by Terrelle Jackson, 2018 LLCC Outstanding Graduate
Today, students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds have a plethora of schools to choose from to continue their education. However, this has not always been a reality in America. Prior to Brown v. Board of Education decision, many schools in the United States shut their doors to minority students. Since the historic Supreme Court case, schools across the United States have integrated to include students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Though the fight for inclusion in public education was long and continues to this day, minorities attending and receiving degrees from institutes of higher education are not showing any signs of slowing down.
With the increasing access of higher education to members of all racial and ethnic backgrounds also came the rise of the junior/community college. These smaller local colleges provided learners with quality education at a fraction of the cost when compared to the traditional four-year university. Community colleges were not only a lot cheaper than most of their competitors; they also gave learners a wide range of programs to study. In addition, community colleges have smaller class sizes and offer many services to help students acclimate into the exciting world of higher education.
In the years that followed the Supreme Court’s decision to integrate schools, many top-tier universities were beginning to leave minority students behind in their effort to push for a more selective group of students. Many four-year institutions began to rely heavily on standardized test scores as a key factor in the type of student they would accept. Administrators began to use test scores and other personality traits to create a profile of the type of student they wanted to admit into their institution while community colleges tended to focus on the learner themselves and how to better meet their needs. Also since community college professors are not bound by publishing and research requirements, they are allowed to focus on one of the most important aspects of higher education: teaching.
Lincoln Land Community College embodies these attributes and much more. As the needs of learners have changed since 1954, LLCC has changed as well to meet the diverse needs and challenges facing this generation of learners. For instance, LLCC has offered online course for more than 20 years providing education to students both on and off campus. Also, LLCC has dual-credit opportunities available at many high schools within the district, so high school students can get a jump start on earning college credit while in high school.
But LLCC shines in the student services section. LLCC is committed to improving the college experience for first generation minority students. Through programs such as TRiO Student Support Services and the Open Door Mentorship Program, minority students can find the support they need on their educational journey. The TRiO Program is open to first-generation students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and supports them by providing tutoring and academic check-ins along with other cultural and academic enrichment opportunities. The Open Door Mentorship Program is a recent addition to the college. This program provides minority male students with academic support and internship opportunities through local businesses in addition to many other wonderful amenities to guide those involved through the beginning stages of their higher educational journey.
As a first generation minority college student, I valued attending a school that has these services because they prove that LLCC is committed to creating an inclusive educational environment for all students. Knowing that these services and more were available to students at LLCC made my experience at the college more enjoyable. Knowing there is genuine support for students of all backgrounds was comforting to me. Although there are many other commodities that make LLCC attractive, their dedication to supporting students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds was key in my decision to attend LLCC. As the needs and landscape of higher education change, LLCC will remain devoted to their cause of supporting students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds and providing all students who enter their doors with a valuable education.
From what I have observed during my time at LLCC, programs, like the ones mentioned above, are changing the lives of minority students. I am a member of the TRiO Program, as well as many of my friends, and I can say without a doubt that TRiO has been a great tool to help me further my education. The TRiO Program has given us the opportunity to expand our academic potential and helped us put into perspective all the great opportunity this world has to offer. Having support systems like this are vital for minority retention because they make sure that students of color know they are not alone on their educational journey. For me, knowing this was comforting because without their support, I would not be able to say I am transferring to the school of my dreams in the fall semester.
Thanks to investment dollars and support from our business community, the Open Door Mentorship Program is providing minority males with new and exciting opportunities. Though I am not a member of this program, as a minority student I am in awe of what this program has accomplished. This program aids minority male students and helps them conceptualize their own potential. Thanks to the work this program has done with the young men they work with, these individuals are on their way to achieving goals they may have thought were unreachable. Based on numerous testimonies I have heard from students who take part in this program, the Open Door Mentorship is exactly what they needed to help them achieve success at LLCC.
In addition to offering the great services previously mentioned, I have enjoyed learning from LLCC’s amazing teaching staff. The instructors at LLCC have a passion for teaching and put a lot of time and value into the courses they teach. The teaching staff is willing to experiment with traditional teaching methods and develop assignments that encourage students to think critically. During my tenure at LLCC, I took several English courses and I can without a doubt say that the English department at LLCC has prepared me for the future. The department offers many exciting courses that have exposed me to some of my favorite authors and encouraged me to expand my literary horizons. I am glad that I had the opportunity to learn from the teaching staff in this department.
But to me LLCC is more than a school, it is a testament to how far higher education has come since 1954. LLCC is a far cry from the model of higher education that existed when the Supreme Court was arguing Brown v. Board of Education. Through a combination of amazing student support services, educators who love teaching and the welcoming faculty and staff, LLCC was the perfect choice for me. Today, because of LLCC I can to say I am a college graduate, and that I am on my way to achieving more success in the future.
Terrelle Jackson of Springfield was named 2018 LLCC Outstanding Graduate of the Year. He plans to transfer to Illinois State University to major in English education.
He was also recognized as an Arts and Humanities Department Honor Graduate and honored for leadership in the Gay-Straight Alliance, Feminist Activist Coalition and Student Government Association. During his time at LLCC, he also served as vice president of the English Studies Club, on the college’s Cultural Awareness Team and as a peer educator for the Sexual Assault and Violence Education Taskforce. He coordinated events for the Logger Activities Board and was a panelist for Campus Visit Days.