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One group of exceptional graduates at Waubonsee Community College – with the help of a generous grant from the Dunham Fund – were able to complete their associate degrees in just one year, and for free.

First Group of Dunham Quick Path Scholars Graduates from Waubonsee

One group of exceptional graduates at Waubonsee Community College – with the help of a generous grant from the Dunham Fund – were able to complete their associate degrees in just one year, and for free.

     The Dunham Fund Quick Path Program’s inaugural class spent the past 10 months immersed in an innovative and intensive curriculum. The 20 students were provided with a one-year, free associate degree funded by a $500,000 grant from the Aurora-based Dunham Fund. The program provides students with full tuition, books, a computer, a stipend, lunch every day and coaching by a dedicated staff member.

Courses ran in eight-week blocks and were delivered in-person and online. The curriculum has a business focus but still results in a degree that is fully transferable.

     This month, the students walked in the college’s commencement ceremony, and will complete the ambitious project in July. Participants say they got more out of the experience than they’d even hoped.

Sean Warren-Crouch, Dunham Fund Project Manager, said the first year went better than expected.

“I knew that the students were going to need a lot of support in order to get through the rigorous coursework, but I didn't want to seem too overbearing,” he said, explaining that in the beginning, the rules and expectations were very clear. “So in the beginning, a lot of emphasis was put on time management and other strategies to be successful in college.”

     Trenton Roberts, of Oswego, summarized the thoughts of many in the group when he described the year as “life changing.”

     “I, with the support of Sean, my professors, and classmates, have been able to accomplish so much more than I imagined I would as a Waubonsee student,” he said. “I have been given the tools to be successful in both school and life.”

Roberts said the year was not easy.

“This year I have worked harder than I have ever had to work in my life,” he said. “I have substituted a full night’s sleep with caffeine, and free time with homework.”

Roberts plans to resume his studies in August at Aurora University, where he hopes to complete his degree in business administration and management.

     Izac Gomez was born and raised in Aurora, and graduated from East Aurora High School. He learned of the Dunham Quick Path Program through the college preparatory program Upward Bound.

“I could get a head start on major related courses and ultimately my career,” he said. “It seemed like an amazing opportunity, and once the application came out, I immediately applied.”

Gomez plans to transfer to Aurora University and major in both computer science and business administration, with the goal of becoming a computer systems analyst. He said his experience this year helped him set those goals and learn what type of career and academic path would work best for him.

Sasha Figueroa always hoped she’d be able to complete an associate degree in one year, but never thought it would be possible. Then, a little more than one year ago, a friend at her school received a letter from Waubonsee about the opportunity.

“The fast track aspect of the program interested me as well as the free tuition,” she said.

Figueroa, of Geneva, also found time to work a part-time job during the year, which she said was a struggle, but her determination has paid off.

“I was just recently accepted into the University of Illinois Chicago’s Kinesiology program and am going to major in pre- physical therapy.”

All of the students are proud of what they have accomplished in just one year, Warren-Crouch said.

“I feel it has really given them confidence to take on more as they move on through life because they have proven to themselves that they can do so well as long as they plan and manage their time wisely. Many are transferring on to the school of their dreams and are excited to be there quicker than normally planned.”