Student Spotlight: Bethany Mejia-Elias

Individualized Studies major heading to Saint Mary’s to earn bachelor’s in psychology

Bethany Mejia-Elias, 22, is a first-generation college student earning her A.S. in Individualized Studies at Dakota County Technical College. Bethany will be graduating this fall with plans to transfer the following spring to Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“My goal is to become a licensed therapist and work with children,” she said, “but my dream is to be a psychologist and work on psychological assessments for youth.”

Bethany Mejia-Elias

Bethany has earned two Business department certificates at DCTC, Human Resource Management and Supervisory Leadership. She is an exceedingly engaged student on campus, participating in the Multicultural Student Leadership Association (MSLA), Rotaract Club, and We:LEAD. She also serves as secretary of the Student Senate.

When asked what advice would she give students thinking about joining student clubs and/or organizations on campus, Bethany said, “Like Nike’s tagline says, ‘Just Do It,’ because you don’t know what you will be missing! Being involved on campus has given me a DCTC purpose and has helped me create a network of support on campus. My involvement on campus has improved my grades, mental health, and relationships!”

Along with her academic coursework and extracurricular activities, Bethany works part-time on campus as a lead student ambassador. “I have worked two part-time jobs and one full-time job while attending DCTC as a full-time student,” she related, “but that schedule became overwhelming, so for now I’m just working part-time.”

DCTC campus community perspectives…

“As an instructor, we always want the best outcomes for our students, and sometimes recommending they step out of school to focus on their own mental health is necessary. Of course, a student leaving our program is not the outcome we want, but in Bethany’s case it was exactly what she needed to do.

“I now get so excited when I see her on campus, as I personally know the hurdles she has overcome to be here, and she has visibly grown in her confidence and self-worth.

“Instructors should never underestimate the impact they can make with their students.Taking a moment to touch base with your students to fully understand their struggles can make all the difference in that student’s life. I am so proud of Bethany, and I know she is capable of fulfilling her educational dreams.”

Renee LeMieux, EdD, MSN, RN, PHN
Director of Nursing
Dakota County Technical College

“It has been and honor to work with Bethany in her student leadership roles at DCTC. Watching her personal and professional development, especially as it relates to discovering her neurodivergence and how that impacts areas in her life and those around her, has been an absolute joy to witness.

“In the words of Brené Brown, ‘Vulnerability begets vulnerability. Courage is contagious.’

“Bethany’s vulnerability to share her story with others in our campus community has given others the courage to share about their similar challenges and seek support. I have full confidence in Bethany and her ability to achieve her goals in life, whether that be to earn a doctorate and become a licensed psychologist, or other path if she discovers a new passion along her journey. I look forward to seeing where Bethany’s path leads her and the people she will impact along the way!”

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life
Neurodiverse ERG Chair
Dakota County Technical College

“Bethany is not only a dedicated, professional student and leader, but also a person I truly enjoy just listening to due to her approach to life. It’s not always been an easy journey for Bethany, but she has been open to facing her challenges, pivoting towards growth, finding ways to take care of herself, and creating paths that are truly her own.

“It’s been an extraordinary thing to watch Bethany bloom, and I’m so honored to be in her circle of people who have gotten to do just that.”

Melissa Fletcher, MA
Educational Access and Disability Resources Director
Dakota County Technical College

“Bethany has been a delight to work with and watch grow over the past couple of years. She has demonstrated kindness, strength, leadership, and perseverance in achieving her goals and through sharing her story to encourage and inspire others. I look forward to witnessing all of the amazing things Bethany’s future holds.”

Michelle Caron
Writing Tutor
Dakota County Technical College

“Listening to Bethany’s story is so inspiring. It’s important for us to hear voices like hers with unique and distinct viewpoints. Bethany is one of those students who will continue to succeed in life.”

Lisé Freking, JD
Strategic Marketing and Communications Director
Dakota County Technical College and Inver Hills Community College

“I am so proud of Bethany! She is an exceptionally hard worker who has made great contributions to the DCTC student ambassador teams. Connecting her with Anna Voight in Student Life has made so much impact on her; she developed and enhanced her communication skills and confidence overall.”

Xuong Tran
TRIO/Student Support Services Advisor
Dakota County Technical College

More about Bethany…

Bethany Mejia-Elias

Originally from Sterling, Virginia, a city of 30,000 residents in the far northeast part of the state, Bethany moved to Minnesota in 2004 and graduated from Lakeville South, Class of 2020. Only 14 years old when she started her first job at Valleyfair, Bethany has experience working in retail, customer service, and the food industry. She is also a certified nursing assistant (CNA), but her passion did not align with that career path.

Bethany is deeply committed to her volunteer work. In high school, she volunteered at Fairview Ridges Hospital and an elementary school.

“At DCTC through Rotaract Club, I have volunteered at Feed My Starving Children and Loaves and Fishes,” she said. “My Rotaract Club membership has inspired me to volunteer once a month at FMSC!”

Bethany’s family consists of her mother, Krissia, who works as a patient care coordinator, two brothers, Matthew 16, Isaac 10, and one sister, Allison 14. Her partner, Bryce, works as an Amazon delivery driver.

“My precious cat is named Maui,” Bethany added. “He’s a tabby and will turn five this August.”

After her workday is over, Bethany usually tackles college assignments or goes to exercise at the gym. “Fitness is a hobby for me!” she said. “I also like to pass time by watching YouTube or Netflix, but that can be too time-consuming at times—moderation is key. During the warmer seasons in Minnesota, I enjoy walking, kayaking, and tanning. I also love spending time with my family and friends. Finally, I enjoy attending church, being a part of small groups, and creating connections within my church.”

Bethany resides in Burnsville, Minnesota.

Bethany life and college gallery

Bethany’s college experience in her own words…

Bethany Mejia-Elias

I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school and the first to attend college. When I started college at DCTC, I was majoring in Practical Nursing. I picked that program because my aunt was a nurse, and it seemed like a good field to help me become financially stable.

Renee LeMieux

I struggled when I started college. My GPA after two semesters was 1.14, and I did a full withdrawal in my third semester. I ended up on academic probation and wanted to drop out of college because I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I had the time-management skills to be successful in my coursework. I didn’t feel like I had the support system I needed to succeed.

Before I made the final decision to drop out of the Practical Nursing program, the program’s director, Renee LeMieux, wanted to talk to me to ensure I had the proper resources to support myself after withdrawing. This conversation with Renee was impactful.

Renee related to me on a personal level in our conversation. I felt she understood me and where I was coming from. She took the time to listen and care. She encouraged me to prioritize my mental health over school. Renee encouraged me to take a break from college and seek mental health support from a therapist.

I followed Renee’s advice and took some time off from DCTC to focus on my mental health. I worked with a therapist, who helped me a lot and recommended I go through testing for ADHD, which is a form of neurodiversity.

Anna Voight

When I came back to DCTC after working with a therapist and taking a year off, I was in a much better place to focus on my schoolwork. I got connected to more resources on campus, including TRIO Student Support Services, Student Life, the Office of Basic Needs & Well-Being, and Educational Access & Disability Resources.

I was on a waiting list to be assessed for ADHD when I came back, but I eventually received a diagnosis. Prior to my diagnosis, I had never heard of neurodiversity. I learned a lot about neurodiversity through my diagnosis process and working with Melissa Fletcher, the college’s educational access and disability resources director, and Anna Voight, the college’s associate director of student life.

Melissa helped me get accommodations after my diagnosis and showed me how develop strong study-skills strategies. She also helped me learn how to accept my diagnosis and differences.

Melissa Fletcher

I have a 3.8 GPA in the classes I have taken since coming back thanks to getting support, staying connected, and establishing a network on campus. My cumulative GPA is still only 2.25 due to struggles in my second semester, but I’m working really hard to raise my GPA so that I become eligible to join the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

I attribute my turnaround in grades to receiving my ADHD diagnosis and getting the support I need through accommodations. I also attribute my change in grades to the TRIO SSS body doubling study tables because that approach helps me hold myself accountable to getting my work done instead of procrastinating at home.

I realize that not all colleges advocate for and support neurodivergent students like DCTC does. I am thankful that DCTC has created a community for those who are neurodivergent (and neurotypical) to learn about themselves (and others) and support the neurodivergent community. Thanks to the support on campus and my DCTC network, I feel heard and seen. I feel like I belong here.

Bethany Mejia-Elias
Individualized Studies Major
Student Senate Secretary
Lead Student Ambassador
Dakota County Technical College

Bethany Mejia-Elias Q & A

Bethany Mejia-Elias

What do you find most engaging about the Individualized Studies program?

I enjoy the ability to pick courses I find interesting and would prefer to take. The most engaging thing about my program is the freedom of learning. The program offers a variety of general education classes that has allowed me to freely learn multiple subjects!

What motivated you to pursue a career in the field of mental health?

My personal experience with mental health. I have struggled with mental health issues since I was six years old. Since then, I have noticed a lack of representation for the Hispanic community in mental health, so I would like to make a change in this area. As a Hispanic woman, I hope to help and represent many Hispanic communities one day!

What do you like best about serving as a student ambassador?

The opportunities and connections the campus has to offer! The student ambassador position has helped me strengthen my confidence as a person and college student. This position has also helped me develop skills to be a leader and help support other students. Being an ambassador has taught me lifelong skills, which I already use now, and skills I plan to use as a therapist one day!

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What challenges have you encountered as a first-generation college student?

Multiple, specifically feeling alone in this journey because my mother does not have experience as a college student, so seeking advice can be hard at times. Some other challenges I encountered in the beginning were time management, not feeling connected/supported on campus, questioning my identity as a college student, and my mental health.

Thankfully, a faculty member, Renee LeMieux, stepped in and supported me. Renee advised me to work on my mental health and take a break from college. This has been the best advice anyone has given me because I would not be the same person I am today, or have experienced certain opportunities and met amazing mentors and lifelong friends!

What obstacles does Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) create on your academic/college journey?

Many, such as procrastination, lack of motivation, changing careers, struggling with depression and anxiety, and questioning my abilities and my bright future. ADHD affects people very differently, but these are my personal struggles as a college student, but thankfully I have created a supporting network on campus.

Melissa Fletcher, Anna Voight, Renee LeMieux, Michelle Caron (college’s English tutor), TRIO SSS advisors, Maggie Erickson (campus therapist), and Kasey Meyer (former campus social worker) have all helped me develop skills to ease and eventually overcome these struggles.

What person has influenced your life the most and why?

Many people have influenced my life, but they have been mostly women! My mother, Krissia, Jennie Groby, my former high school English teacher, Michelle Luers, my former high school counselor, Anna Voight, my current mentor, and my mental health therapist have all influenced my life differently, but the common theme is they all support and encourage me to keep on working towards my goals and dreams. They never let me give up, and they uplift me on my harder days!

If you could make one thing happen on Earth right now, what would it be?

End World Hunger!

One word that best describes your experience at DCTC:


Bethany Mejia-Elias 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sports or physical activity: Weightlifting and walking!
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Thailand or the Virgin Islands!
  3. Most exciting thing you have ever done: Kayaking on Tierra Verde in Florida using a clear kayak, so I got to see underneath me! We also had the chance to collect seashells and sand dollars, which I have never done before, so this experience was amazing!
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Donate a portion to the church I attend 2) Buy my mother and myself a home 3) Fund a mental health scholarship
  5. Best book or movie you’ve read or seen lately: Grown Ups
  6. Time period (past or future) you would explore if you could time travel: The late 90s early 2000s because of the music and fashion culture!
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in your life: Financial stability so I can retire early!
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Hummingbird because they are small, bright, quick, smart, and cute, which I think represents me well!
  9. Dream occupation: Psychologist working with the youth and Hispanic community!
  10. Person you would most like to meet: President of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, and hear his life story and passion to better El Salvador!
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Be disciplined with motivation
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Ignorance—as humans we need to be informed before we speak on a topic or situation!
Learn more about Individualized Studies at DCTC by contacting:

Dakota County Technical College
Room 2-110

Learn more about Educational Access & Disability Resources at DCTC by contacting:

Melissa Fletcher
Director of Educational Access & Disability Resources
Dakota County Technical College

Learn more about the Office of Basic Needs & Well-Being at DCTC by contacting:

Maggie Erickson
Clinical Social Worker/Mental Health Therapist
Dakota County Technical College

Learn more about TRIO/Student Support Services at DCTC by contacting:

Xuong Tran
TRIO/Student Support Services Advisor
Dakota County Technical College

Megan Petersen
TRIO/SSS Advisor
Dakota County Technical College

Learn more about Student Life at DCTC by contacting:

Anna Voight
Associate Director of Student Life
Neurodiverse ERG Chair
Dakota County Technical College

More about Individualized Studies at DCTC…

The Individualized Studies program at Dakota County Technical College allows you to custom-design an associate degree that meets educational and career goals you could not otherwise accomplish through existing college programs. The 60-credit Associate of Science (A.S.) degree is a great fit if you plan on transferring to a four-year college or university to earn a bachelor’s or more advanced degree.

The program is also an ideal option if you are:
  • Looking to delve into occupational and/or technical courses in one or more areas of study
  • Working and ready to advance your career
  • Undecided about your future
  • Enrolled in a technical program, but wish to change direction

Because this A.S. degree will be custom designed to meet your educational and career goals, you won’t find a sample course sequence. Please contact a DCTC academic advisor to discuss your future plans and get help determining which courses you should take and when you should take them.

To earn your A.S. degree in this program, you need to complete three required courses (see below), 18 credits of technical electives, and the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum. Technical electives are occupational and/or technical courses in areas of study that align with your goals.

The Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC) is the format in which general education is defined and accomplished within public two- and four-year colleges and universities in Minnesota.

Required courses

INDS 1002: Career and Education Exploration : 2 credits
(Must be taken your first semester.)

Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None

In this course, you will consider your values, interests, goals, and skills as those attributes relate to your program and career pathways planning. You will plan your Individualized Studies program pathway and learn to assemble a portfolio that will support your eventual job search. Job search skills and credit for prior learning opportunities will also be addressed.

Your coursework will cover:
  • Possible careers
  • Current job market
  • Liberal arts and sciences disciplines (and their roles in the MnTC)
  • Technical programs of study available at DCTC

COMS 1020: Interpersonal Communication: 3 credits

Meets MnTC Goal 1: Communications
Meets MnTC Goal 7: Human Diversity
Prerequisites: None
Corequisites: None

This course is intended to increase your awareness of the processes, models, and theories of interpersonal communication relative to relationships that impact people’s personal and professional lives. Through self-analysis and reflection, case studies, practical application, and critical thinking, you will examine the influence of communicative behaviors on themselves, their personal relationships, groups, and society.

Concepts you’ll investigate include:
  • Self-esteem
  • Self-fulfilling prophecies
  • Perception
  • Ethics
  • Emotion
  • Conflict
  • Cultural awareness
  • Language
  • Nonverbal communication
  • Social media
  • Listening

ENGL 1150: Composition I :: 3 credits

Meets MnTC Goal 1: Communications
Prerequisites: Visit student e-services
Corequisites: None

In this course, you will focus on composing expository and persuasive essays using effective writing skills in concert with a variety of research techniques. You’ll also work on enhancing your critical reading and logical reasoning skills.