Graduate Spotlights

Graduation caps illustration
Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Walking across the stage to accept a college diploma is the crowning achievement of one’s academic life. It marks the end of a journey that often includes obstacles and challenges overcome by hard work and perseverance.

It also signifies the start of a new chapter as graduates begin their post-graduate lives.

Add in a once-in-a-generation global pandemic that framed the past year and a half for many of this year’s graduates, and this commencement season is sure to feel extra sweet.

With many of the Class of 2020 — who celebrated their graduation virtually last year — set to join the Class of 2021 for in-person ceremonies this week, get to know a few of our graduates as they reflect on their fondest memories, recognize impactful faculty and staff, and bestow advice to future Niners from their time on campus.

Tanya Fuentes
Tanya Fuentes

Hometown
Charlotte, N.C.

Major(s)/Graduate Program
M.A. in School Counseling

Scholarship(s)
Project INTACT 

Internship(s)
CMS School Counseling Intern

Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?
Love the diverse population and the on-campus inclusivity of the university. All students are made to feel welcomed here! 
 
UNC Charlotte Highlights/Favorite Memory
Football Homecoming Game in the fall prior to the pandemic hitting. There was an amazing energy of school pride in the air! Also, every year my favorite festival in the city is IFest. UNCC does an amazing job at showcasing the diverse and colorful student body population they have and students get to proudly show off their heritage.
 
Faculty/staff member who made an impact on you
Dr. Claire Merlin-Knoblich: an amazing school counseling professor who is passionate about the profession and also about advocacy and equity within schools. 

 
Advice for the next generation of Niners
Enjoy campus/student life and resources as much as you can because we missed out on that due to the pandemic. Also, continue on your journey of multiculturalism, take advantage of the student life to get to know about others and their cultures so that you can become an empathetic and caring person. We work better when we work together! 

Post-graduation plans
Working as a high school counselor at a local Charlotte public school.
 
William Huntley

William Huntley

Hometown
Cary, N.C.

Major(s)/Graduate Program
Middle Grades Education with concentrations in math and social studies

Internship(s)
Student Teaching at Alexander Graham Middle School
 

Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?
UNC Charlotte was an easy choice when it came to my college decision. Having the education program being one of the best in the state combined with a beautiful campus made the decision a no brainer.
 
UNC Charlotte Highlights/Favorite Memory:
My favorite memory at UNC Charlotte was going to the Charlotte vs Marshall football game when the program became bowl eligible for the first time. Storming the field and joining the celebration with the football players was so much fun and gave the school some pride in our athletics.
 
Faculty/staff member who made an impact on you:
Dr. Hilary Dack made an impact on my development as a teacher. Dr. Dack's classes were always interesting and she used the teaching techniques she was teaching to teach the class. Dr. Dack was always pushing her students to be passionate about education and to be the best teacher we can be.
 
Advice for the next generation of Niners:
Go do stuff and join clubs pertaining to your interests. Don't sit around in your dorm/apartment and meet people. For me, joining intramural teams was a great way to meet people who had similar passions for sports as I do.
 
Post-graduation plans:
Begin teaching in the fall with plans to go back to school to obtain a Masters Degree in Special Education
 
Rachel Jeska

Rachel Jeska

Hometown
Morrisville, N.C. 

Major(s)/Graduate Program
Middle Grades Education with concentrations in math and science

Scholarship(s)
Robert Noyce Crest Scholarship, Teaching Fellows, Alma and Sharon Goudes Educational Scholarship 

Internship(s)
Robert Noyce Crest Internship, Student Teaching Internship at Crestdale Middle School

Why did you choose UNC Charlotte?
I chose UNC Charlotte for its diversity and equity. As a future teacher, this campus has shaped me into an educator who wants to inspire each student to be their unique self. Additionally, UNC Charlotte stood out to me for the community feel, but with a large city close by. 
 
UNC Charlotte Highlights/Favorite Memory
The highlight of my experience at UNC Charlotte was the opening of the new UREC center. The large facility was a great way to stay active while meeting new people! 
 
Faculty/staff member who made an impact on you
Dr. Heather Coffey was an amazing mentor who I could go to for anything. She inspired me to challenge myself and influence my students.
 
Advice for the next generation of Niners
Stay open to new challenges and meet as many people as you can. Most importantly, be you!
 
Post-graduation plans
I will teach 7th grade math at Ligon Magnet Middle School in Raleigh, N.C.