‘I came into this college as a young adult and I got to walk out a man’

Jaihlen Cooper | EMCC Alum, Student Ambassador, and Mascot
Jaihlen Cooper | EMCC Alum, Student Ambassador, and Mascot
August 07, 2019

Jaihlen Cooper grew exponentially during his two years at Estrella Mountain Community College (EMCC). The recent grad, the first male in his family to cross the college commencement stage, is now on his way to Arizona State University (ASU) where he will not only pursue a bachelor’s in sociology but also work in Residential Life.

He worked hard for his certificate of completion, never giving less than 100 percent, but he also surrounded himself with a stellar support system composed of caring and mentoring EMCC staff, many of whom he met the summer before he even embarked on his first semester. The Glendale resident graduated from high school in 2016 and enrolled in the Summer Success Academy where he met Herschel Jackson, Student Services Manager.

“I had this bond with Herschel, because it was the first time I’d seen a man of color be in the kind of position I want to be in,” Jaihlen said. “I just gravitated toward him.”

Jackson created the Summer Success Academy as sort of a “College 101” course for incoming students.

“They would come in and learn about all the different resources, how to utilize those resources,” Jackson said.

Jackson recalls that Jaihlen was extremely energetic from the get-go, always wanting to learn, and getting along well with everyone he came into contact with.

“He was just really excited about being a student,” Jackson said. “He really took to heart the information that we taught him in those sessions.”

As with many college students, Jaihlen needed a part-time job to make ends meet so he took a work-study position in the Financial Aid office, where he met Laura Dulgar, Dean of Student Affairs — Enrollment.

“Jaihlen is just full of love and life, and it is almost impossible not to just adore him,” Dulgar said. “He’s just a very loving and accepting person. He embraces so many people. He’s just a joy to be around.”

After working in Financial Aid for a semester, Jaihlen was drawn to Student Life and found himself applying for a job as a Student Ambassador working under Jackson.

“The Ambassador position is something I created not only as a position for students, but also as a developmental-type program for them,” Jackson said.

Student Ambassadors’ responsibilities run the gamut from serving as liaisons between the student body and administration and helping to facilitate programs such as coffee talks. They also sit on different planning committees, conduct campus tours, and even take turns donning the Roary costume for special occasions.

“I loved being goofy in that suit,” Jaihlen said. “It was fun being energetic and giving the people what they want.

Jackson said he isn’t surprised Jaihlen landed the Residential Life job at ASU, adding most Student Ambassadors who transfer to four-year universities easily find work on campus.

Jaihlen attributes much of his occupational success directly to Jackson.

“Herschel gave me so many tools to succeed in the workplace that I still have to this day,” he said.

But Jackson is quick to cite Jaihlen’s impressive resume, serving on EMCC’s Student Governing Board for two years as well as being hand selected to serve on the recent Presidential Search Committee after Dr. Ernest Lara announced his retirement in February.

“They were looking for strong student leaders, and Jaihlen was pretty familiar with a lot of administrators and faculty members,” Jackson said. “But he was also very engaged as a leader on campus. He was an outstanding voice on the committee.”

Jaihlen isn’t 100 percent sure what he will do with his bachelor’s, but motivational speaking ranks pretty high on his list of dream jobs.

“I see people who need help and I’m willing to help,” Jaihlen said.

According to his mentor, motivational speaking is right up Jaihlen’s alley.

“He has a quality where when he speaks, people tend to pay attention,” Jackson said.

Jackson is confident that EMCC has given Jaihlen everything he needs to be successful at ASU.

“I think he’s going to do well at ASU,” Jackson said. “He’s had the benefit of going through a lot of our programs and trainings and has developed.”

Jaihlen agrees.

“Estrella Mountain has made me who I am,” he said. “I came into this college as a young adult and I got to walk out a man.”

Maricopa Community Colleges has transfer agreements with more than 40 universities. For more information on transferring to a four-year institution, go to  https://www.estrellamountain.edu/students/advisement/transfer.