Success Stories

Adult Re-entry Center
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A Doctor? You're Nuts! (or, Three Degrees, One Campus)
By Christina L. Frye

If you would have asked me 10 years ago what I would be doing today, I certainly would not have told you I would be working on completing a doctoral degree. Yet, what I can tell you today is that this would not have been possible without the guidance and opportunity provided by Parkland's Adult Re-entry Center (ARC); and for this reason, I am honored to contribute my success story.

I am a Champaign native and if you are reading this, chances are we have a lot in common. Like most adults, I have always had a lot on my plate. Work, kids, family…you name it. I finished my associate's degree at Parkland shortly after graduating from Champaign Central High School. I immediately started working, but deep down, I always thought that someday I would want to pursue a bachelor's degree. However, I had a few "challenges" in making this happen. First, I had no idea what I could get an undergraduate degree in. Second, I had commitments in my life that could not be put on hold in order for me to go back to school. And third, I did not know of any school options that would allow me to pursue a degree, continue to work full time, and to be available for my husband, son, and other family members. But soon I reached a point in my career where I needed to complete a bachelor's degree if I ever wanted to advance.

I do not know how I found out about the ARC, but I am eternally grateful that I did. Billie Mitchell and her team took time to help me pick a program that suited my interests as well as the craziness and busy schedule in my life. However, the thing you should know about Billie and the ARC is after they help you "get into" a program, they are not done with you; their support continues throughout your academic career. The day I started my bachelor's program from Greenville College, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I did not think I could possibly complete my degree, continue to work full time, be a wife, and now be a mother of two children! But I had the encouragement and support at my back and I DID IT! Not only did I do it and did I learn a lot, but I actually found it to be an enjoyable experience that helped me to advance in my job and provided me with several friendships that I will keep for a lifetime. But again, Billie and the ARC staff were not done with me…

Shortly after completing my bachelor's degree, I thought I might want to pursue a master's degree. My bachelor's program was such a great experience that I thought I could do more. I got back in touch with Billie, discussed some of my interests and dreams, and soon started a master's program at Eastern Illinois University (completed May 2011). Did I mention the best part? I never had to leave Parkland's campus to do any of this!

So what have I done since, and where am I now? I am still a wife and a mother of two, which have always been and will always be my top priorities. However, shortly after completing my master's degree, I started teaching for EIU and had the pleasure of teaching courses on Parkland's campus. Many of my students were also "customers" of Parkland's Adult Re-entry Center and shared their stories with me; and I can tell you—with no exceptions—they had the same wonderful experiences working with Billie and her team. While I am no longer teaching, I am currently working on the final phase of my education, which I never would have imagined for myself. I am now a research assistant and full-time student at UIUC pursuing my PhD in Human Resources and Industrial Relations from the School of Labor and Employment relations, and I can honestly say I probably would have never reached this point if it were not for the support provided by Parkland's Adult Re-entry Center.

So when you think you cannot do this, when you think you have too much going on, when you think you have no options—know that this is not the case! I am nothing special. I have no hidden powers or super cape in my closet. What I did have, and still do have, are opportunities and support. Billie and her team can show you the opportunities, and I can tell you (because I still get it even though I am no longer in one of Parkland's affiliated programs) YOU WILL have their support! No excuses! What are you waiting for?

You Are Never Too Old to Set Another Goal or to Dream a New Dream
by Cindy Brewer

Back in 1989 and fresh out of high school, I attended Parkland College, graduating with my AAS as an Administrative Assistant two years later. In 2007, I decided to go back to college to complete my bachelor’s degree.

My first step was to contact Billie Mitchell in the Adult Re-entry Center. Shortly thereafter, I began taking Greenville College courses on the Parkland campus. At first, I was hesitant and worried about not making the grade after being out of school for more than 15 years. What I actually found was that I was a better student the second time around; I was more driven, focused, and determined that, in fact, I could follow my dreams. I completed my bachelor’s degree just 18 months later, in 2009.

Prior to returning to college I had held positions as a secretary and then moved on to become an apartment manager for 18 years. While completing my bachelor’s degree, I realized that my passion was to work in the field of geriatrics. I quickly decided to combine my experience with my education to embark on a new career journey. I embraced several positions in the health care field to further my understanding and appreciation for each level of this industry. I took away from each experience lessons that I believe have made me a better person, boss, and coworker. All of the speed bumps I have encountered along my path have now led me to the job I had always hoped to have.

My goal of combining my experience and education has been brought full circle; I am now the executive director of an assisted living community where I am blessed to combine my management experience with my passion for geriatrics. Being able to provide residents with life-enriching opportunities and connections along with a safe environment they are happy to call “home” makes every day a joy. As Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

Are you thinking of going back to school? Do it! There is no time like the present. Remember, “you are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream” (C.S. Lewis).


A New Beginning
by Angela Williams
When I came to Parkland College, it was fresh from a job that I had held for 10 years and had subsequently lost out of the blue. I had applied and was accepted. I had always wanted an education but I married young and just never got around to it.

Feeling a little intimidated because of my age, I somehow blundered into Billie Mitchell’s office. She talked to me about what I wanted to do and she told me about the 2 for 2 program whereby the 2 years that I spent at Parkland could be transferred to a 4 year university so that I could get a bachelors degree.
I wanted to get a bachelors degree for sure but I also wanted to have my associate’s degree so that I could work a good job while pursuing my bachelors and that was exactly what I did. I graduated from Parkland College in 2007 with my associates then transferred to Eastern Illinois University. I graduated from Eastern in 2009 with my bachelors in general studies but I was on a roll so I applied and got into Ashford University’s MBA program. I was so happy when I finished with my MBA in April of 2012.
I want to thank Billie because she helped to put me on a path to a new beginning, then I discovered the possibilities where limitless. It really does get better with age.
Switch to Civilian Life Made Easier
by Jeremy Ausmus
Three years ago, having spent eight years in the U.S. Air Force, I decided to give civilian life a try. I had planned well financially, but my college education and nonmilitary career planning had been put off due to repeated deployments and the operations tempo. So, while still overseas, I applied to Parkland College online and was accepted; I was surprised at how proud it made me feel to be admitted to college, knowing I was taking major steps for my transition to civilian life.
Someone from Parkland assisted me in contacting the school’s Adult Re-entry Center (ARC). Myriah and Billie began emailing me with helpful advice on how to set up ANGEL and My Parkland student accounts as well as how to plan out my degree and classes. After my military discharge and return home, I met with Billie and discussed my transcripts and military credits. She shared a wealth of knowledge and pointed me in the right directions to answer a number of questions I had.

As I started college courses, I discovered that shift work wasn’t always conducive to my school schedule, which was frustrating. Yet Myriah and Billie were always there to keep me on track. Myriah was great: emailing reminders, flyers, and other information; being quick with a reply to a question; and working wonders with scheduling appointments. I also always looked forward to meeting with Billie once a semester to schedule my classes. These meetings were usually late in the semester, about the time I’d be overwhelmed or fed-up with college, and she’d always have encouraging words to keep me going.

During the past three years since enrolling at Parkland, I’ve started a new career and have successfully transitioned into civilian life. I’ll have earned my AAS in Criminal Justice in December and I start at Eastern Illinois University this spring in the Organizational and Professional Development program. I’m looking into graduate programs now—something I never thought I’d be doing—thanks to Myriah, Billie, and the Parkland ARC.

Anything is Possible: Reach for It!
By Cheryl Curry
I have always wanted to continue my education. Being a single mom in Chicago, I struggled to support my children and knew I needed better skills in order to maintain our livelihood. I did return to school after having my last child and obtained a certification as an electronic technician. I enjoyed the work that followed and the opportunity to meet some interesting people. In time, however, the toil of the physical labor became too much for me, and I could no longer work in that capacity.
I ultimately took a desk position within the company as a customer support representative. I still wanted to go back to school, so while working in that position I tried to resume my education. Unfortunately, the stress of working long hours and raising my daughters became too much for me, and I discontinued my pursuit.

After several years, I relocated to Champaign to be closer to my daughter and new grandbaby. It was during that time that the idea of going back to school resurfaced. I visited the Parkland Adult Re-entry Center and, after a pep talk from director Billie Mitchell and my pondering over it for a year, I decided to give school another try. My three daughters had finished their college education; I knew that it was now my time to follow my dream. I’m so glad that I did.

During my attendance at Parkland, I was introduced to a world of new and exciting academics. The humanity, science, and sociology classes that I took introduced me to different cultures and gave me a better understanding of the world in which we live. I also learned about the world of film cinematography (I enjoyed critiquing production designs and special effects), and I became proficient in computer applications. I enjoyed learning and had some wonderful instructors who truly enjoyed their profession and strived to make it as interesting as possible.

As I sat in Krannert Center on graduation day, waiting for my name to be called, I became so proud of my achievement! To have completed this part of my goal encouraged me to believe that anything is possible if you reach for it. Seeing my children cheer me on as I received my diploma brought such joy to my heart. Billie’s presence and support made the day even better.

I would like to thank Billie for her dedication and commitment to adult students like me. She was patient and helpful, understanding what I was trying to achieve. Even at those times I became frustrated and wondered if it was all worth it, she continued to encourage and support me. I believe that God has a way of putting people in places at just the right time; I’m glad that He put Billie—and Parkland—there for me.

Success: Redefined
By Ashley Miyasaki
When the staff at the Parkland Adult Re-entry Center asked me to write my success story, I miyasakiphoto immediately thought, “what success?” But as I have thought about it, I have come to realize that every step, large or small, is a major accomplishment and should be celebrated.
Like Paul Reiser says in his book, Couplehood, “You have to appreciate the small things in life because the big things may never get here and then you’ve waited around for nothing.” When I look back over just the year and a half, I can easily see all that I have accomplished. While I still have a lot of school left to meet my goals, I now know I can make it.

That knowledge came, in part, with the help of Billie and Myriah and the ARC program. I can’t even imagine beginning the process of returning to school without the help of such patient, knowledgeable, and friendly people. They helped me to realize that I am not a slacker; I am just a busy, working adult.

I haven’t been gone from the college scene too long, but I feel like I am continuing what I started after a few distractions. I began my college education at Utah State University in Logan, Utah in the fall of 2001. I completed my general education requirements there, and I was still very undecided about a major. Then I left for two years in order to do church service, and I had planned on returning to school in fall 2006. But then, I met my future husband; we were soon married and moving to far away Illinois so that he could complete a PhD in history at the University of Illinois.

After our move, I took some time to get accustomed to married life and to life in Champaign; then I began to rethink college. After consultation with Billie at the ARC, I took my first night class at Parkland in fall 2008. I worked hard at Parkland for a year and a half, and I recently received my associate’s degree! What a great day that was! It was a sign to me that I have done something great and that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. I am now pursuing my bachelor’s degree in General Studies at Eastern Illinois University.

My time at Parkland was short, but I enjoyed it and felt like Parkland was a good place for me to learn and grow. When I first moved here, I was hesitant to begin school again at a local community college. Yet, after working with the ARC and the rest of the faculty and staff at Parkland, I was glad that I came to this college, and I will always be grateful for my experiences here.

For anyone who is pondering a return to school, I would encourage you to go and talk with Billie and Myriah at the ARC. You are not alone, and there are people and programs at Parkland that can help you accomplish your goals. I was really surprised at how much help is available for adult students, and how accommodating these programs can be. I still have a long road ahead of me, but I know that through small steps I make every day, I can accomplish all of my life’s goals.

A Great Experience
By Jan Glosser
I had no idea how gratifying completing my degree at Parkland College would be until I received my diploma in the mail a few weeks ago. Wow, what a great experience Parkland was for me!

Back in the sixties, I expected to become a mother and housewife who never worked away from home. What a different direction my life took from that dream! My high school experience was not that great, and I began working right after graduation. So, while I eventually had two children and became a housewife, I was never afforded the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom.

When I began my college education in 1983, it was just to receive a real estate salesperson’s license and broker’s license; still, I had received good grades, and my self-esteem began to increase. In the late nineties, after a divorce, a move, and a change of profession, I began to try and finish my degree. Once again, work commitments required me to drop out. By 2005, needing a goal in my life, I decided once and for all to finish my degree—for myself.

I can’t begin to tell you what Parkland College gave me, with the opportunities it offers to older adults. Some of my best instructors came from Parkland, and I received great guidance at the Adult Re-entry Center led by Billie Mitchell. I received the AAS in Business Management in spring 2008. I also graduated with Honors; made the Dean’s List; was a member of the Phi Alpha Kappa honors society; was nominated for a Lifetime Learning Award; and met many new and wonderful people. I start classes in fall 2008 at Eastern Illinois University to complete the bachelor’s degree. I am a new person at age 56. Thank you, Parkland, for what you have done for me.

Promising Future
By Justin Sechrest
After graduating from High School in 1995, I had no idea what I wanted to do or where I was going to end up. I wasn’t settled on a specific major or even college. I enrolled at Parkland College and just three months later, dropped out; I did not have the motivation to continue.

For the next nine years, I worked full time for a couple of employers. I started my working career at Wal-Mart, where I managed the Electronics department and was part of a support team who oversaw the Super Center. In two years, I was promoted to an assistant manager. But a year later, my father had passed way, and my life took a major U-turn: for the next six months, I was an emotional wreck and I quit my job. Eventually, I took an area sales manger job at a shoe store. The position was stressful, and I worked 60 hours a week for almost three years straight. While the money was great, my social life had come to a halt and I was losing my sanity quickly.

In 2004, a light came on in my head: retail was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to go back to college and get a degree. I went to Parkland, spoke with an Adult Re-entry counselor, and not even a month later was taking classes and enjoying the college lifestyle. I quickly got back into the swing of things and became interested in all of my studies. I never thought I would have had such an interest and an itch to get a degree and learn all of the things that I was learning as an adult student. Now it was important to me, and it was great.

After two hard years of studying, I graduated from Parkland and then decided to transfer to EIU, where I am currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in General Studies.

Making a choice to return to college was the best decision that I have ever made. It was an easy decision, one that I knew would benefit me in the long run. I knew that having an education would open many doors for me and my career. I knew I would become more marketable and be able to compete with the workforce. I am grateful to all of my peers and instructors who have pushed me along the way. My motivation and determination to finish school have gotten me to this point, and I couldn’t be happier.

There Comes a Time
By Marti Pearson
There comes a time in every adult’s life when you realize that life is up to you—no other person on this planet can force you to achieve your goals (or keep you from achieving them), no other human being has responsibility for your final outcome. Not your parents, not your boss, not your kids, not your best friend, not your spouse, not your partner, not your coworker. You. When I came to that point, I realized that in my late forties, I still had unfulfilled dreams, and unless I did something about them, they would remain unfulfilled—and so would I.

Not that I had a bad life. My extremely supportive husband and I had raised three sons who had gone to college and were going out into the adult world. We owned our home, had two cars, two dogs and a happy life. But I realized that I was in danger of becoming a reality TV show addict. And I knew my brain would revolt if that happened.

Looking back, I have been a lifelong learner. I have taken non-credit classes through the park district, Bible studies through my church, counseling classes through the mail, and read various books on management and sales to help my career. I had even taken a class at Parkland many years ago.

This time was different. I decided I needed to go back to school and get that college degree I’d wanted for so long. I called the Parkland switchboard, and they put me in touch with the Adult Re-Entry Center. The advisor told me about an accelerated program, where I could get my Associates Degree in two years while working full time. As a motivated, goal-oriented and impatient person, this sounded too good to be true. That had been part of my problem, I’d heard about people who took ten years to get their Associates degree. I was afraid if I did that I’d be in my eighties before I got my Bachelor’s.

Thanks to the dedicated professors who were willing to do whatever it took to help me be successful, I was able to get my degree in two years while working forty-five hours a week. One of my biggest fears was that I would look stupid to all of the 18-year-olds who knew more about technology than I could hope to download into my brain. Luckily, I didn’t need an iPod, and no one made fun of me when I was unsure how to get music from the Internet. As a matter of fact, everyone was helpful, pleasant, and truly wanted to help me succeed. They never laughed at me for asking silly questions that most of them probably assumed everyone should know. Almost every professor went out of his or her way to be sure I felt safe, encouraged, and confident in my abilities.

I encourage people everywhere to go back to school. It is easier as an adult, because you have more experiences. All of my professors encouraged me to draw from those experiences, and rewarded me for it. I also have a better work ethic and am more responsible. Almost every professor told me that they truly enjoyed working with adult students, because we have more in common with them, and we are often more serious students. Parkland has helped me make my dreams come true, literally. I no longer feel outdated or out of touch. I am more confident in myself and my abilities because I have been successful, thanks to Parkland.

Taking that First Step
By Saundra Hoover
I graduated from high school almost 30 years ago but, since I grew up in a home where the word “college” was never mentioned, I assumed college was for other people. The only option I thought I had was to get married.

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out well. By 2003, I found myself going through the most difficult time of my life as my second marriage (of 24 years) was unraveling. I had worked off and on over the years but had dedicated most of that time to full-time parenting.

As I sat in consultation with the attorney discussing my “no-option future,” she told me, “The first thing you need to do is to go to school and get an education.” It was the first time I had ever considered what I needed to do for myself. “I wouldn’t even know how to walk through the front door of a college,” I reasoned. Thank God for the Internet— checking out Parkland College online was a safer approach!

I dared to take the next step; I called and asked questions. Before I knew it, I was taking my first online class, English 101. (Due to my inexperience, this felt like taking three classes instead of one, but the end result was worth it.) Later, I read a blurb on the Parkland home page about a new adult accelerated program*. When I attended the informational meeting, I met lots of people with stories similar to mine. I entered the program and, two years later, I’m finishing up my associate’s degree and planning my next step.

It certainly hasn’t been easy: divorcing, becoming a single parent, working and having a full-time school load, not to mention training my brain to study and think like it never has before. But failure was not an option. Sure, I still have much work ahead of me, but I now have the confidence to continue; I know I will complete my bachelor’s degree. (And even at my age, it still feels good to see an “A” on a paper and brag about it to my kids!)

However, I don’t know how I would have done all this so far without God’s grace, encouragement from family, friends, and fellow classmates, and help from the accelerated program staff. I hope this encourages others, who may not know where to start or who lack the confidence to walk through that college door, to take that first step forward. If I can do it, so can you!

From Crisis to New Career
By Andrea Fain
I found myself a divorced mother of a six-year-old about 2 years ago. Before this time, I had been a stay-at-home mom, running the business end of a computer consulting corporation I owned with my ex-husband, despite having no formal higher education.
Now I needed a new career because of the divorce, one that could support my family and still use skills I had already acquired.

Getting a degree in business seemed only natural since I had some experience in it; I already knew about 1120 S-corp., corporations in general, and a lot of other business goodies. But I didn't want college to take me away from my duties as a mother, since my son’s father is mostly out of town. That’s when I turned to Parkland College’s Adult Re-entry Center (ARC) for help.

ARC’s director Billie Mitchell was a God-send for me when I first walked into Parkland! I give her kudos for being patient with me and willing to show me all the options available to someone in my situation. I decided to earn my General Studies degree from Parkland, which I did in 2006. Then ARC helped me get even more education through Franklin University’s Community College Alliance program. This program lets you earn your bachelor’s degree online, so you don’t have to leave town. Franklin’s online classes fit my situation perfectly: I wanted classes I could attend but that would not pull me away from my son. And the courses I had taken at Parkland prepared me well for the classes I have taken through the Franklin CCA.

In December 2007, I will earn the Bachelor in Business Administration with a minor in Organizational Leadership—with a 4.0 GPA, I’m proud to add! This new degree will hopefully enable me to provide a better lifestyle for my son and me.

Success through the Challenges
By Zainab Susi
A few weeks ago I received mail from Parkland College asking me to come and give my hat and gown measurement for graduation, which is on May 11, 2007. For the first few minutes, I couldn’t blink. I couldn’t believe it was finally the day I have been waiting for last five years. I started Parkland in 2002, having finished high school 14 years earlier. Just by taking different classes here, I’ve learned so much about myself, other people, and different cultures. The most important thing I’ve learned is how to become a better mother.

I was born and raised in Pakistan. I was pretty ignorant about other cultures and other religions. Through Parkland, I’ve learned that it’s okay to have cultural and religious differences between people as long as people respect each other and are not judgmental. I have also noticed that, because of my new education, my self-esteem has increased and I feel good about myself. I am also more aware of the things going on all around me, and I have become a more positive person.

In the culture in which I was raised, a woman’s life is pretty limited. She doesn’t go back to school later in her life. Her job is to stay at home and take care of the family. I never agreed with that; I wanted to challenge myself. When I decided to go back to school and finish my education, therefore, it was not as easy as it sounds. I feel lucky I moved to the United States where women are not limited.

I started Parkland when I became a single mother of two daughters. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit school. So many times I would sit in my classroom and have no idea what my teachers were talking about. Some days were overwhelming and it was a big adjustment for me and for my girls. The only reason I didn’t quit was my promise to myself. It took awhile, but eventually my daughters and I started enjoying school. We would do our homework together and talk about school at the dinner table. They came to realize their mother was also a student just like them. I am very proud of my daughters. They didn’t make it hard for me; in fact, they tried their best to make it easy. If I had exams or had to study, they would cook dinner many times without letting me know.

When I enrolled at Parkland I had to start from the beginning. First, I took all of the English as a Second Language courses offered. Parkland’s ESL program is extraordinary; I had fun taking the classes. I got the chance to meet friends of many different nationalities, which I never had a chance to do before. I still keep in touch through e-mail and phone with the ones who have gone back to their home countries; I even went to Germany recently to visit a friend I met in 2002. I value all the lifelong friends I’ve made at Parkland.

I feel lucky I got the chance to educate myself. Getting an associate’s degree was my goal when I enrolled at Parkland, but now I have a new goal: to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Parkland helped me to find my way and gave me the confidence to succeed in higher education. I feel like a whole new person since I came to Parkland!

Billie’s Journey
By Billie Mitchell
A little hard work and a lot of endurance do pay off for adults returning to college or going to college for the first time. I should know; I was one of them. My name is Billie Mitchell, and I am the director of the Parkland College Adult Re-entry Center.

I had performed a variety of jobs in my life—janitor, caterer, waitress, factory worker—you name it—without a college education. In 1985, however, the factory where I worked closed. Although I was out of a job, I was allowed two semesters of college instruction under the “Dislocated Workers” grant, and decided to take them. The teaching and encouragement I received during my first year at Parkland changed my life forever, and completing those early classes proved to me that I could be successful at the college level.

I joined Parkland’s staff in 1988 as secretary for the Athletics/Physical Education Department and decided to resume my education. Earning an actual associate’s degree seemed far away, but I just chiseled away at it over the years. In 1994, I took the long walk across the stage at Krannert’s Great Hall and accepted my degree from college President Zelema Harris. What an exciting moment!

Was that graduation day the end for me educationally? Not so! I was already lined up to begin studies through Eastern Illinois University, in its Career and Organizational Studies program. I would work all day at Parkland, and then walk across campus and attend EIU classes. It was convenient and cost effective. It’s funny how, at the beginning, I thought I was just going to take a couple of Parkland typing classes and go back to work. Instead, I wound up with my master’s degree from EIU in 1999.

Remember: Getting a degree is not just about the piece of paper. Getting a degree is important for your resume, but it’s the learning experience that’s invaluable. The content of the courses, discussions and teamwork with classmates, and mentoring by excellent faculty all served to shape and prepare me for promotions that would eventually come my way.

Being an adult student was no cakewalk, of course. My husband often jokes that my journey can be “measured in pot pies,” since he had to eat a lot of them while I was at class! He was a good sport, but he’s right: it was challenging for both of us. Many adult students feel that they are sacrificing time with their family, losing sleep, and constantly worrying about work and classroom deadlines. Yet I began to see how this seemingly never-ending effort was actually a worthwhile investment in my future. So now, I try to encourage new students in this direction as well. After all, it’s a long time to retirement for many of us. Being able to work in an environment that’s exciting, challenging, and rewarding is a great payoff for those homework assignments.

In all the years that I have worked with adult students, I find this common thread still exists: we all want to use our talents and abilities to an advantage in our careers. Yet there are many competent, accomplished, capable adults in the workplace that can’t move to the next title, salary, or job without a bachelor’s degree. That’s why I’m thrilled to be able to offer such an option to the students I work with every day as the ARC director. I’m proud of the work we do here at Parkland and feel privileged to work here. Helping others the same way I was helped makes for a great day’s work!

If you are currently pursuing any type of degree, I say “Bravo!” and “Best wishes” as you stay the course to completion. But if you’re still deciding whether or not to begin, take this as the first of many gentle reminders: Now is the time. Contact me at the Adult Re-entry Center for assistance. It will be my pleasure to help you get started on your journey.

Not Too Late to Fulfill Your Dream
By Mica Witt
I started Parkland College in 1971, attempting the nursing program, and after the first year it became hard to continue because I had a baby. For many years I had dreams of going back and finishing my nursing degree, but family and life got in the way. I worked at Christie Clinic for 24 years as a medical assistant, and then left to work for Champaign Unit #4 Schools as an inventory secretary in the Science Curriculum Department. (I love the hours, and the six weeks off in the summer are fabulous!)

In June 2002, I was diagnosed with leukemia. Within the next year, I had two rounds of chemotherapy and was in the hospital more than I was home. The University of Chicago doctors told me I would have to have a stem cell transplant, so we began the search for a donor. Thankfully, my brother was a match, and in December 2003 I had the transplant. While in the transplant unit I made a pact with myself that I would finish my degree at Parkland College.

In the fall of 2004 I started my journey to finish an Associate in General Studies degree, and I am happy to say that I will walk in Commencement exercises on May 11, 2007! I have fought the hard fight with leukemia and did what I wanted to do—graduate from Parkland. So if you have a dream, think big and it will come true.

Small Town Rural Kid Goes High Tech
By Mark Gillis
I may be from a very small town in rural Champaign, but my aspirations have always been high-tech! I was one of the initial lucky “tech heads” who earned their two-year degree and quickly went out into the work force. My A.A.S. in Data Processing from Parkland College back in 1985 was enough for me to land a good job and gain needed experience in Information Technology.
Back then, businesses needed programmers and network technicians to fill a huge technology void in the workforce. I went from programmer to data manager in just three years! The money was so good that, although I wanted to get a four-year degree, I did not have the time to continue with my education. After all, I had what I considered the “golden handcuffs,” making enough to allow me to live a good life.

But then, the industry changed, the “.COMs” fell one by one in the late ‘90s, and Y2K work was complete. I started to compete in the workplace with kids just getting out of college! I had to ask myself, “What if I want to leave my current employment? Do I have the credentials to find employment elsewhere?”

That’s when I decided I needed to get my four-year degree.

After looking around at the different programs offered, I found that Greenville College’s Bachelor Science Degree program would blend well with my A.A.S degree. The course work fit well into my lifestyle. The folks at Greenville were happy to help me out with all aspects of getting back into college life. By the end of the 18 months of course work, not only did I get a Bachelor of Science in Organization Leadership, but I also gained lifelong friends. It was a lot of hard work, but worth every minute.

Within a year of getting my degree, life led me away from the Champaign area, but my new degree came in handy. I landed my first job interview with a company in Peoria. The fact that I went back to school and finished my degree was one of the reasons I got the job; without it, I would have not even been considered. I believe going back and getting my degree was one of the best parts of my life.

Dreams Do Come True
By Jeanie McConkey
“Okay, I’m 50 years old, have 28 years at the same job (no growth opportunity), and the kids have grown and left the nest.”
“What about finishing your bachelor’s degree?”

“You know, that has always been a dream of mine. Maybe—just maybe—I could do it.”

This was the conversation that kept playing and replaying through my head just a short while ago. But along with it came lots of excuses as to why I shouldn’t go back to school: “Maybe I’m too old! It will cost too much money! I have aging parents! I work full time! My grandchildren might need me!”

After attending a “Look into Greenville Night,” however, I set my excuses aside. The Greenville staff answered all my questions. They showed me how easy and straightforward it was to fill out an application and how it was possible to receive financial aid. I found the entire process far less complicated than I imagined. The Greenville GOAL Program staff went the extra mile for me anytime I needed them! I acquired a wonderful classroom learning experience—the benefit of working as a team member with other classmates—and I achieved my dream of finishing my bachelor’s degree.

Getting an Education – Priceless!
by Julia Hart

Julia achieve her dream. 12/2014 updated
"I wanted to give Parkland an update on my educational status.  I am happy to report that I just completed my doctoral program here at the University of Illinois at the College of Education. This journey started with the Associate’s Degree I received at Parkland in my late 30s and as I am now approaching 50 I have been able to fulfill  all of my educational goals.

It’s never too late to get an education. Life is very hectic, we all have a hundred things going on at once, at least I do, and many of you may think there is no way you could find time to get a college education. Well, I’m here to tell you it can be done, and Parkland Adult Re-entry Center makes it easy to do.

I had always wanted to get a college degree, but my dream didn’t become reality until 2003 when, at age 38, I received my Associated in Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree from Parkland. The program was Computer Science: Web Server Administration. At the time I began working towards this degree I was a single mother, working full-time, and going to school. I am very grateful that my mother lived nearby and was able to watch my young daughter for me while I attended night classes. It took my nearly 4 ½ years to complete this degree, but it was well worth the effort. What a sense of accomplishment I felt when I graduated with honors!

At that point I was determined to go on even further with my education. “What was to stop me from getting my bachelor’s degree?” I asked myself. I knew that working full-time and attending 3 or 4 weekly night classes was getting harder and harder that last semester at Parkland, so I was interested in taking more classes online. I contacted the Parkland Adult Re-entry Center and they introduced me to a totally online program offered through Franklin University out of Columbus, Ohio. At first, I was a little skeptical; I had taken a few courses online at Parkland but wasn’t sure how the online courses at Franklin compared. The counselors at the Parkland Adult Re-entry Center were wonderful. They helped me every step of the way. I am enrolled full-time in the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Management Information Sciences program at Franklin University and will graduate this May (2006), at the age of 40. My experiences taking classes at Franklin have been wonderful. The online courses are very well structured and the instructors are eager to help you learn. Getting an education online allows you the flexibility that a hectic life style requires. I even took several of my general education requirement classes at Parkland and they were transferred to Franklin with full credit. I have been able to spend quality time with my family and still reap the rewards of getting an education. I have learned so much and am proud of myself for these accomplishments.

I have worked at the same organization for almost 18 years now, the last 4 focusing on technology. My goal is to continue to advance in my career and continue my education by getting my master’s degree through Franklin University.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel
by Ella-Marie Coleman
As I look back over the events of my life, I can be proud of my personal achievements and task accomplished, ending with May 12, 2006. After completion of my high school education many, many years ago, I was content to enter the workforce doing whatever was legal and available to earn wages. My employment began in retail and will be ending at retiring from city government, soon.

As a result of one line of work I was hired to do, I was challenged to earn college hours annually. That was the start of something new. This process has taken much effort, collaboration with teachers, support staff and others and most importantly a serious dialog with myself to ensure I would make it to the finish line. As I got closer to closing the book on this chapter of my life, I reflect back to the starting line. I would like to let others know, it is not about the struggle, but it’s all about the journey.

I enrolled in 1971 and began taking classes at Parkland before the Campus was ever built. At the time I was the director of a childcare facility. I was required to comply with the State of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services guidelines to complete child development classes annually. I had always wanted to go to college and earn a degree but felt it would be much too difficult with raising my family, working and living on a limited budget, but I struggled to do so anyway.

After leaving daycare, I continue to pursue this dream of earning a degree sporadically with the determination that one day when I had the time, I would. Taking a lengthy break from Parkland, my interest again was peaked when I spotted an ad in the newspaper. It was an invitation to attend an evening session geared for adults entering or returning to college. I felt as if I had been handed a direct point of contact. I found the resources that were needed to complete something I had started so long ago.

I now am much older and a lot wiser than when I first entered Parkland. I realized that I have reached a milestone in my life and it comes with completion of a long time dream. It is the personal satisfaction that I experienced on the day of graduation of completing the goal of a lifetime.

Opening Up More Opportunities
by Heather Hilton, RN
I have recently made the decision to continue my education. I am a full-time registered nurse, full-time wife and mother, and have other life obligations. So the thought of going back to school was a bit scary. I had several nurses tell me that they received their bachelor’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. Being from the Champaign area, my first reaction was, “That is a crazy drive!” They laughed at me and let me know that the program is available through Parkland College.

I proceeded to look into the program and both Parkland and Olivet were extremely helpful. When you enroll in a program that is not in your area it can be intimidating. I was sure I would have a hard time getting and receiving information about financial aid, class schedules, and general questions. This has not been the case; Olivet has wonderful advisors. I have gotten answers the same day or within 24 hours. For example, I called to see if I could take an online English class that I needed and my advisor said, “No problem; would you like me to enroll you?” I was so thankful. The process has been easy for me and I really have not run into any problems.

The program has been great so far. Since the classes are at Parkland College, we never have to actually go to the Olivet campus. Our instructors are fabulous; they are very informative and will relay information to the departments at Olivet if necessary. I am really enjoying my first class; I feel that they really are glad we are taking this program and want to see us succeed.

By getting my bachelor’s degree, I can pursue more job opportunities at my current hospital. I am interested in being a wound and ostomy nurse, but to get that certification I must have a bachelor’s degree. I would recommend this program to anyone who is interested in going back to school; this program is easy to work with and fits into most people’s lives.

Finding a Perfect Fit
by Joni Fredrickson, RN
As an adult learner, the decision to return to school after more than 16 years was not an easy one. After researching the different programs available to me, Olivet Nazarene University seemed to be a perfect match. Olivet’s BSN completion program was exactly what I was looking for to fit my busy lifestyle. I can complete my degree in 19 months by attending classes at Parkland one night a week! It’s easy to find time to meet with my learning team; sometimes we stay after or meet before class. I’m still able to work and enjoy my family time.

Finally Time for Me

by Mary Kay Kappes
I received my associate’s degree from Parkland College in May 2006, the year I turned 50.

I had taken my first college class 27 years earlier, in 1979, had enjoyed it, and had decided that I would take one class a semester and work towards my degree. The plan didn’t work out very well: life got in the way. I had three sons and was heavily involved in their schools and activities. I would take a class occasionally but would become discouraged because it seemed like it would take forever to actually finish a degree.

When my youngest son started high school, I decided it was finally time to do something for me. I started taking one class a semester. My husband and my sons encouraged me, so I stuck with it. Then, my youngest graduated from high school in 2002, joined the Marine Corps, and shipped out to Iraq on March 17, 2003, three days before the war began. He would serve two more tours in Iraq over the next three years. Taking classes helped me get through this time; I had to focus on my homework, which took up some of my evenings.

In summer 2004, I read in the newspaper that Parkland was going to hold an information session on how a working person could earn an associate’s degree in two years, while still working. I attended the session, joining Parkland’s accelerated associate’s degree pilot program* that fall. I earned 14 credit hours in my first semester! I could finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I finished my degree in May 2006 and am now working toward a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Illinois University. I hope to complete it in May 2009—and then continue on for my master’s degree.

Meet Faces of Parkland

CAS's Larry Taylor

CAS's Larry Taylor
Title: Academic Advisor
Center for Academic Success


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