Brooklynn Nichole Contreras, 18, says the experience of meeting First Lady Jill Biden at Mesa Community College left her speechless. Biden visited MCC to recognize the success of the Mesa College Promise Program, which financially assisted Contreras as she attended college.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to meet her," said Contreras, who lives in Mesa. "It was an amazing event and I’m so grateful I was a part of it. I also saw Mayor John Giles, who I met previously, and other dignitaries."
Mesa College Promise allows eligible graduating Mesa high school students to attend MCC for two years with tuition and fees fully funded. Funding is provided by the City of Mesa and Mesa businesses and philanthropists.
Contreras, an early Red Mountain High School graduate, began her college classes at MCC during her junior year of high school. She took classes at both MCC campuses, along with several held online.
"I was not ready to leave home and was interested in the nursing program," she said. "It was amazing that Mesa College Promise paid for all my Certified Nursing Assistant classes. I passed all my boards and have been able to work as a CNA. MCC academic advisor Tracy Inorio was extremely helpful and encouraging."
Contreras said Maria Estrella Dawes, the Mesa College Promise Program Coordinator, kept her motivated when things got tough.
"Maria really motivated me and made me feel on top of the world, which helped a lot," she said.
Contreras is graduating this year with an Associate in Arts, with an Emphasis on Criminal justice. Contreras plans to attend Arizona State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She would like to work as a defense attorney.
"I talked to the Mesa Mayor and he said he would give me a recommendation for ASU because he earned his law degree at ASU. He’s amazing."
While attending MCC, Contreras also received assistance from TRIO Student Support Services and the First Year Experience Program. She volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, a Mesa non-profit organization. She was an honors student, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and worked in the MCC Tutoring/Learning Enhancement Center.
"More students should use the Learning Enhancement Center," she said. "There are so many resources available."
Contreras is currently mentoring her 16-year-old brother who is interested in welding. She would like him to continue his education MCC.
"I didn’t have a path when I was that age and I want to help him," she said.
Contreras said she whole-heartedly recommends MCC to other students.
"I’d tell them MCC is friendly and welcoming and has lots of resources," she said. "Just get your feet wet. It’s affordable, bachelor’s degrees are becoming available and it’s an amazing experience. I’m in awe of MCC."