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Student Spotlight – Robert Leopardi

 

 

What major are you studying at Blue Ridge CTC?

Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry

 

Why did you select your program?

I started exploring new foods a few years ago and I wanted to learn how to produce some of those dishes.

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

I have really enjoyed learning how to bake. I never would have thought that I would enjoy it as much as I do. I have learned from some exceptional chefs and met some great people throughout these courses.

 

What are your current goals after you graduate, and how has Blue Ridge assisted you toward those goals?

After graduation, I plan on continuing to learn and grow in the Culinary and Baking Industries and pass along my passion to future students as an instructor at Blue Ridge.

 

What advice would you offer to current and future students? 

Be prepared for long days in the lab and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone!

 

Is there anything else you want us to know?

You’re going to get what you put into this program, so show up every day with a positive attitude and be ready to give it your best. It is a challenging course, but it’s very rewarding and a lot of fun!

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Student Spotlight – Vanessa Gonzalez-Mercado

 

What major are you studying at Blue Ridge CTC?

Culinary Arts and Baking and Pastry

 

Why did you select your program?

Over the course of the Pandemic I rediscovered my love for cooking and baking so when I was looking into going back to school, it felt right to follow what I enjoy doing.

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

I’ve had so many amazing opportunities to work with amazing chefs in many very cool kitchens through events the program partners with.

 

What are your current goals after you graduate, and how has Blue Ridge assisted you toward those goals?

I hope to use this degree to help me travel, people everywhere love to eat right? Having this degree helps show my dedication to this field.

 

What advice would you offer to current and future students? 

Take advantage of the resources provided by your program, this includes your classmates. Everyone’s in this together working towards the graduation finish line, it’s easier with friends.

 

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Student Spotlight – Ezekiel Hall

 

What major are you studying at Blue Ridge CTC?

Software Development Engineering

 

Why did you select your program?

I have always had a fascination with computers since I was first introduced to them in school. I was amazed by the things you could do with them and quickly fell in love with messing around with them. I was unsure what to do with my future, but after talking with family and friends, I was encouraged to give college a try; since I had self-studied programming, earning a Programming with Python certificate from Harvard’s online certificate program, I figured it would be fun to give Software Development a chance.

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

I really enjoy the entire community surrounding Blue Ridge CTC. I have always found it relatively hard to fit in or find people that I really connect with, but since my first day of college, I have been making friends and meeting many people who share my interests, including the instructors here. It is really a place where I feel welcome and able to grow with all the support from everyone.

 

What are your current goals after you graduate, and how has Blue Ridge assisted you toward those goals?

In recent years, I have been deeply fascinated by machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence. I would have never expected to develop these kinds of algorithms, especially for something I would truly enjoy. But with that said, after joining the SPACE Team at Blue Ridge, I have been leading the software development for an instrument that will be sent into space! This very project will use a model created using reinforced learning, a form of machine learning, to help us parse and understand all the data we collect. With the knowledge I am learning here, I hope to pursue higher education on this very topic.

 

What advice would you offer to current and future students? 

My advice for any student, current or in the future, would be not to be afraid to talk to people and ask for help. When first starting here, I joined a project that was making a virtual reality tour of the Technology Center. During the couple of months I helped with this project, I went around taking pictures and measurements of various objects and rooms. While I did this, I got to meet a lot of the faculty and other students outside of my major that I was able to talk to, and eventually led to meeting Alberto Torres, a current instructor, who introduced me to the SPACE Team. What I’m trying to get at is that none of what I am doing today would be possible if I didn’t step outside my comfort zone to talk to these incredible people that I can now call my friends today, and I would implore you to do the same.

 

Is there anything else you want us to know?

I am the Vice President and Lead Software Developer of the SPACE Team as well as the Treasurer for the STEM Club. In the SPACE Team I develop software that is used in a project that is part of NASA’s RockSat-X program. This has allowed me to experience working on a real, high-stake mission where every part of the project must work flawlessly to get the results you want. This year (2024), our project will be launched ~170km (about 105.63 mi) off the surface of Earth, and its primary goal is to capture spectrometric data from the Sun using an autonomous gimbal and spectrometer. I am greatly honored to be able to share my story about Blue Ridge and thank you all for your consideration.

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Student Spotlight – Chelsea M. Garcia

 

What major are you studying at Blue Ridge CTC?

Human Services

 

Why did you select your program?

I am passionate about serving our community by educating, advocating and empowering those looking to obtain a better quality of life.

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

My professors have been invested in my success at BlueRidge CTC since the beginning. I am very appreciative of the guidance and time they’ve given me.

 

What are your current goals after you graduate, and how has Blue Ridge assisted you toward those goals?

I am looking forward to transferring to Shepard University to obtain my degree in Social Work. My ultimate goal is to open a Re-Entry program and facilitate a mentorship program between adults and our youth population. My professors at BlueRidge have been very active in my success as a student. Through my internship program I was able to obtain a career at the Jefferson Day Report Center to gain experience for my future career goals.

 

What advice would you offer to current and future students? 

Utilize your professors, advisors and counselors. They are a wealth of knowledge and care about getting you set up for success.

 

Is there anything else you want us to know?

I am a mom of 3 and having the flexibility to be a mom and get an education has been such a blessing. BlueRidge staff has been wonderful to work with and I couldn’t be more grateful. The connections I’ve made here at BRCTC has and will change my life forever. Thank you!

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Student Spotlight – Emma Cote

 

What major are you studying at Blue Ridge CTC?

Open Transfer Liberal Arts

 

Why did you select your program?

I selected the Liberal Arts program because I knew it would give me not only the mobility to take classes that encompassed my academic interests but also give me the foothold to build my transcript and resume as I applied for a 4-year institution. It allowed me to handpick the classes I knew I’d need to transfer while still working towards an actual degree here at the same time!

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

The major thing I enjoyed in my time at Blue Ridge would have to be my professors and supporting faculty. They’ve provided me with some of the best support I could have asked for, pushing me to excel and fueling my interests within our subjects. I wouldn’t be where I am now without their support and excellent instruction, especially in subjects I lacked in from High School.

 

What are your current goals after you graduate, and how has Blue Ridge assisted you toward those goals?

I graduate with my Associate’s degree after this Summer semester, and after that, I’ll actually be transferring out overseas to finish my Bachelor’s degree in the Czech Republic! It’s always been a big dream of mine to travel, and a really beneficial thing I’ll be taking away from here is that my transferring school- even being abroad- will accept my Blue Ridge credits, so I speculate I’ll only need 2 more years to finish out my full Bachelors. I’ll be completing a degree in Curatorial studies with the hopes of continuing to grad school to do either museum-based conservation work or research historian/archival work! The ability to transfer was a huge perk to saving money, as well as staying close to home while I did a big chunk of my program. Working closely with supporting faculty really helped make this happen as well, from helping with my resume to providing academic references.

 

What advice would you offer to current and future students? 

Aim high! Academics and academia are difficult things right now, let’s not deny it, but perseverance and confident goals for yourself can get you a long way. I had extremely poor grades in High School and struggled a lot to really care about school whatsoever if I’m being honest. But decisively finding a passion and sticking to it has gotten me really far in my college years, and I’ve vastly improved the quality of my own work simply by setting really determined aims for myself. But still, be gentle with yourself! Stuff happens, life gets in the way, and burning out is something I do a bit too often to myself when I get caught up in it all. Be aware of the people around you who can offer support, both here at the school as well as in your own life.

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Student Spotlight – Riley Betterelli

 

What major did you complete at Blue Ridge CTC?

Liberal Arts

 

Tell us what you are doing now. Are you working? If so, what do you do? Are you continuing your studies? If so, where are you a student and what is your major?

I’m currently working a part-time job at Office Depot. I do plan on continuing my studies at Shepherd University to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree.

 

Have you done anything noteworthy with your degree that you wish to highlight? If so, explain it here.

I haven’t been able to use my degree yet.

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

The people. The people are so kind. The professors are very understanding, especially when it comes to online classes.

 

Is there anything else you want us to know?

I’ve been at Blue Ridge CTC since my senior year in Highschool. I was apart of the jumpstart program. It was the best decision I could have ever made. It has given me a massive head start when it comes to my career and education.

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Student Spotlight – Angela Defendini

What major did you complete at Blue Ridge CTC?

Liberal Arts

 

Tell us what you are doing now. Are you working? If so, what do you do? Are you continuing your studies? If so, where are you a student and what is your major?

I will continue my education at Shepherd University, pursuing a B.A in History and minor in Spanish. I plan to further my education and become a librarian/archivist and translator/interpreter. I have been volunteering at the Shepherdstown Library for nearly a year and am learning a lot. I am also a writer, so I will continue freelance writing.

 

Have you done anything noteworthy with your degree that you wish to highlight? If so, explain it here.

So far, I have written stories for two video games published on Github and Itch.io, and am currently working on the third.

 

Explain one thing you enjoyed about your time at Blue Ridge CTC.

I enjoyed my professors a lot. Particularly Professor Bass and Professor Ralston.

 

Is there anything else you want us to know?

As a student in their 40’s, returning to college was a little intimidating. But the experience was very pleasant and I appreciated how much care and attention I received from my advisor. I learned a lot about myself and stretched myself to grow in unexpected ways.