The Impact of an Advisor Changed Derek’s Life

September 9, 2022

Derek had dreams of becoming an engineer when he grew up. He knew that this career would have “practical value”, something that he was looking for when thinking about his future. However, achieving these goals were put on hold at a pivotal point in his life.  

Derek was homeschooled from kindergarten through his sophomore year, but financial constraints made him drop out at the age of 16. He believed he had achieved the high school equivalency in a few areas, but knew that he still needed more work in math and science.  

Karen Giesler, a Student Success Advisor at ICC, was put in touch with Derek after a GED instructor told her his story. After Derek obtained his GED in 2019, he and Karen began working on a plan for him to achieve his dreams of becoming an engineer.  

Once he was up to speed with his requirements, Derek enjoyed taking structured classes at ICC. When he was being homeschooled, he was essentially teaching himself, with his mother helping a bit after she got off work late at night. Yet when the pandemic hit and turned college into an online learning experience, Derek felt more at ease. Classes became a bit more manageable while also juggling a full-time job.  

In 2021, his work started wanting him to work more hours. This caused him to withdraw from a couple of his classes in order to continue to manage succeeding in other classes, where he was already staying up until 5am some days to finish homework.  

After meeting with Karen again to discuss some solutions and stay on track, Derek was able to rearrange his class schedule so he could still succeed. Karen also helped him obtain the Frank and Kathleen Sauder Home Education Scholarship, one founded by the 2022 winner of the Distinguished Alumnus award, Dr. Jonathan F. Sauder.  

“She helped me schedule the correct classes in a way so that the coursework didn’t become too overwhelming. She also helped me obtain a scholarship which allowed me to work fewer hours at my job, and, in turn, helped improve my grades.” Derek reflects, recognizing his Student Success Advisor for helping him reach his goals.

“Balancing everything isn’t easy. I worked full-time while taking classes full-time as well. It was difficult to balance but I made time for studying late at night. Fortunately, after getting the scholarship, I was able to cut my work schedule to part-time.” 


Derek earned his Associate in Engineering Science degree the Summer of 2022 and is now transferring to Bradley University to obtain his bachelor’s degree. He is grateful for the encouragement that Karen provided him in allowing him to succeed during his time at ICC and continues to stay on this path to see his dreams become a reality.