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Column: First came a Minnesota West degree, then a career there

'If I hadn’t taken the step to continue my education after high school, I would not have had the professional opportunities I have had to this point'

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Fonseca

JACKSON — My name is Celina Fonseca. I have worked at Minnesota West two years as the resource specialist at the Jackson campus. I attended Minnesota West as a PSEO student and also right after high school. The thought of me working here didn’t even cross my mind at the time. However, I am grateful to have the opportunity to work here and hopefully make a difference in students’ career paths, whether it is offering a friendly smile or making their college experience a little less scary by helping them understand the process.

I love the variety of duties my position offers, from giving campus tours and helping students register for classes all the way to helping them apply for graduation. My favorite part of the job is the interactions I have with students and seeing them evolve throughout the year. In Jackson, we mainly have technical programs, so our students come full-time anywhere from one to two years depending on the program they choose. So, we get to see them regularly throughout the year. The beginning of the year starts full of excitement. It is so fun to see all the new faces and to feel the positive energy from students, parents, faculty and staff. It is definitely bittersweet when the end of the academic year arrives and we have to say goodbye to the students who are graduating, but the sweet outweighs the bitter.

My siblings and I attended Minnesota West, so it is also nice to be able to have that personal experience and understand a little bit more about the process from the student perspective. My brother and I attended the Worthington campus and both graduated with a business management AAS degree. It was scary being the first in our family (both maternal and paternal) to attend college. Nevertheless, we did it! We would like to think our little sister followed our footsteps since she also attended the Jackson campus. First, she received her cosmetology diploma and later on returned to get enough credits to transfer and pursue her bachelor’s in business.

My brother also ended up completing his bachelor’s in business a couple years ago. It was easier for him thanks to the education he had received at Minnesota West. I don’t think my siblings and I would have even considered attending college if we didn’t have Minnesota West available close to home. I would say that being able to stay home with our parents was the deal breaker in whether or not we attended. At the time, we lived in Lakefield, and my brother and I started college around the same time; that helped with the transition from high school to college. Family has been very important to me, so having their support meant everything.

Fast forward 16 years, I now live in Jackson with my 8-year old daughter. My daughter claims she wants to be just like me and attend Minnesota West. I am fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work for this wonderful institution that is rewarding in many ways. Most of all, I am thankful because I am able to be where I am today because of Minnesota West. If I hadn’t taken the step to continue my education after high school, I would not have had the professional opportunities I have had to this point that ultimately led to my current position with Minnesota West. A decision I took 16 years ago is what allows me to have a job that I enjoy and that allows me to provide for my daughter, which is ultimately what matters most to me.

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If anyone is curious about what it is like to attend Minnesota West, regardless of their post-secondary experience level, I invite and encourage them to set up a time to visit the location of their choice. Whether someone wants to transfer to a university and get some generals out of the way or is interested in more technical, hands-on majors, Minnesota West offers flexible, convenient and affordable options. Whether directly or indirectly, Minnesota West significantly helped prepare me for the real world. I hope I can pay it forward by helping our former, current and future students achieve the same.

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