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Katilyn Eccleston & Michelle Gray

RCC counselor knows students’ frustrations firsthand

Each June, counselor Michelle Gray receives an “incredible reward”— watching Rogue Community College students graduate.

“So many of them have had to break down barriers to get there, and seeing their hard work pay off is wonderful,” she noted. Gray, who enrolled at Rogue in 1999, was a first-generation college student, so she knows firsthand some of the obstacles students confront.

Gray completed an Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer degree in 2002 and transferred to Southern Oregon University, graduating in 2004 with a bachelor's in psychology. She went on to earn a master's in applied psychology with a mental health focus from SOU in 2006. Along the way she taught pre-school and interned at a drug treatment program.

Since 2006 Gray has worked at Rogue, starting as a part-time instructor for Discovery Programs and then in 2007 working for RCC Discovery programs and the Counseling Department. She’s now a full-time counselor and faculty member.

RCC student Katilyn Eccleston views Gray as a role model and mentor; Gray is also her aunt. Eccleston, who is president of student government at the RCC Riverside Campus and a 2011 Outstanding Student Scholar, hopes to follow Gray’s footsteps and become a school counselor.

“I see how she interacts with students. She always has a smile on her face and is upbeat even on the toughest days,” Eccleston said. “It’s a hard job, but seeing how well she copes with frustrations is really motivating to me because this is what I want to do. She teaches me a lot about how to stay positive and help students stay positive.”

Education brings important and valuable changes to life, according to Gray.

“I love to work with students, watching many of them move through personal transitions as they complete their educational process,” she said. “I feel grateful to have such a positive work environment in which I can use my counseling skills with students on personal, academic and career issues.”


RCC a better fit for “small town girl” Katilyn Eccleston

After a year at Oregon State University, Katilyn Eccleston transferred to Rogue Community College — and she’s glad she did. Eccleston attended OSU after graduating in 2008 from high school in Gold Beach, where she was born and raised.

“I’m a small town girl, and I felt lost in lecture classes with 550 students,” she recalled. “I came to RCC and have succeeded way past my expectations. I’ve done well, and it’s given me my confidence back.”

Her accomplishments won recognition recently when she was one of two RCC students named to the All-Oregon Academic Team. The Oregon Community College Association presents the award in partnership with Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. Criteria include academic success and service.

Eccleston is president of student government at the RCC Riverside Campus in Medford and has been involved in campus cleanup projects and the Reading Buddy program. She works as a peer assistant in the Counseling Department.

RCC counselors Gaia Layser and Sue Orris nominated Eccleston, describing her as a hard worker who is “intellectually curious, asks sophisticated questions, and always looks for ways to improve services.”

The best aspect of RCC, Eccleston said, is that smaller classes size makes it easier to hear other students’ perspectives and get extra help.

“RCC faculty really care about how students do and their success,” Eccleston said. “That’s what makes RCC so successful and why transfer students do so well.”

(RCC transfer students consistently earn higher grade point averages at four-year colleges and universities than most other Oregon transfer students and have higher GPAs than students who begin their baccalaureate studies at a four-year school.)

After Eccleston graduates in June, she plans to transfer to Southern Oregon University to study psychology and sociology. This time, says Eccleston, when she enrolls at a university, she’ll have a lot of new resources at hand.

“RCC has given confidence to move on to a larger university. I had been knocked down a few notches and questioned if I could succeed. I’m ready this time.” Her goal is to be a school counselor. Working as a student services assistant and now as a peer assistant provides her the opportunity to observe what counselors do, she said.

RCC Counselor Michelle Gray is Eccleston’s role model and mentor as well as her aunt.

“I see how she interacts with students,” Eccleston said. “She always has a smile on her face and is upbeat even on the toughest days. It’s a hard job, but seeing how well she copes with frustrations is really motivating to me because this is what I want to do. She teaches me a lot about how to stay positive and help students stay positive.”

Have a story idea for the website? Please E-mail Rand Hill

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