My initial purpose of going to Waubonsee was completely financial. Although I had saved birthday and Christmas money since I was old enough to know what college was, it wasn’t going to be enough. It was my responsibility to pay for college--and college was expensive.
Four-year universities, at least the type I was attracted to, started at $40,000 a year. So upon receiving the Gustafson scholarship, an award offered by Waubonsee that pays for a full two years tuition, I was delighted. Tickled pink, that out of all the applicants, I was the winner.
But I’ll admit, at the time, I looked down upon community college students, for all of the reasons that had been filtered through my ears in conversations that usually started with, “You’re going to community college? That’s nice. You’ll save a lot of money.”
It seemed as if I wasn’t the only one who considered “cheap” the saving grace of community colleges. I believed community college students weren’t smart enough to be accepted by a four year--at Waubonsee, there was no entrance exam or minimum ACT score. I thought community college students were not capable of self-sufficiency--after all, they still lived at home with their parents.
Those once ideals and beliefs now disturb me, because I was blinded by the reality. I had no idea how hard community college members worked, not just in school, but for their families, friends, and organizations they were involved in. According to Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, President and CEO of honors society Phi Theta Kappa, community colleges produced 1.2 million associate degrees and certificates last year. Four-year universities produced 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees, but 49% of those degrees were awarded to community college transfers.
Not only are community college students going on to accomplish incredible things in the future, they are doing incredible things now. Community colleges present opportunities I was completely unaware of. In my time at Waubonsee, I was privileged to be a part of several amazing groups, the first of which was Student Senate. I had never previously taken interest in student government, and, in another belief I am now ashamed of, decided to run because it would look fantastic on a résumé.
It was the second best decision of my student career. I met friends I will stay connected with for life. I loved the work, and it opened doors to every succeeding opportunity: becoming a member of the Sexual Violence Awareness and Prevention Taskforce, making me aware of the leadership opportunity within Phi Theta Kappa, and eventually, granting me the opportunity to become Student Trustee.
I have had experiences I never dreamed of. I have traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with state senators and representatives. I have gained several employment opportunities doing work I love with people I admire. And I have become all the better for it.
I previously mentioned that my initial involvement was the second best decision I made as a student. The best decision was choosing Waubonsee.