Carly Niswander, Destiny Jones and Roberto Abarca graduated from high schools in Chilton County, attended Jefferson State and participated in the college’s Ambassador program, and all later transferred to UAB.
The three even posed together for a photo following their Jefferson State graduation ceremony, and the photo was featured on the cover of a college catalog.
As their paths now diverge, Niswander, Jones and Abarca credit Jefferson State for helping them build a foundation and grow into prepared, motivated individuals ready to begin their careers.
Carly and Destiny both graduated from Chilton County High School, while Roberto graduated from nearby Jemison High School.
Roberto wanted to become a dentist. He considered joining the military after high school but then learned about a scholarship available through Jefferson State’s Ambassador program. He became the first person in his family to attend college.
Carly and Destiny, meanwhile, were unsure what they wanted to do after high school. They were both pointed to Jefferson State and wound up earning scholarships.
Destiny and Roberto met through the Ambassador program, while Carly met Roberto in speech class and participated in the Ambassador program herself the next year after seeing her friends enjoy the experience.
“I don’t think I ever would have gone out for Ambassadors if it hadn’t been for…watching you guys do it,” Carly said. “In high school, I was the girl who never spoke. I didn’t do leadership positions—that wasn’t for me. But at Jeff State, I was like, ‘I’m going to give it a shot.’”
Destiny said her experience was similar.
“I didn’t have any leadership positions. I think I wanted to, but it didn’t work out,” she said. “After I got in Ambassadors, I started working these events, having to talk to people, stepping outside my comfort zone, it gave me the confidence to continue.”
“We not only found our place at Jeff State, we also found our voice,” Carly said.
Like Carly and Destiny, Roberto excelled at Jefferson State—and even spoke at their graduation ceremony.
“I was nervous more so than shy because it was everybody—the parents, the faculty—and I was the first one to speak and the closer,” Roberto said.
After the ceremony, the three posed for a photo in their caps and gowns that would later be used for the cover of a Jefferson State catalog.
“I was signing autographs left and right because of it,” Destiny joked.
All three transferred to UAB after their Jefferson State graduation.
“When we started there, we didn’t have to start over altogether, even though we had to start over in a new environment, make new friends and meet new instructors,” Carly said about the relationship with Destiny and Roberto.
Roberto earned a degree in kinesiology from UAB in August 2020 and is pursuing a master’s degree in nursing at UAB.
Destiny graduated from UAB in December 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Carly earned a degree in marketing from UAB and currently works at O’Neal Steel in Birmingham.
“I never would have figured that out without Jeff State,” she said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing. I don’t know where I’d be.”