Growing up, my dad was a factory worker and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. As the youngest of five children, money was tight to say the least. For those from the Peoria-area, the Caterpillar strikes of the early 90s are well-known and for some of us, remembered all too well. My dad stuck through the strikes for a while and then retired when I was in Junior High. From a young age, I remember my parents always telling each of us that no matter what happened, they would pay for 4 years of college for us. At the moment I found out that he retired, I wondered if college would even be an option for me.
As my siblings graduated high school in the top of their class, each one of them went to ICC for two years. For me, it was no different. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and did well enough on the ACT that I could have looked into going directly to a four-year institution. However, I didn’t even consider applying anywhere other than ICC. I had seen the success my siblings had after going to ICC and I recognized the significant cost savings. Between scholarships and financial aid, I never had to pay a penny for my tuition or books at ICC.
As I began ICC, I knew I wanted to major in Accounting and transfer to the University of Illinois. With that in mind, I took all of my General Education courses as well as my introductory Accounting and Business Statistics courses. Also, while at ICC, I had the opportunity to work in the Accounting department.
When I went to U of I for my orientation, I met with my advisor. He asked me what my GPA was at my community college. I proudly told him 4.0. He told me to expect that to drop at least a full point when transferring because I was going to be shocked at the amount of work and difficulty of the courses. I left in tears, devastated at what I had been told.
As I began at U of I, I was pleasantly surprised and found that my advisor had been incorrect in his words of caution. Due to my coursework at ICC, I found myself ahead of the students at U of I in both Accounting and Business Statistics. I was questioned by classmates of how I knew so much about the fundamentals. At that moment, I realized that ICC was not only an affordable option, but it put me ahead of where I would have otherwise been.
After graduating with High Honors, I began my career as an Accountant at Caterpillar in Peoria. I held 7 jobs in just over 10 years at the company. The opportunities were endless for me at Caterpillar but as a mother of two young children, I found myself looking for a better work-life balance in my life. As I thought back to my days of being a student worker in the Accounting Department at ICC, I found that while I didn’t remember most of the tasks that I completed while working there, I remembered the culture. I remembered the family first mentality and I remembered the strong team environment. This culture is what I knew I needed in my life so as an opening came up, I found myself back at ICC but this time as full-time staff rather than a student.
As I am back and walking through the halls at ICC, I see the students here and wonder if they understand how lucky they are to have such an affordable and high-quality education option. If they are like me, after they leave, they will hopefully look back and be proud of where their future began.