HANCEVILLE, Ala. — Upcoming University of Alabama graduate Cierra Barrios is making plans for a big move. The former Wallace State Community College student will be moving to Las Vegas to work at MGM’s Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in a management associate program. She stopped by Wallace State recently to express her thanks to her former success coach Jill Strickland and WSCC President Dr. Vicki Karolewics for the support and opportunities she received while at the college.
“I wouldn’t be anywhere if it wasn’t for Wallace State,” said Barrios, who was a recipient of a Presidential Transfer Scholarship from Wallace State to the University of Alabama, from where she will be graduating with honors in May.
“Thank you so much,” Barrios told the president. “You don’t know how much this meant to me. I don’t know where I would be without it.”
“You did it,” Karolewics told Barrios, adding Wallace State is all about opening doors for its students, providing them with the opportunities to grow, to inspire them to dream about all that they can accomplish, and to help them succeed.
“It’s about raising aspirations, to let them know they’re important and that they can dream about anything they want to do,” Karolewics said.
Barrios said her dream went several different directions before she settled on one route with the help of her success coach, Strickland.
“I remember meeting her for the first time,” Barrios said of Strickland, who lent an ear and advice to her even after that first semester of official coaching. “I told her I wanted to travel and she gave me options,” she said. After changing her major a couple of times, she settled on the hospitality industry. “I sat down and said I really want to travel,” Barrios said. “She said what’s a place you could do that. She helped me find who I was at the same time. I cherish her.”
After transferring to the University of Alabama, Barrios solidified her plans after getting a job at a locally-owned and operated Holiday Inn Express in Tuscaloosa. “I started working at a hotel and realized how much I love the hotel part of hospitality,” she said, adding her teachers were amazing. “They’re very hands on and you learn everything,” she said. “When I started working at the hotel, I knew everything they were talking about.”
As graduation approached, Barrios applied for a management associate position offered by MGM Resorts. She didn’t really know her chances at earning a position but decided to give it a shot. “I remember applying and thinking, I can just try,” she said.
She made it through the first round of interviews, where she had to record herself answering questions. Then she got to the second round, which was a Skype interview.
“They told me I was in the top five,” she said. “Thousands had applied and I was in the top five. I was like, oh my gosh, even if I didn’t get it, I was in the top five.”
She did get the position and is now preparing for big changes. “I’ll be a management associate for all the hotel managers and operations,” she said. “I’ll be starting out with the housekeepers’ directors and supervisors,” she said. “I work at a hotel with 109 rooms and that one has 4,000. They told me that if I can handle that, that I can do anything.
“I’m excited,” she said. “I’m scared, but I’m excited.”
Strickland said she is proud of Barrios’ accomplishments and is excited for her future.
“As a coach, it’s very rewarding to see our students succeed in the career path they’ve chosen,” Strickland said. “I’m so happy for Cierra and all of the doors that are opening up for her. It’s a little bittersweet to see her off on this new adventure, but I’m so proud of everything that she’s accomplished and know that she will be successful in her career.”