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Spectrum Adds Diversity to Campus

Spectrum Adds Diversity to Campus

February 28, 2001--The phone lines were buzzing on a rainy Wednesday night, and not from the lightning outside. The buzz was definitely coming from the inside. Inside the conference center at Spring Creek Campus, students with a new cultural organization were making hundreds of outgoing phone calls to incoming freshman at Collin College. The organization is called Spectrum, and the students making the phone calls are called student ambassadors.

"They're ambassadors" in every sense of the word, says Christine DeLaTorre, Recruitment Coordinator at SCC and mentor of this fledging group. "They go out to area high schools with us, they give individual tours, and they do phone banks."

Adds Shannon Andre, also of the recruitment and retention office, "Really whenever they go out anywhere they are ambassadors to the college."

Two of the students that night with phones glued to their ears were Destinay Rosales and Kevin Wilson. They have been with Spectrum since the beginning. The beginning was last fall, so this is their second phone-a-thon spent working shoulder-to-shoulder. The two have already developed warm feelings towards other student ambassadors, and towards the group’s equally youthful leaders.

"Christine and Shannon are really fun people," says Rosales. "They're always excited about what's going on in our lives and about going out and helping others."

The purposes of Spectrum are as varied as its members: to embrace the diverse cultural backgrounds of all Collin College students, to enhance their college experiences through activities and community events and to engage them in the college's ongoing recruitment efforts.

Christine likes to stress that "Spectrum is for everyone. However, the area of my focus is on the traditional, economically disadvantaged, first generation college students."

Ambassadors are expected to provide campus tours, assist in recruitment efforts, and to organize and participate in once-a-semester calling campaigns.

"Spectrum also acts as a sort of connection between students and the administration," adds Alex Johnson, another of the original members. "More of a bridge, you know. And that's what we do with the phone bank. Sometimes students have things that bother them. And we say to them, ‘Hey, if you are having any problems at all, we would like to hear about it.’"

Student ambassadors may be called upon to give campus tours to individuals or possibly to whole groups of people, depending on the needs of the recruitment office at any given time.

Ambassadors may find themselves rubbing shoulders with VIPs at community events, shaking hands with students at middle schools and high schools or sampling fare at various local recruiting lunches.

Alex particularly enjoys meeting with the younger prospects: "When we go to high schools as representatives, kids will not pay as much attention if a teacher is sitting there. They’re not going to really want to talk to them. But if a student is sitting there, they'll say, ‘Hey, you’re a student. I can relate to you. That's where I might be in a year or two.’"

The calling campaigns, such as the one that happened this February, are pretty intense. Christine calls them "our main thing." This could be an understatement. Over the course of a few nights (in this case, a few rainy nights) the "main thing" has included student ambassadors, in teams of four or five, manning the phone banks like harried telemarketers calling every new student at the college, welcoming them to campus, and asking them if their needs are being met. Their goal by the end of that breathless night was to reach over 2,000 students. For the most part, says Destinay, this hands-on approach seems to work.

"Everyone we call is so excited. Okay, some of them are like, ‘Ah, leave me alone.’ But most of them are like, 'Wow, it's really nice that you are calling us.’"

The students receive a set number of points for every activity in which they participate, and all students who meet or exceed the minimum number of points per semester receive small academic stipends for their participation.

"I wanted to be a part of an organization at the college," says Kevin, a graduate of R.L. Turner. "Christine told me about Spectrum. And then she told me about the money, so that was just an added bonus. I wasn't really looking for money, but it helps a lot."

Collin College serves more than 46,000 credit and continuing education students annually and offers more than 100 degree and certificate programs. The only public college in the county, Collin College is a partner to business, government and industry, providing customized training and work force development.