Viking Spotlight: McKoy and Ibarra Appointed Student Ambassadors

Written by Megan Bednar

[Clinton, N.C.] – For over a decade, Sampson Community College (SCC) has nominated and selected students to serve as official ambassadors to the College and the SCC Foundation through the Foundation’s Ambassador Scholarship Program. This year, two students: Juan Ibarra and Owen McKoy, were chosen to join the program and represent SCC as its new student ambassadors for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Established in 2010 by the SCC Foundation, the College’s Ambassador Scholarship Program provides selected individuals with funding for the upcoming Fall and Spring semesters that can be applied towards tuition, fees, supplies, and books. Potential ambassadors are nominated by SCC faculty and staff and interviewed by a selection committee at the College. Upon appointment, student ambassadors also become “the face of SCC,” in addition to receiving scholarships, and help with college-sponsored events including student registration and orientation, donor recognition events, graduation, and other Foundation affairs.

In their selection of ambassadors, the College looks for both outstanding academic, leadership, and character qualities in their nominees– appointing well-rounded and exceptional individuals to serve and represent SCC for the academic year.

During staff nominations of students for the ambassadorship in May, Sarah Burgin, Psychology Instructor at SCC, put in her nomination for both Ibarra and McKoy. Burgin remarked that both students have been extraordinary participants in all three of SCC’s Psychology offerings during the past few semesters: General Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Psychology of Personality, and that she’s confident they will be wonderful representatives of the College for 2022-2023.

She expressed, “I enjoyed having Juan and Owen as students in my Psychology classes, where they both show enthusiasm and motivation by using critical thinking to participate in class discussions. They are also quick to help others inside and outside of the classroom and are active members of the SCC Psychology Club, where they’ve helped with various club events.”

Speaking to why she recommended the students, Burgin explained, “I nominated Juan and Owen because they are polite, respectful, and friendly to me and other students. They both possess good written and interpersonal skills, which helps them connect with others. I know they will serve as excellent ambassadors for Sampson Community College!”

(From left) McKoy and Ibarra celebrate their Ambassador Scholarship award at the College’s 2022 Scholar-Donor Picnic, pictured with Brooks Barwick of the Foundation. (Photo credit/ Brett Feight)

Juan Ibarra is an Associate of General Education- Nursing student at SCC who began attending the College in Fall of 2021, after graduating from high school that same year. He recently became licensed as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and plans to work at it part-time while attending East Carolina University (ECU) for his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Nursing. Familywise, Ibarra comes from a household of ten siblings, with parents who immigrated to the United States before they were born. Being the middle child, Ibarra mentioned that he helps care for his siblings now, in addition to his coursework, since the older ones are away at school.

He explained about his upbringing, “I was born in Oregon and was very young when my family moved to North Carolina, because more of my mom’s family is here. Years ago, my parents moved to the United States for better opportunities jobwise, but also educationally wise for their future children. I think they did a great job of raising us with the option of going to college. I’m very grateful for that.”

Owen McKoy is an Associate of Arts student at SCC who recently began attending the College in Spring of 2022, after graduating from high school in 2015. Last semester, he was recognized as being one of the top students in his program. While he hasn’t decided on a four-year university just yet, McKoy knows he wants to obtain his Bachelor’s in Psychology and find employment as a social worker until he can obtain a master’s degree, whereupon he’ll begin teaching.

He elaborated on his career choice, “When I was in high school, I felt a disconnect with my teachers and did not feel their passion to teach. Their lack of enthusiasm for education projected into my experience. Because of that, I decided I wanted to become a teacher so that I could be the educator that I needed when I was in school. My goal is to be a passionate, inclusive, and involved teacher.”

In their free time, both ambassadors enjoy participating in local community and College activities, with McKoy volunteering at the Clinton Community Garden and hoping to become more involved in SCC’s Book and Psychology Clubs, and Ibarra attending his youth group regularly as well as playing for SCC’s Intramural Volleyball and Soccer leagues. Burgin mentioned that they’ve also volunteered at LifeLine Sampson Pregnancy Support Center and have assisted students in the College’s library through tutoring as well.

At the start of the ambassadors’ terms in August, Lisa Turlington, Dean of Advancement and Executive Director of the Foundation, her staff, and Amanda Raynor, SGA Advisor at SCC, all had the pleasure of sitting down and getting to know the newly elected individuals. In a quote, Turlington explained that both McKoy and Ibarra are outstanding leaders, students, and members of their local community, and will truly make the College and Foundation proud as ambassadors for the 2022-2023 year.

“Owen and Juan are both exceptional young men and wonderful representatives of our student body,” Turlington elaborated. “Owen is a good example of students who start community college several years after high school when they have a clear career path and life passion. He is engaged in the Roseboro community and will be a strong local leader as he continues his education and professional journey. Juan is grounded in this community and his family and will make a compassionate and effective healthcare worker. I am excited to work with both of the student ambassadors.”

(From left) Amanda Raynor, SGA; Lisa Turlington, Foundation; Brett Feight, Advancement; Krista Lewis; Advancement, had the chance to meet newly elected student ambassadors (L) McKoy and Ibarra back in August.

Through their new roles, both Ibarra and McKoy hope to assist the College in any way possible, especially through volunteering and planning events that help facilitate student engagement on campus. They also hope to spread the word about SCC and all it has to offer students throughout their communities.

“As soon as I found out I was nominated I was thrilled and wanted to be chosen because this would be a really good opportunity and addition to my college resume,” voiced Ibarra. “Since I’m a student, I have a really good perspective of my college community. I hope to help in that aspect.”

McKoy similarly expressed, “I’m excited about the possible impact I could have. I would like to become more involved with the happenings on campus and find ways to bring the students together. I plan on encouraging my friends and peers who like me decided to take some time away to come back and further their education, as well as share my experience with any younger people I know who are about to go to high school or college and tell them all the advantages of coming here.”

Sampson CC is very proud of Owen and Juan for their accomplishments at the College thus far. SCC is excited to welcome them as student ambassadors for the 2022-2023 year and looks forward to seeing all they will do to help both the College, Foundation, and its students succeed.

For more information about the SCC Foundation or how to apply for scholarships, visit www.sampsoncc.edu/foundation.

About Sampson Community College:  Sampson Community College is a member of the North Carolina Community College System, located in Clinton, NC in Sampson County. The college offers many programs to include two-year degrees, college transfer, continuing education and workforce development options and early college education.