Senior Aicha Santos, who is majoring in criminal justice with a minor in psychology, described herself as “the biggest cry baby” when she took a public speaking class at Mitchell College.
“I cried four times,” she said. “But my professor was tough and she pushed and said, ‘Get up there and be proud of yourself.’ You had to talk about yourself in the class and that’s something I had a hard time doing.”
Today, Aicha is happy to share her story of how much she’s grown at Mitchell College.
“I want to talk about my life now – my transition – which is more important than my struggles.”
Aicha came to Mitchell College as a non-traditional student, having taken some classes at a community college several years ago when her son, now in high school, was a young child.
“It was very difficult and stressful. My son was 5. I had no support, and I failed. But I kept hearing about Mitchell College’s criminal justice program, and I wanted to come here.”
Years passed, and Aicha decided to give Mitchell a try.
“I was embarrassed to apply here. My grades were not that good, and I was afraid I wasn’t qualified. But I talked to [Director of Admissions] Kelby Chappelle, and he never focused on the negative. None of the classes that I did badly in were mentioned. I felt like I was given a second chance. That moment, those seconds, those minutes that I spent in the Admissions office just changed my life.”
Aicha, who came from Puerto Rico to work at Mohegan Sun 21 years ago, works nights and thought she couldn’t juggle full-time classes with work.
“But Kelby challenged me. Because of my age, he was realistic with me about what my future was going to look like if I didn’t go full-time. It took me a day to decide, and I said I would do it. The first year was hard, but he kept checking up on me. With the academic support here, I was able to succeed.”
With her newfound confidence, Aicha is setting and accomplishing goals for herself, with an eye towards the future. She recently completed an internship with the State’s Attorney’s Office in New London, where she shadowed several positions, including a bail bondsman, prosecutor and a victim advocacy group. She also had the opportunity to meet three superior court judges, including one who allowed her to go into his chambers and observe a civil case.
“My internship supervisor was open to me learning about any opportunity. Through this process I found that my interest lies with juvenile probation. After a day of working there, I knew it was for me. Even though I completed my internship hours, I can continue to volunteer in that unit until I graduate in 2023. That will make it easier to transition into a job with the State of Connecticut when I am ready to apply.”
Aicha said that her internship helped her focus on her career path.
“Without the internship, I wouldn’t have found what my passion is. I learned that I can advocate for minors and make a difference in their life. During college, we’re taught about our field, but the internship helps put you into your spot. I learned that I can do a lot of things that I never thought possible.”
Aicha is also making other plans to invest in her future.
“I am going to take the LSAT exam this summer, with the goal of being accepted at the University of Connecticut School of Law to pursue a Juris Doctor (JD) degree and passing the bar exam in three years of my Mitchell graduation.”
Aicha is grateful for the opportunities that Mitchell has given her and wishes that others who are in the same shoes she was in could do the same.
“I see single moms at work who are so lost and have no support and don’t know what they are doing. Everyone has a different story. It’s been a long journey for me, but a good journey. If I can do it, thousands more can. They just need to be heard, like I was.”
“Not only has Mitchell been a good school for me, but it’s challenged me to the point that I feel so confident. I feel like I transitioned to an educated person, and I am happy that I did that. Very happy.”