By Richard Burnett
From his childhood years onward, Canyon Mitchell was always a greeter, talker, and leader. At age eight, with his dad’s help, he learned about gumball machines and how to set up deals to place them in restaurants. Years later, he learned the art of flipping real estate — buying, renovating, and selling a house.
Today, Mitchell recalls those past experiences in his work as a new member of Beacon College’s student ambassadors — a team of high-achieving students chosen for their academic excellence, leadership, and people skills to represent Beacon on campus and in the community. He joins 14 other first-time ambassadors in a program that is now back in action after a hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For me, this is a great opportunity to share what I know about Beacon and everything it has to offer,” said Mitchell, a sophomore from the Dallas, Texas area. “As an ambassador, I draw from the skills I have learned in the past. So I know how to show the college to new students, to answer their questions, and explain all that is available here. It’s important to get that message out there in the community.”
Founded in 2011, the ambassadors perform an array of roles, from orientation leaders for new students and tour guides for prospective students and parents, to support resources for community events such as Beacon’s Salon Speaker Series, which recently featured the Dance Theater of Orlando in a record-breaking performance at The Villages’ Savannah Center.
Taking the helm of the renewed ambassadors program is William Gledhill, director of recruitment and outreach, who plans to expand the team’s traditional roles, enhance their voice on campus and in the community, and support its nationally-recognized undergraduate experience. (In 2022, three surveys — including Peterson’s Guide — named Beacon the top college for students with learning disabilities. Beacon also placed 10th in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Regional Colleges in the South.)
Ambassadors could play a key role, for example, in highlighting the college’s $12 million capital campaign — its largest ever — to build a new $8.5 million Intramural & Fitness Center, establish a $2 million scholarship endowment for students in financial need, and $1.5 million expansion of its Academic Mall presence downtown.
“I want the student ambassadors to be leaders in bringing change to campus and advocate for other students to know they have a voice in everything that’s being done,” Gledhill said. “It’s also important for ambassadors to give back to the community and help build a brand for the college that shows this community we are here, present and want to give back. Putting all these components together, the ambassador experience will be a growing experience for them all.”
For Helen Chinn, becoming an ambassador fulfills a goal she set four years ago when she came to Beacon. Now in her senior year, the timing is perfect, given all the exciting things that are happening at the college — especially its expansion of athletics and joining the small-college-oriented United States Collegiate Athletic Association, she said.
“A lot of people will be interested in that since this is the first time Beacon is going to be in an athletic conference,” said Chinn, a team athlete in cross country, tennis, and other sports. “It represents the positive impact of how Beacon has grown, and a great way to attract more people to come to Beacon. From academics to sports, it’s amazing to see how much the college is growing.”
Such enthusiasm was also evident in the number of applications submitted for the ambassador program, according to Gledhill. Nearly 40 students applied for the 15 available positions in the program that he said will be rooted in leadership, kindness, and Beacon tradition — with an emphasis on kindness.
“We had a tremendous response,” he said. “It’s a program that I think the students really look up to and respect. I think it would be great if everybody wanted to apply to be an ambassador. If you could have seen the quality of the students who did apply… It broke my heart not to bring more of them into the program.”