As post-transition coordinator for a charter high school in Milwaukee, Patrick Carter, M.Ed. ’19 has spent seven years closely following students into college and helping them navigate the challenges of higher education.
Then in the spring of 2017, he, too, tackled a new round of classes for himself at Carroll, enrolling in the master of education program, still helping his former students from Carmen High School but not really considering that he’d cross paths with them on one single special date: graduation day.
On May 11, Carter walked the graduation stage as he received his M.Ed. degree and three of his former Carmen High School students—Elizamar Guerrero Calderon '19, Karolina Andrade '19, and Yadira Ramirez '19—also received their bachelor degrees from Carroll.
"It was very humbling, very humbling to have the opportunity to share the same stage with some of my students but also with some of the students I worked with very closely from the sidelines just as a mentor role," Carter said.
Carroll University's chaplain, the Rev. Elizabeth McCord, reflects on the importance of mentors here.
When one of the students asked Carter in March if he might be busy on May 11 or if he could attend their graduation, he thought about it and realized that was the date that he, too, would be graduating.
"It was a powerful realization," Carter said.
Carter was part of the original planning team that started Carmen High School along with his mother, Patricia Hoben, who will be finishing her career there on June 15. Since its start the school has expanded to include two additional high school locations and two middle schools. It is now officially titled Carmen Schools of Science and Technology and consistently ranked among the top high schools in the state, coming in second in a recent U.S. News and World Report in 2019.
The Carroll ceremony was particularly special for Carter, who said he did not have the best undergraduate experience at another university and never took part in its commencement ceremony. So obtaining his M.Ed. and walking across the stage to receive his degree was the first time that had happened since high school. He said having been through the master of education program at Carroll will now allow him to strengthen the work he does at Carmen with helping students transition to college themselves.
"Being able to have the foundation so I can continue to develop the (Carmen) program and make it stronger is something I’m very happy that I got out of our program at Carroll," he said.
All three women—Calderon, Andrade and Ramirez—had graduated from Carmen in 2015 from a class of 55 students. As part of his job at the high school, Carter followed up with them during their freshman year at Carroll to assist with any questions and guidance as they transitioned to college. Later, he stayed in touch with them via email and text.
Calderon was a public health major and participated as treasurer for the student organization, PASOS, in 2017 and 2018. She also was a chemistry department teacher assistant.
She recalled Carter helping to guide her through college as a first-generation student, helping to figure out scholarships and deadlines, saying he was "there for me the whole way." She attended Carmen all four years before coming to Carroll, where her brother had also attended six years earlier. She said her brother was also an influence in her decision to come to Carroll because he "really grew a lot there and really enjoyed his experience."
Calderon learned before coming to Carroll that Latino students, she said, were "really underrepresented" and she wanted to help make a change and influence others who would come after her to consider a Carroll education.
Learn more about Carroll's efforts to increase diversity on campus here.
"I thought coming here and trying to be impactful in school and outside of school that maybe I could make a difference for others going through the same thing I was," she said. "I can show everybody that I can do it and that can be an influence on other people."
She said she hopes later to seek her master’s in communication health. For now, she will be working at Unite Milwaukee performing community outreach and training community health workers. More specifically, she will be in charge of database and portal management.
Calderon said she learned in March that she and the other Carmen students would be graduating with Carter on the same day from Carroll. She said, "I was really excited when I found out that he was graduating with us. He really taught me so much about college and gets to graduate with us or we got to graduate with him. He was a mentor."
Andrade majored in psychology and Spanish. As a first-generation college student, she said her early Carroll experience was challenging but the Carmen prepared her with the skills to help in the transition from high school to college. She developed leadership skills from her work study position in Pre-College Programs, where she said she networked and built relationships with staff at Carroll. She said she also gained friendships through the student organizations such as LASO, Latin American Student Organization, at Carroll. During her studies, she carried an emphasis in pre-occupational therapy and plans to pursue her master’s degree.
Andrade said, "It was great to see Mr. Carter walk across the same stage because he was supportive my senior year of high school and to see that he was at Carmen, while obtaining his master's, shows so much dedication."
Ramirez obtained her nursing degree and also minored in Spanish at Carroll. Facing the challenges of nursing courses, she said the journey was not always fun and often stressful, one with many obstacles and ups and downs.
"Noticing how the number of minority students dropped drastically within the nursing program was terrifying. I had to overcome many obstacles, I had to defeat the numbers, and show that I had the capability to succeed even in what appeared to be an impossible objective for a first-generation student of color," she noted.
Ramirez did succeed and will be working as a neurological intensive care unit nurse at Aurora St. Luke's Hospital in Milwaukee with plans to expand her knowledge in business administration.
"I plan to continue to grow and learn from the best, like individuals like Mr. Carter, an individual who has always provided the adequate support to ensure you can succeed even when it seems rough and impossible. I plan to one day incorporate my knowledge and skills in a beneficial way to the community and those individuals with lack of resources," she noted.
As she shared the stage on graduation day with Carter and her fellow Carmen students, she recalled, "Knowing that we are growing and succeeding as a team was one of the best feelings ever."