A trip to Chicago is not only an opportunity to compete in a national competition for one Georgia Northwestern Technical College student, it also will reunite her with her sister for the first time in six years.
Aixa Rodriguez, who was born and raised in Chicago, is among three GNTC students whose placement in their competitions earlier this year at the Phi Beta Lambda State Competition in Atlanta qualified them to compete in the PBL National Leadership Conference this weekend in Chicago. She is the only GNTC student competing in Chicago.
“I am beyond excited to be going back to Chicago,” said Rodriguez, a Marketing Management student who now lives in Rome and attends classes on the Floyd County Campus. “I have an incredible bond with my sister. We were both put up for adoption and met for the first time when I was 16. We became immediate best friends. I couldn’t imagine my life without her.”
“We haven’t seen each other since my wedding in 2016,” she said. “I can’t wait to see her again and hit up our favorite food spots while catching up on the latest gossip.”
Although she has lived in the Southeast for four years, her body is still acclimated to Chicago’s temperatures, Rodriguez said. In addition to taking a break from the scorching summer heat and visiting her family, the national competition will allow her to stretch her self-confidence, which has grown since participating in PBL.
“I didn’t think I stood a chance to even be nominated for an award in one state competition and then I placed first,” she said. “I thought there were many other competitors who had better chances of winning than I did. You always hear ‘There’s always going to be someone smarter and more qualified than you.’”
“The truth is, you never know if you don’t try,” she continued. “You can take the easy way out and not put yourself in a position to be rejected, or you can try anyway and perhaps get a greater outcome than you expected.”
Rodriguez said she expects to complete her Entrepreneurship certificate at GNTC this summer. She also plans to earn a Marketing Specialist certificate before she finishes up her associate degree in Marketing Management in spring 2023.
After she graduates next year, she plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree at Georgia State University in either Marketing or Management with a Business Analysis Concentration, she said.
Since April 1, Rodriguez has been interning at the Greater Rome Convention and Visitors Bureau, where she is responsible for updating and maintaining the CVB website with engaging content for residents and visitors, said Kristi Kent, the CVB’s communications director. She also maintains the CVB’s event calendar.
“Aixa has grit,” Kent said. “I was impressed that she approached us on her own and offered to create content to build her resume. Because she took the initiative to grow herself before her required internship, we knew we wanted her as an intern.”
One of the first blogs Rodriguez produced reached more than 20,000 of the CVB’s social media followers — an impressive accomplishment, Kent said. Having that kind of data will help Rodriguez beef up her data and analytics experience on her resume.
Her coursework at GNTC gave her the knowledge to pursue an internship, Rodriguez said.
“I knew I wanted to get into a very diverse field, and there is so much more to marketing than many people think,” she said. “I love the range of work I can do, from market research and consumer behavior to copywriting and content creating. It’s also a huge bonus that there are many remote jobs available as I have two young kids at home.”
Because she placed in three categories in the state competition, she is eligible to compete in those same categories at the national competition. She earned first place in Small Business Management Plan, first place in Management Concepts and second place in Entrepreneurship Concepts.
GNTC students Will Arrant and Misty Hawk also qualified for the national PBL competition, but are unable to make the trip to Chicago to compete in the National Leadership Conference. Arrant is in the Computer Forensics and Security Specialist certificate program at GNTC’s Whitfield Murray Campus, and Hawk is a student in the Criminal Justice Technology associate degree program at the Gordon County Campus.
Competing in these kinds of events adds to students’ learning, networking, people skills and dealing with stress; prospective employers like to see well-rounded students who are prepared for the workforce, Mark Upton, GNTC Marketing Management program director and PBL coordinator, explained. Students find the competitions fun and exciting.
“I believe Aixa will excel in the competition and represent GNTC well,” said Trish Wiggins, GNTC’s director of Student Engagement.