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Waubonsee Featured Student Triumphs through Challenges

Portrait of Jason Gruben
Jason Gruben is Waubonsee’s Student Success: Featured Student.

Jason Gruben says he is living proof of the adage “it takes a village” when it comes to reaching one’s potential. Though he has faced many personal challenges in his lifetime, his perseverance and hard work in the pursuit of his education are why he is recognized as this month’s Waubonsee Community College Student Success: Featured Student.

And while Gruben’s ability to balance classes, a full time job, a growing family, and managing a healthy lifestyle is admirable, he credits faculty and staff at Waubonsee with supporting and influencing his success.

When considering all that he has juggled and how much he has achieved, one might think that this path came easily for Gruben, but he says it took courage for him even to apply to Waubonsee in the first place. At the time, he was struggling with a personal history full of hardship, and he was unsure of where his life would lead and fearful of making a wrong decision.

In the summer of 2014, after a year and a half of encouragement from family members and friends, Gruben contacted Waubonsee to learn what steps he needed to take in order to register for classes.

Though still unsure about what he wanted to study, Gruben was connected with the Waubonsee Access Center for Disability Resources. The department provides support, academic services and appropriate accommodations to students with a variety of disabilities. Through that office, Gruben found the advocates and support he needed to continue his academic journey.

“If these people, with their heart, with everything that they’ve put into their job, if they weren’t there, it didn’t matter how hard I worked,” he said. “I would have never gotten to this point.”

By investing in himself, Gruben said he started looking at his life in a different way.

“I started to re-evaluate everything.”

Social interactions can be a struggle for Gruben, but he said the connections he made with his Waubonsee mentors helped him academically and also personally.

“Being able to interact with so many people was great practice for me,” Gruben said.

Approaching the unknown can be a challenging part of Gruben’s everyday life, so he works hard at preparing himself as best he can for each moment. Practice and preparation aid in his success. This mindset came in handy when he and his wife planned a beautiful beach wedding that just so happened to take place in the middle of a hurricane.

“I lost my caterers, bartenders, and there was no power due to the hurricane,” he explained.

With a little bit of creativity and adaptation to the situation, they were able to purchase enough food and refreshments for their guests and the show went on.

“It was imperfect perfection,” he recalled.

As he works towards completing his associate in science degree in business at Waubonsee, he plans to transfer to Northern Illinois University with a goal of eventually earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

But his ability to embrace “imperfect perfection” is something that Gruben says he learned during his time at Waubonsee, and it will continue to serve him as he builds his future.