Students in the ACE (AIC Core Education) program had the opportunity to hear from some AIC graduates who are already making their mark in the workforce.

Terrence O'Neil, director of Student Support Services, said the panel represented various careers such as, healthcare management, nursing, psychology, political science, criminal justice and business. "The purpose of this event was to expose ACE students to local professionals, who could share their journeys to their present positions, advanced studies and future career goals. This was a great opportunity for our students to meet, interact and network with these professionals," he said.

Each panelist spoke for about 10 minutes, followed by a question and answer period. "This is an event that we host at least once a year and we are especially pleased that this year's panel truly reflected an AIC experience and connection. Four out of the five panelists were AIC graduates and three out of those four were participants of the ACE Program while undergraduates," ONeil said.

The panelists included Virgin Vargas, a counselor at the Gandara Center in Springfield and a graduate student in the AIC Clinical Psychology program; Silas Cooper, a marketing associate for Future Health in Springfield; Angel Reyes, a detective for the Springfield Police Department at the Joseph A. Budd Youth Assessment Center; Lucius Millinder III, a supervisor at the Westfield Youth Detention Center; and Ariana Caraballo, a talent acquisition assistant at Baystate Health, and an MBA candidate in the Healthcare Leadership program.

The message from the panelists was consistent: the key to success is to make connections. "I can't emphasize enough how important it is to network," Millander told the students. "AIC has plenty of resources, take advantage of them. I had a lot of job offers and opportunities when I graduated because of the internships I had at AIC."

Caraballo agreed. "Build relationships, get involved, ask questions, and network," she said.

Vargas gave the students further encouragement. "Stay focused on what you really want to do. You really can do anything you want as long as you put in the hard work," she said.

At her job, Vargas is working with troubled male youths, a job that she says is both challenging and rewarding, because she is making an impact on someone's life.

Another key message from the panelists was make the most of your time at AIC. "Enjoy your college time because it goes by fast, but stay focused while your here," Millander said.

AIC Core Education program (ACE), is a federally funded Student Support Services program that provides specialized support for first generation college students. ACE advisors and mentors supply support and guidance throughout the college experience, from the first week of classes at AIC to graduation day.