“Without a college degree, you can only go so far. I started college almost 20 years ago but never finished. After my first semester at LLCC in fall of 1996, I had a medical problem and the medical bills piled up. After I got better, I had the bills to pay, so I went to work and just kept working. I did briefly re-enroll and completed two courses in 2008, but then stopped again because of my work situation at the time.
“Eventually I hit a ceiling in my profession and after a series of rejections, I knew that there were two paths I could take: either improve myself or stay at the same level.
“I came back to LLCC in fall of 2015 and assumed I’d need to come to campus to take classes. But I talked to an advisor who made me aware of the wide array of online classes that would allow me to finish my degree and still work full time and take care of my family. Also, LLCC’s payment plan convinced me I could do this without going into debt. You can pay monthly, which makes the costs easier to absorb. I have taken online or hybrid courses at LLCC ever since, and will graduate next semester.
“The online courses are just as challenging, and take just as much, if not more, time as regular courses. But LLCC’s online instructors are willing to work with you and are always available, whether through email or course message boards.
I made an educated decision to follow my passion.
“As an aspiring organic farmer, I worked in LLCC’s high tunnel gardens growing vegetables
for the culinary program and campus farm stand. I’ve been awarded the National Black Farmers Association Scholarship three times. I’ve written columns for the State Journal-Register, served on student government, was named homecoming queen and played point guard for the Loggers. Thanks to LLCC for these amazing opportunities! Emmi Fisher
“Emmi is fearless,” says Marnie Record, workforce specialist, LLCC Value Added Local Foods program. “She traverses passionately into the unknown, tackles any new undertaking with grace, and embraces learning at every turn. The world is fortunate to have her in it and anyone whose path crosses hers will be inspired to improve their health and dream big.”
I made an educated decision to come back to school.
“If you are determined, and put your all into it, you can do it!” says D’Andrea Banger, who attends LLCC, works in the college library and is active in student government.
“I was an at-home mom for years. I wanted my daughter to start college right out of high school so I told her we’d do it together. That was the push I needed. It’s the best decision I could have made. You learn so much about yourself and the world around you. LLCC is super cool. The teachers care so much and make it their business to see that you succeed. I’m close to earning my degree and then I want to start my own business, do good things for my neighborhood and leave a legacy.”
Dr. John Roberts, professor of history, says he admires D’Andrea’s determination to succeed. “D’Andrea has benefitted from attending LLCC but she also adds and shares her upbeat an enthusiastic demeanor with countless others at this institution both in class and in her role at the main desk of the LLCC library. I know she will use her educational experience to better her life in many ways.”
I made an educated decision to stay close to home.
Faith Brooks, pre-clinical lab science
Faith Brooks knows the value of attending college in her hometown. “College requires a higher level of thinking. You change so much in college and learn to understand the world in a new way. LLCC was the only college I applied to. It made the most sense to live at home and pay less for the same classes I would get at a university. The quality of professors and smaller class sizes are great. What I didn’t expect were all of the opportunities I’ve had through the Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa honor society. I’ve travelled to leadership conferences, made many new friends and learned more about the amazing opportunities right here in Springfield.”
Faith is active in the LLCC Honors Program Student Organization and can often be seen on campus taking prospective students on tours. After graduating from LLCC, she plans to transfer to UIS to major in clinical laboratory science.
I made an educated decision to join a winning team.
Mason Gordon, agribusiness
“I heard about LLCC’s championship livestock judging team and wanted to be a part of it. But I found so much more at LLCC, like Model Illinois Government, where I was named Outstanding Committee Chair. I also joined Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society and through PTK, won a National Pearson Scholarship.”
Mason Gordon is one of 10 students nationwide recently selected to receive the 2017 Pearson Scholarship for Higher Education, a $5,000 award. The scholarship is awarded to Phi Theta Kappa academic honor society members who are civically engaged in their community through service and who demonstrate leadership, academic rigor and excellence.
I made an educated decision to grab new opportunities.
Alex Portwood, Business
Most days you can find Alex Portwood at basketball practice, in class or studying. As a student athlete who plans on a career in agriculture and business, Alex never dreamed that a geography class would lead to an adventure on the high seas and a life-changing experience.
“Geography can definitely take you all kinds of places,” says Professor Dean Butzow, an LLCC master teacher whose enthusiasm for his subject is infectious. Professor Butzow encouraged Alex to apply for a STEMSEAS experience last spring. Out of hundreds of U.S. college students who applied, Alex was one of eight chosen to make the May voyage from San Diego to Honolulu aboard the research vessel Oceanus.
First airplane ride and a trip across the sea
“Our mission was to collect and analyze sediment from the bottom of the ocean floor in two locations during our journey,” says Alex, who was the youngest student on the trip and the only one from the Midwest. He had never been on an airplane before, much less a ship traveling across the world’s largest and deepest ocean. “It took several hours for each core to reach the desired depth under the ocean floor. We then examined the different materials we found in each core sample.”
I made an educated decision to train for a new career.
Laurie Carney, Nursing
Laurie Carney was only 17 when she enlisted in the Army Reserves.
“To help pay for my college, I decided to join the military. My mom had to sign a waiver for me to join.” She spent six years in active duty and two years inactive duty in transportation detachment.
Laurie is currently studying nursing at LLCC. After completing her associate degree, she plans to pursue a bachelor’s in nursing and then continue her studies to become a nurse practitioner. Her goal is to work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation in the nursing field.
Her parents provide the inspiration for her career path. “Addiction never goes away. A person fights it his or her entire life. My mom became the director of the recovery center she went through, so I often attended meetings with them as I was growing up. I saw how hard they worked to maintain sobriety and how they helped others through recovery and rehabilitation. A huge part of my life was watching my parents help others.”
“My mom is going to be a nurse!”
Since 2008, Laurie has been working as a certified nurse assistant (CNA), with five of those years in hospice care for a home health and hospice agency. She attends school during the day and works nights at HSHS St. John’s Hospital on the neurology floor. “It is not easy being a single mom who is going to school and working,” she says.
I made an educated decision to go near so I could go far.
Catherine Wittler, Honors Program
Two years ago I was just another high school senior doing high school senior things. I loved going to baseball games, hanging out with my friends, and shopping for a prom dress. However, one thing I didn’t love was thinking about my future.
All my friends knew exactly where they wanted to go and exactly what they wanted to do,
while I was struggling to make a decision. I figured I would follow my friends to some big school and eventually declare a major in something that could lead to a good job. However, my parents kept urging me to consider Lincoln Land, especially once they heard there was an Honors Program and scholarship opportunities.
The day everything changed
One day in April, my parents ran into my room holding a letter from the LLCC Foundation. Even though I had applied, I didn’t actually think I would receive anything. I opened the letter and learned that I was accepted into the Honors Program with a full tuition scholarship; I saw my parents’ excited faces. At that moment I knew that there was no logical reason for me not to go to Lincoln Land. I had received a scholarship and was undecided on a major, so I figured I would just push through two years at community college and then have some real fun.
I made an educated decision to earn a degree without debt.
Tayo Ajenifuja, Pre-Clinical Lab Science
Tayo plans to become a doctor, and has his sights set on neurosurgery and research. He’s applying to Harvard, Columbia, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania, among other prestigious universities.
Tayo knows his goals are going to take him a long time to accomplish. He also knows that starting at LLCC has given him a chance to obtain the first two years of his college career without debt.
Desire to help others
Tayo grew up in a family where his parents were often ill. This weighed on him but it also fueled his passion to help others.
“My experiences significantly increased my desire to help others and achieve my goals. That is why I want a career in medicine and research.”
I made an educated decision to graduate without debt.
Zach Longhta says he has always been “big into sports,” playing football, basketball and baseball at New Berlin High School. While there he set his sights on attending a university with one of the most popular sports programs in the country: Ole Miss (University of Mississippi). He’s currently a senior there, majoring in exercise science, with plans to go to graduate school to study physical therapy.
But before transferring to Ole Miss, Zach earned an associate degree at LLCC, saving thousands of dollars in tuition costs. And, even smarter, he got a jump start on that associate degree while still in high school.
“I’m very thankful I was able to graduate with an associate degree and transfer to Ole Miss with no debt,” says Zach.
First Semester program
Zach participated in LLCC’s “First Semester” program and gained a semester’s worth of college credit during his senior year in high school. He had enough credits to graduate from high school in December of his senior year, but he still wanted to participate in high school sports and other activities.