Gisell Stephenson – Associate in Arts Degree
For Gisell Stephenson, 28, moving to Arizona without family or friends nearby, plus transitioning from the military made for a difficult adjustment. She credits Mesa Community College with providing a support system as she worked toward earning her degree. She graduates in May with an Associate in Arts.
“The family I created on campus was more than I could have ever asked for,” Stephenson said. “Being involved on campus may seem unimportant, but the personal and professional growth that evolves within self is priceless,” Stephenson said.
While at MCC, she was involved in numerous volunteer activities and became a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. The projects and organizations she participated in include Operation Finding Peace: Peace Through Something Different, Mesa’s CARE Partnership, Special Olympics Arizona, the National Alliance of Mental Illness Walk and Relay for Life.
Statistics show that students who are active in extracurricular activities have a higher graduation rate. Stephenson said she would encourage other military and non-traditional students to become involved on campus.
“For me, extracurricular activities like civic engagement, volunteerism, student organizations, and the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society helped me connect with my campus and my community to create an everlasting relationship,” Stephenson said.
Being a veteran with medical conditions is an additional challenge she and other students face along with balancing school, work and family obligations.
“Having to prioritize health and education was difficult at times, but with understanding faculty, I was able to make hard decisions easier during challenging moments,” she said.
While at MCC, she received several scholarships and awards including the Coca-Cola Leaders of Promise Military Scholar and the 40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 Scholarship.
“Financial constrictions for college students who have a variety of goals will always be a challenge and I am very fortunate to have had the assistance I received through scholarships from MCC’s scholarship program and Phi Theta Kappa,” Stephenson said.
She also participated in MCC’s Student Veterans of America club and the Ally Success Mentor Program. She assisted in creating a Veteran-to-Veteran Mentor Program and took notes for students with disabilities.
After graduating from MCC, Stephenson plans to transfer to Arizona State University with the end goal of receiving a master’s in social work. Her career goal is to work in child welfare and become an international social worker.
Stephenson, originally from Kissimmee, Florida, resides in Gilbert with her husband, Landon, and son, Rodolfo. She credits Jordan Sherwood, Christin Franco, Brian Dozier, Ricky LeDesma and Ryan McConnaughy as the MCC mentors and friends who helped her on her educational pathway.
“Without my family and friends’ support, I would have never completed as many endeavors throughout my time at MCC,” Stephenson said.
Her advice for other students?
“Education will open many doors that will highly benefit you in the long run,” she said. “MCC is an ideal college for diverse interaction and full acceptance.
“For my fellow veteran brothers and sisters, I have all the faith in the world that each one of you will succeed. I thought I left behind bonds after I departed from the military but those bonds have been the foundation that have helped create the path to my success. Don’t be afraid to reach out to brothers and sisters on campus. You have set your goals; it will only take discipline and determination to achieve them, which can seem more attainable with a little help.”
For more information on MCC’s Veteran Services, visit: http://www.mesacc.edu/veteran-services