected to the people necessary for my success as well as my parents who helped me as well with transitioning out of high school and taking time to talk to me and guide me.

Nicholas MoranWhat student activities were you involved in, while attending college? (clubs/orgs, sports, intramurals, leadership experience, honor societies, etc.) Were you involved with any activities or work experience outside of school? Any advice for current students about getting involved to gain relevant skills and experience? *

I am not currently involved in any clubs or intramurals at CCAC yet but am currently working at Goodwill outside of school. I encourage students to be involved in some other field rather than their school as it is important to have social interaction and throw yourself out there to be able to have people to turn to when situations do not go your way and to develop chemistry.

What skills did you gain from being involved and/or working? *

I gained the skills of responsibility and ability to handle longer working periods as I have to be able to commit to participating in my classroom studies and my work hours as well as show up on time each day to be able to make the most production.

What special memories, if any, can you share from your time at CCAC? *

The memories that I made so far at CCAC are getting to come to campus each day and walk around and see some of the other students come in and out of different buildings and exploring the nooks and cranny's to each campus area. I also enjoy the lunch options in the cafeteria such as Grilled Cheese and Daily Specials.

Anything else you'd like to share for your spotlight article? *

I recently graduated high school at City High and gave a commencement speech at my ceremony that was featured on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live and am happy to be attending CCAC.