The Parkland College Blog

Armed with seed money from Parkland College to start his own business, Eliot Graham plans to turn your condo into a cozy haven.

And while Parkland's 2020 Student Entrepreneur of the Year appreciates this new opportunity to grow plants for what will soon be The Wood Violet LLC, it has been his own growth this fall through the school’s CobraVenture Program that he considers far more valuable.

"Winning was truly secondary to all the knowledge gained over the last few months," Graham said about Parkland's second-ever student startup cohort. "The greatest part of CobraVenture was that everyone that came in wanted to see us succeed. This community is focused on ensuring success of small businesses, and that was not only reassuring, but very heartwarming."

Parkland College held its 2020 CobraVenture Pitch Showcase on Nov. 16, which took place virtually for audiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic (judges and competitors were masked and socially distanced in the Student Union.) Having competed with six other Parkland students in his cohort during the event, Graham will soon receive the event’s top prize: $3,000 in seed money and $1,000 in monetary technology to start The Wood Violet.

Through the Wood Violet, Champaign resident Graham plans to bring the power of plants and plant-products to small-space areas, such as apartments and condos. His pitch centered on the reality that the home is transforming in the age of the pandemic, "serving as both residences, office spaces, classrooms, and staycation destinations." His new mobile gardening units will turn these spaces into what he calls "livable, comfortable, and functional sanctuaries."

Graham plans to graduate with his associate's degree in Horticulture and Landscape Design before continuing on to earn a bachelor's in business administration. He plans to use the prize money to establish The Wood Violet as a limited liability company, lease a small plot of land, and have his business up and running by spring 2022.

Judges for the pitch competition were Daniel Marker, President of Hickory Point Bank; Carly McCrory, Executive Director of the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation; Professor Julie Weishar, chair of Parkland's Fine and Applied Arts department; and Marissa Siero, Corporate Engagement and Programs Manager at the University of Illinois Gies College of Business.

The pitch contest highlighted students from the CobraVenture program's student accelerator lab, which launched in January 2020. The semester-long CobraVenture accelerator provides students with an avenue for networking and business mentorship. It features a collaborative workspace, topics taught by local serial entrepreneurs, and one-on-one guidance with business mentors. "Without a doubt, I enjoyed every presenter that came in and lectured," Graham said. "They provided thoughtful and in-depth detail of what would be our next or future steps for our businesses. That time and those talks proved to be invaluable."

While he waits to open his own business, Graham seems happy to promote those of his CobraVenture competitors. "I would encourage you to patronize the runner-up, Pawly's Pet Grooming in Mahomet!" he said. "Polly is a terrific person, and I am happy to have gone through CobraVenture with her. I have no doubt that you and your pet will be happy with her services."

CobraVenture is funded through existing funds from the Parkland Foundation Entrepreneurial Founders Program, Murray Wise Associates PEN Program, and those raised through its annual Entrepreneur of the Year event. Parkland Community Education, the college's noncredit arm, is helping to plan and administer the workshops. The program is operating with oversight from an advisory committee comprised of community leaders and Parkland College faculty and staff, spearheaded by Stephanie Stuart, Vice President for Communications and External Affairs.

Registration Now Open for Spring 2021 Semester

Spring 2021 registration for all students opens Nov. 2nd

Open registration for Parkland College Spring Semester 2021 starts November 2. See a full listing of available courses at

Spring semester classes begin the week of January 11 (for full 16-week and first 8-week sessions) and later. Instruction will be delivered in online and hybrid formats.

See the Registration Guide for dates and deadlines, drop and withdrawal steps, tuition and fee information, and more. Students may need to meet with an academic advisor before registering. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, academic advisors are available remotely, by emailing For a listing of registration steps, please visit

Register by January 10 for classes that begin January 11, by January 31 for classes that begin February 1, and by March 7 for classes that begin March 8. 

Parkland College students and area residents who have not completed their Parkland College degree and/or certificate are invited to a special event Wednesday, Oct. 14.
Degree Completion Day will be held on Zoom starting at 10 am and streamed on Parkland's official Facebook page. During this event, past and current students who want to finish their Parkland College credentials will be able to chat with an academic advisor to:

  • learn how to track their progress toward a degree or certificate

  • determine which courses are needed to complete their credential

  • see which universities guarantee junior-level transfer status with a completed Associate in Arts degree

  • complete a Petition to Graduate form, if applicable

The event will take place on Zoom at and streamed on the Parkland College Facebook page. The Petition to Graduate form can be found here

For more information on Degree Completion Day, please contact the Office of Admissions at 217/351-2482 or

Student Life Announces Student Organization Award Winners

The office of Student Life is pleased to present the winners of its 2019-2020 Student Organization Award

The Parkland College Office of Student Life recently announced its Student Organization Award and Scholarship winners for 2019-2020. These annual awards recognize the contributions that student organizations and their campus leaders make to the Parkland College community. This year, more than ever, student organizations played a key role in creating supportive communities where students could learn and grow.

Award winners were:

  • Officer of the Year: Stivenson Jean-Baptiste, Urbana

  • Member of the Year: Mohamed Belakhoua, Champaign

  • Academic/Pre-Professional Organization of the Year: Alpha Phi Omega

Student Organization Scholarship winners were:

  • Lindsay Cox, Homer

  • Silvia Sanchez Torralba, Champaign

Student Life also recognized the creative programs Parkland student organizations hosted throughout this unprecedented academic year and introduced new student clubs to campus. Programs included:

  • Pennies for Pumpkins

  • Annual Flu Clinic, assisted by Student Nurses at Parkland (SNAP)

  • Parkland Pride Student Panel and Drag Show

  • Club Latino Student Panel and Middle School Outreach

  • Issues Effecting Veterans Discussion, Student Veterans at Parkland (SVAP)

  • Dental Health Clinics by Student American Dental Hygienists Association (SADHA) 

  • Parkland Science Club Speakers Series

  • International Student Association Fashion Show

  • Japanese Culture Club Traditional Clothing Demonstration

  • Sustainability Club Campus Action

New student organizations included the Queens Club, American Sign Language Club, the Ag Club, the Hospitality Club, Elevate, Catholics at Parkland, and the Sustainability Club.

For more information about Parkland College student clubs and organizations, please contact Activities Program Manager Josh Clark at

Parkland Student Wins NJCAA Lea Plarski Award

Women's Volleyball's Abigail Burnett earns top annual award

Parkland College Women's Volleyball player Abigail Burnett has been selected as the 2020 NJCAA Lea Plarski Award winner.

The prestigious national award is presented annually to a student athlete who exemplifies sportsmanship, leadership, community service, academic excellence, and athletic ability. 

A former varsity standout at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, Burnett joined the Cobras in 2018 and began collecting an impressive set of stats in her two-year career. The sophomore opposite hitter ranked in the top-30 nationally in four categories: 8th in attack percentage (.396), 24th in kills (443), 26th in total blocks (124), and 28th in total points (506.5). In the final three matches of the national tournament, she amassed 40 kills and 11 blocks, with a .351 attack percentage. Burnett ranked third on the Cobras in eight categories: kills, kills per set, total attacks, attack percentage, block assists, total blocks, points, and points per set.

The Parkland Radiology student has been named to the 2019 NJCAA DII All-American First Team, the AVCA Two-Year College All-American Third Team, the Region 24 All-Region First Team, and the M-WAC All-Conference Team. She was able to balance academics, athletics, and community service obligations and maintain a 3.7 during the season and achieve an overall 3.5 cumulative GPA. She is the daughter of Chad and Brandi Burnett of St. Joseph.

Cobras Volleyball Assistant Coach Heather Fletcher was asked to write a testimonial about Burnett for the award and describes her as an individual of high character and an invaluable team leader for the Cobras.

"Abi’s leadership carried over from the court to the classroom and then most importantly, in our community," Fletcher explained. "She facilitated practices and scrimmages with the Champaign-Urbana Special Recreation (CUSR) athletes. She was always the first person to volunteer to work with those who needed help or encouragement to play. She has the ability to connect with everyone she meets and make each person feel valued. Burnett also volunteers with Canteen Runs in her hometown, which provide needed supplies to the homeless community in the Champaign-Urbana area."

Created in 1995, the Plarski Award is named after past NJCAA President Lea Plarski, former director of athletics at St. Louis Community College-Florissant Valley. In 1975, Plarski was instrumental in establishing the Women's Division of the NJCAA, the first national collegiate athletic organization to develop such a structure. 

The NJCAA held a ceremony via Zoom to present the award to Burnett with her fellow volleyball teammates. The public may view the presentation here