Janelly Rosales

Age: 25
Resides: Conover
Occupation: Business Counselor

What is your line of work?
I am a business counselor with the SBTDC [Small Business Technology Development Center]. As a business counselor, I work with clients who are trying to start their own business, and small business clients. At the SBTDC, I get to provide business advisory services to business owners and provide holistic business counseling by working with operating companies to establish goals and opportunities. It's more about getting a grip on where they are, whether they need help with a business plan or they’re already established and want to open up a second location, or they need assistance with capital raising or a loan request. Our clients know that they can trust me and my team to grow their business.

How did you get into this line of work?
I went to Carolina [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] for undergrad from 2012 through 2016, and then I came back. I worked in human resources for a year and decided I wanted to be part of a change. That's what led me to investigate a Masters of Business Administration. I looked back to UNC and I looked at App State, and then I went for a visit at Lenoir-Rhyne and I immediately fell in love with it. I loved UNC, don't get me wrong, but I missed having that close relationship with peers, professors, and my community. I went to an early college high school here with a graduating class of 88 students. Coming back to Lenoir-Rhyne, I felt a connection. I made great relationships and one of them ended up being my professor, Dr. Ralph Griffith. He got me into working with start-up companies, mentorships/advising, and introduced me to the different organizations for entrepreneurs. I was a graduate assistant for two years at the Center for Commercial and Social Entrepreneurship, and I networked. I just had this passion and drive to help others. When I realized there was a line of work that was making an impact in people's lives, that's what truly got me into it, and I pursued working for the SBTDC. Every day, it's something different. It may sound similar, but every situation is different and that's what I love. It's a challenge and making an impact on people's lives is truly satisfactory.

Did you grow up here?
I grew up in Catawba County, but I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My family moved from Brooklyn when I was about seven. It was nice growing up here.

Were your parents coming here for work? Is that what brought them here?
Work and also getting the kids out of the city, to be honest. It was that dream of having a home with a safe environment to make lifelong memories.

You went to Challenger High School. At that point, did you know what you wanted to do as a career?
Honestly, in high school I wanted to be a dentist. I was always on that track since I can remember. I even did internships with local dentists and orthodontists. This was my first experience working with small businesses. I look back now, and I am thankful for the exposure the internships provided, I learned about business management, managing people, authentic leadership, and even succession planning at the age of fourteen.  As an undergraduate, I received my degree in psychology, I learned about working with people and how we build relationships and how our brain works. I learned a lot about research. My exposure to the workforce and my education are what led me to pursue my MBA at Lenoir-Rhyne, and I really enjoy my career.

You sound like an incredibly driven person. Where do you think you get it from?
My parents. My mom and dad. They instilled in me the greatest work ethic ever. They raised me to be honest, to have integrity, and to work hard. They are the smartest people. To come from one country to another and in a matter of one generation be successful… They can take complete credit for me. They provided a good environment and a support system. Without them, I would be nothing.

You were high school valedictorian? Your parents must be so proud.
Oh, they have a shrine. I'm happy about the shrine. I don't think my siblings are very happy about the shrine. But for me, it’s not about Janelly Rosales, it’s about Janelly and her parents. They're always going to be right there beside me. It's full circle. I remember in high school, in the intake session, the founder of Challenger Early College High School, Dr. Daniel, said, "This school was made to provide students like yourselves, first year college students who maybe don't have the opportunity to go to a four-year college, the chance to get at least your two-year degree." He said, "All I'm asking is for you to take these four years and come back one day and make a difference. Whether it's creating a job or making a difference in your own community, I want you to do that." That always stuck with me. That’s why I'm in this position now where I can help. It came full circle, and I am able to give back.

Talk a little bit about early college high school, because I think that's an unfamiliar concept for some people. 
Early college is about combining your high school curriculum and the first two years of your college curriculum. It’s about graduating with your high school diploma and your associate’s degree, so you can go on to pursue a four-year degree. I was very fortunate. Because of the opportunity Challenger and Dr. Daniel granted me to work very hard, I was able to get a full ride scholarship to Carolina. I decided to take advantage of it, so I did the full four years. I really enjoyed it, and I didn't want to rush. I wanted to do some research, so I did that. I didn't do the whole 16 credit hours that they recommended every semester. I did 12 because I knew I had some leeway. In high school, we had so many classes. I really wanted to enjoy being in college and make those memories.

What was it like being on your own those four years? Was that a good growth period for you?
At first it was hard because I was very close to my family. Family dinners, Sunday lunches, and everybody coming together. Being away from them, and my dog, was very hard. I think I cried the first month. After the first month, I found some great friends, a little group there, and they became my second family. Being away allowed me to view life from different perspectives and cultures. I gained a global perspective. It allowed me to recognize that people just like me, from my culture and different cultures, were all trying to do something good. It was nice to be in an environment where you were accepted immediately. You didn't have to prove yourself, because wherever you were from, you belonged there. We all wanted to be there, we all worked hard for our spot and we were just ready to work. It was nice to be independent and make your own decisions.

What made you decide to come back home after you graduated from Chapel Hill?
I wanted to be with my family and to be here for an important person, my niece. She's my goddaughter. She used to be more like my sister, but as I'm growing up, I see that I’m more her mother figure in a sense, like her third mother. She's just phenomenal. She's a very warm-hearted person. I've never met anyone with such a kind heart in my life. If I can help her keep that and provide support and be a good village for her, I'm more than happy to do so. When I was at school, I was on FaceTime with her all the time, so I thought, "I can get an opportunity here.” I worked so much toward all my studies and academia that I didn't spend time with my family. For those four years I was gone, I felt like I missed a large portion of my culture. I come from a Mexican heritage and background. I needed that. I felt like I wasn't complete, and that's what brought me back home.

So coming home was about being with your family, but also staying connected to your culture?
Yeah. I've always felt that since my parents have given so much for us, I want to be able to give back to them. That’s why we recently took a trip to Mexico together. It was nice to explore our history, like the Aztec and Mayan ruins, and realize that it’s not Ancestry.com, this is actually where I’m from. It was great to explore Mexico for the beauty it has, whether it's the beaches or those cities, like Puebla and even my dad's hometown. It was very nice to see the festival they have every year in the town. I don't know many people there, because my grandmother passed away when I was around 11. We went into the church, and it was full of people and I didn’t know any of them. But they knew me because I look like my grandmother, so immediately after the mass ended, they all came and greeted me. It was so nice to meet all these relatives and realize that our roots are there. Immediately we had a connection. They would tell you, "Oh, I remember your Grandmother was so kind to others" or "Your Grandmother was always smiling."

That experience must have brought you a lot closer with your parents.
It did. It reminded me a little bit of here, because it's not so close to the city but it's also not too rural. I can see why they came to North Carolina, and Catawba County specifically. It reminds them of home.

What's your cultural experience been like here?
My cultural experience revolves around my immediate family, including my mom, my dad, my sister, my brother, their spouses and my two nieces. My culture involves different things. For example, at Christmas we don't celebrate on the 25th. We celebrate on the 24th. We have presents, but it’s more about spending they day cooking and making traditional food like tamales and pozole. It’s an all-day thing. Then we come together and what it's really about, for us, is the celebration of Jesus and welcoming him.

Do you feel you've been able to connect culturally with other people in this community?
My culture's been very well accepted here. We have a large Mexican-Hispanic community in the Catawba County area. We're very supportive of one another. We all come together and look out for one another. Even if I never met you, it’s about being able to help one another.

How do you like to spend your free time?
My favorite thing to do, and it's why I love living so close to this area, is going to Blowing Rock or Boone.  It's literally 45 minutes down the road. I love going to Kilwins in Blowing Rock and Old Bass Lake, up to the Cone House. I'll sit on the ledge and set my feet over it and take in the beautiful blue skies, you can even see the horses come up the trail. I like hiking there. When you're walking up the trail you can touch all the flowers in the spring and the people are friendly. It doesn't matter who you are. At the end of the day, we're all North Carolinians. It's just lovely, and it's fresh air. It's like an escape. I go to unwind. That's where I go to step away, and on the way back I go to Kilwins. I think I've earned it after the hike. Locally, I visit the new greenway in Conover. I love walking that pathway with my dogs, I have a Yorkie and a Maltese. When I can't do the drive or it's a weekday, I like going there. It's a pet friendly community. I’m all about my pets they are like family, I think we're all about our pets. But dogs make the world go round, that's what I like to say.

If you were asked to give advice to someone your age who was thinking about moving here or coming here for a job opportunity, what advice would you give them?
I would definitely tell them to be open to the opportunity and to give it a chance. It's worthwhile. You're going to make connections. One phrase always goes a long way for me, "Life is what you make it." It's up to your perspective. No matter where you are, whether it's New York, Charlotte, or Atlanta, even here in Catawba County, it's about what you make it. It's up to you. You can make those connections and find different opportunities and open doors for yourself and make lifelong friends here. What I have found and what's so special in Catawba County, whether from my high school days or my college days at Lenoir-Rhyne, even my elementary and middle school days, I've always found people who are good mentors who want to see you succeed. I come from a different culture and background, and I've always found that good support system. That's what I love. To this day I'm still friends with one of my middle school teachers. It’s nice to know you have a team rooting for you or even just providing good sound advice and saying, "I'm here if you need me. Not that you do, but if you do, we're here for you.” If you want to be in a good environment, I would definitely suggest living in Catawba County.

It sounds like you are basically paying that forward by being a mentor to others.
Last year, I was asked to be a guest speaker at Hickory High School. I was able to tell my story of being a first-generation college student. I built relationships there. When it was their cycle to apply for college, they reached out to me in the fall and it was nice to be able to give back and make someone's life a little bit better and easier. That's just tremendous. It was rewarding in itself. It’s nice to be able to give back.

Where do you see yourself five, 10 years from now?
I hope I end up having a family. I also want to grow within my organization and my field. I want to be able to make an impact. That's truly what I want to do. If I can do that and be kind and good to people, I'll be happy.