Community colleges pursue a critical mission in higher education — to directly serve our local community through powerful classes, programs and services. While the immediate impact from community colleges is significant, our students, alumni and employees also give back to improve their communities. Waubonsee Community College recently recognized one of our students for leading a unique outreach effort for some of the area’s most deserving local residents.

Carissa Winter, Waubonsee’s February Featured Student, shows a passion for philanthropy. Currently in her freshman year at the college and studying psychology, Carissa came to Waubonsee with an idea to spread her love of knitting and crocheting while also helping others. She founded a new student group, One Stitch at a Time, to teach the art of making hand-made fiber goods with a goal of donating them to worthy area organizations.

Through her hard work, Carissa recruited other Waubonsee students and her family and friends to accomplish an amazing goal for their first project. The group donated more than 200 wheelchair bags, lap shawls and blankets, and fingerless gloves for the residents of Countryside Care Center and Elmwood Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, both in her hometown of Aurora. Now, the group is working on a project to make booties, blankets and hats for the Fox Valley’s smallest and youngest residents receiving care in Rush-Copley Medical Center’s Level III Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

Waubonsee is not alone in recognizing Carissa’s impact on her community. Carissa and her sister, Lindsey, were invited to Oprah Winfrey’s “Heroes” show where they received several rewards for their selfless charity work. Carissa also makes a difference in her part-time job as an Inclusion Aide with the Fox Valley Special Recreation Association. Carissa wants to make a career of helping others as a pediatric psychologist, specializing in working with children with autism.

One of the true highlights of being a college president is the opportunity to meet students like Carissa. Her story is one of many that illustrates our connection with our community. Entire classes regularly take time to pack food for local charities, gain practical knowledge while designing websites for area non-profit organizations, and participate in numerous volunteer projects. 

As our students become Waubonsee alumni they also tend to stay in their local communities and give back for a lifetime. Many local police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other first responders earned their degrees and certifications at Waubonsee. Waubonsee is unique in that so many of our alumni serve their communities as elected officials. If you look throughout the Fox Valley, you will see Waubonsee alumni in a wide variety of leadership positions working hard to help their neighbors. Community support gives us strength as a college, and we strive to strengthen the community in return.