This month has been a time of gratitude and change for Valerie Carrillo.

It’s been full of the appreciation of an accomplishment and what lies ahead for the wife and mother of three.

At the May 12 graduation ceremony on the North Central Kansas Technical College campus in Hays, Carrillo walked across the stage, receiving her Associates of Applied Science Degree in General Business. A week later, she began a new career as a trial clerk for Ellis County. The first from her family to graduate college, Carrillo is the second youngest of nine children.

It has been a time of accomplished satisfaction for Carrillo, who is raising a family with her husband, Jacinto. She’s done it all while she worked as a cross-utilized agent at the Hays Regional Airport.

Her motivation always has been close by her side.

“(Our children) really are the ones who motivated me to keep on going to school to get a better career,” Carrillo said. “They’re sad that I’m leaving the airport. They know it’s a good change.”

Like many at NCK Tech, Carrillo is a non-traditional student. So working and helping to develop her talents she takes into a new job is nothing new to Business Management and Business Technology instructors Jennifer Younger and Jill Moeder.

“As someone who has watched Valerie over two year since when she started, I can absolutely say there is a lot more confidence in what she does and how she does it,” Moeder said. “Even the interactions in the classroom. Yes, she may always be a little bit quiet, but the relationship building and confidence in what she’s doing has grown substantially (since she began at NCK Tech).”

Born and raised in Mission, Texas, Carrillo took classes at Fort Hays State University in 2013, but never really reached a level of feeling comfortable in the college classroom. It wasn’t until starting her job at the airport and getting to know some of her co-workers, she thought about taking classes. Some of her friends from work pushed her to think about the option of college.

“I did a year at (FHSU),” Carrillo said. “I kept on feeling like I just didn’t have any connections with anyone in class. It just felt really impersonal.”

The experiences Carrillo found at NCK Tech were more adaptable. What started the journey through two years at NCK Tech in the Business Technology classes with Younger, helped open up more possibilities for Carrillo — not just as a student, but someone who began taking more opportunities through the college. In the fall semester Carrillo applied for a student ambassador position. With that she not only was accepted as an ambassador, but received a scholarship. She also was part of NCK Tech’s student senate.

“You get to know the people in your class and the teachers you work with, but you also get to know more students,” Carrillo said of the ambassador position. “Just being in that program is really neat. You get a different experience. You talk to people you normally wouldn’t, and it gives you extra skills maybe you haven’t had before.”

Through the Business Management and Technology courses, Carrillo has become certified in Microsoft’s Word Expert, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook.

“(Certifications) are tough,” Younger said. “You have to demonstrate proficiency to pass those certifications, because it’s not just knowing how to do it. It’s knowing how to do it quickly and in a timed environment. That has helped separate Valerie in her job search abilities as well.”

While she still considers herself quiet, Carrillo has felt comfortable being able to open up more and has enjoyed the experience at NCK Tech. It’s something her instructors have enjoyed watching as her abilities have developed.

“She really is an ambassador to the school,” Younger said. “She’s just really involved in all the activities that we have and really pitches in. She gives more of what the experience is.

“We’ve been blessed to have had Valerie for the last two years. It is really exciting for us to know that she’s landed this great job. It’s really heartwarming. This is why I love being a teacher.”