by Alex Portwood
Alex Portwood was chosen as one of two student speakers at this year’s Lincoln Land Community College Commencement Ceremony. This essay is adapted from his speech.
Something I have learned during my time at Lincoln Land Community College is that everyone has a story. Whether it be good or bad, easy or hard, everyone has one. So here’s mine.
My name is Alex Portwood. I am from a small town northeast of Springfield. Just an idea of how small it is: I only had 35 in my high school graduating class. Why in the world would this small town kid come to Springfield to Lincoln Land Community College? Well the answer is quite simple. I came on a visit to LLCC in the spring of my senior year of high school and loved the school and campus. At that time I had no idea what LLCC would mean to me.
Just like my classmates, I had to decide where I wanted to go to school. Many chose LLCC because it was close to home, had smaller classes, and had minimal cost. Whatever the reason, we all came.
When I finally made my decision to further my education and basketball career at LLCC, the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. I never looked back, and it is the greatest decision I have ever made.
Since I play basketball, I like to imagine life is like a game. Sometimes it’s great and easy, and sometimes you don’t know if it’s worth the countless hours of work. Whether you are a part-time or a full-time student at LLCC, you work very hard for your degree. You put in countless hours of studying while trying to balance a busy schedule. Some of my classmates cared for their families, worked multiple jobs, and took classes when they could. Some of us followed the technological route and took online or hybrid classes. This journey has not been easy by any means for all of us, but it has been worth every second.
Everyone has had a different experience at LLCC, but I can honestly say mine has been great. The professors and staff at LLCC have passion for what they do, but I do have a couple of favorites. First, Professor Dean Butzow. Last year, I was taking his geography class, and he came across an opportunity for STEMSEAS, which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics Student Experience at Sea. It consisted of a 10-day research trip from San Diego, California to Honolulu, Hawaii. With his encouragement, I applied and was selected by the national organization. I represented LLCC across the Pacific Ocean, and was one of only nine students in the United States who were selected for this trip. I can say I sailed across the biggest ocean in the world and survived to tell you about it today. Who would have thought coming to LLCC would lead to something like that? I went from my small town to being in Hawaii, all because of LLCC.
Another person who has had a huge impact on me while at LLCC is head basketball coach Chad Jones. Without him I would not be at LLCC, and I wouldn’t be able to say that the last two years have been truly the best of my life. I can’t end my time here any better than being the MVP of the basketball team while having earned a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
And while my classmates might not have gone to Hawaii or been the MVP of the basketball team, they are MVPs for coming to LLCC and earning their degrees. This is the best starting point for the rest of their lives. LLCC has provided us with the ability to do what we want now, whether that be getting a job, continuing our education, or even traveling the world. In my case, I’m headed to St. Ambrose University in Iowa to major in business and play basketball.
Whatever it may be, we have to give it our all and work hard for what we want. I think that is like basketball in the sense that sometimes you are winning and sometimes you are losing. In the moment, you have to stay ahead if you are winning, but if you are losing you have to decide if you are going to give up or work hard to come back. What you do in the times when you are losing is what will define your character.
We graduates have made it! But the game isn’t over. We must use the tools we’ve received from LLCC and go on and do amazing things. In the words of basketball great Michael Jordan, “The game has its ups and downs, but you never lose focus of your individual goals, and you can’t let yourself be beat because of lack of effort.”
Congratulations to the class of 2017!