When she was only 6, Mishell and her mother Janeth emigrated from an economically challenged part of Ecuador to the U.S. to seek greater opportunity. Since then, Mishell has been convinced that attaining a good education is key to financial independence.
Today, as a 2013 graduate of Edison High School in Northeast Minneapolis and as a soon-to-be college freshman, Mishell says two programs were particularly influential for her during her high school years: the JA Company Program and the JA Job Shadow Program, which allows students to experience a day in the life of a professional in a wide variety of job settings.
“I first heard about [the JA Company Program] during the end of my sophomore year and I joined it during my junior year,” says Mishell, whose dark brown hair and eyes reflect her Hispanic heritage. “In our school, it was a once-a-week afterschool program. Our company was called G.O.L.D, which stands for Go On[L]ine and Delete. It addressed the issue of cyber-bullying, which was an issue for our school and many others. We wanted to make sure that kids were aware of the problem and show them ways they could help other kids if they were being bullied.”
As part of G.O.L.D, Mishell and her JA team sold distinctive red-and-white t-shirts to bring attention to the subject and to raise money. They were then able to use those funds to bring in a speaker from the Jacob Wetterling Resource Center to talk to their fellow classmates about the subject of cyber-bullying and the problems that can arise from misuse of social media. The presentation was recorded and later made available to other schools in an attempt to further spread the message.
Mishell achieved a number of honors while she was a student at Edison, including traveling to the national JA competition with her G.O.L.D team. She was a National Honor Society scholar, played competitive badminton (she and her doubles partner placed first in the city at the sport), and served for two years as co-president of the Service Club at her school, an organization that promoted environmentally responsible activity.
Mishell also says working with G.O.L.D helped her find her first “paying” work, since high school students often lack formal job experience when seeking their first job. Mishell put her JA Company program experience on her resume, and she thinks that directly helped her land her two current part-time positions at a hardware store and a local water park.
She says the Job Shadow program was also very useful because it aligned neatly with her own interests. She received good marks in her math classes and is intrigued by accounting as a career choice. As such, she had the opportunity to spend a day shadowing various professionals at the accounting firm of CliftonLarsonAllen LLP in downtown Minneapolis, as well individuals at ING and AT&T. She was also able to interact with ‘e-mentors’ from Target as part of the program.
“I want to study accounting for my bachelor’s degree,” Mishell says now with conviction, adding that she also is interested in pursuing pre-med coursework and hopes to enroll in medical school after she graduates.
“I did the JA Job Shadow as part of a business-focused class called Voyager [at Edison],” she says. “We got to job-shadow various people, and we also had the opportunity to go out to dinner and to luncheons with various professionals from throughout Minneapolis. At one lunch, I remember I sat by the president of Allina Medical. You get to meet a lot of people and you learn how to network and some of the ‘soft’ skills of being in business. We had an opportunity to put what we learned in class about the technical side of business into practice in the real world. I met a lot of businesspeople who would wind up giving me their cards and saying, ‘Call me if you need any help or an internship later.’”
Mishell says that the job-shadowing experience also opened her eyes to the wide range of fields that intersect with the general area of accounting, adding that she discovered jobs she never knew existed.
“Sometimes there are jobs in a field that you don’t even know about because you’ve never experienced that,” she says. “For instance, you may know about the field of accounting, but you don’t know that there are all these different types of accountants. I had a mentor from Target who was a tax accountant, for example. When you’re in high school, you just see the broad field but you don’t know about all its different parts. Other kids who weren’t involved with JA may know a little bit about a profession, but they never get a chance to see it in real life.”
Today Mishell is eagerly preparing to enroll at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minn. She is the recipient of two generous scholarships, one an Intercultural Leadership scholarship from St. Benedict itself, and the other a prestigious scholarship from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, which awards scholarships to talented minority students with demonstrated financial need. The program is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Gates scholarship selection process is a particularly rigorous one, which asks students to demonstrate good grades, personal and community leadership and to write eight personal essays as part of the application. As one of only 1,000 recipients of the 2013 Gates’ scholarship, Mishell receives a “good-through-graduation” package that effectively provides full funding for her schooling. Should she continue with her desire to pursue medical school after her undergraduate degree, the scholarship can be extended to provide funding for those efforts.
Today, Mishell says she’s also mindful of the fact that her little sister, 8-month-old Brianna, may someday look at Mishell’s educational path and take inspiration from it.
“I want to be a good example for her,” she says.