You’ve seen the billboards and ads: Learn More. Earn More. It’s more than a catchy phrase.
You’ve probably noticed in our billboards, brochures and other materials – including this magazine – that the people are all different. Different in age, different in education and work background, different in so many ways.
Gone are the days when “college student” only brought to mind the picture of an 18-year-old at a desk in a lecture hall. Eastern Iowa Community Colleges (Clinton, Muscatine and Scott Community Colleges) ARE one of the top destinations for the graduates of most high schools in the communities we serve– but many are returning later in life for new credentials or skills that are required in their jobs. Some are seeking new jobs while others have been out of the job market several years raising children or caring for parents.
So, these people in our materials really do think EICC works. And here’s why they are smiling!
They have found jobs.
We thought you’d like to hear how they did it, so we’re sharing some of their stories.
“I Came Back for My Dream”
Ashley Reynolds had a dream when she graduated from high school in 2000. “I was very excited about starting college as a Pre-Engineering major and wanted to work in a technical industry,” explains Ashley.
Her plans changed somewhat with the birth of her first child – a beautiful addition to her life, but with a significant impact on her lifestyle and the time she had for college. Although she worked to keep classes in the mix, it became more difficult as the years went by. Then a chronic illness brought both a challenge and an opportunity. “I knew there were some things I needed to address if I wanted to regain a normal life,” says Ashley. One of them was getting back to her dream of a college education in Engineering.
Ashley was drawn to EICC’s Mechanical Design program and – through its unique hybrid model of online classes, open lab times at the Blong Technology Center and 8-week format – was able to make the program work with her schedule. She signed up for her first class in the Fall semester of 2012 and – even facing other losses and challenges – walked across the stage on May 21, 2014 with a 3.5 GPA to receive her degree. But it gets EVEN better. Ashley attended a Career Fair sponsored by EICC just prior to graduating and met with a representative from a manufacturing firm in Cedar Rapids. “He told me to be sure and apply for the position. Long story short, I had a phone interview on May 9th, 2014 and by May 12th had been offered a full time Mechanical Design position with a great salary and benefits! I hadn’t even graduated yet, but had landed a good job,” she says happily. “My life will never be the same.”
“I Gained the Foundation I Needed”
Jarica Whitney was ready to test her limits. “I chose Nursing because I wanted to see what my limit was,” she says. “I chose EICC because I knew they had a good nursing program and my cousins have all been at EICC,” so she felt it would be a good fit for her as well. And it was. “My instructors really helped me gain a passion for nursing and helped me to realize the love I have for Microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology,” she explains. “They helped me gain the foundation I needed.” According to Jarica, her education helped her qualify for the job she has now in the Emergency Department at McDonough District Hospital in Macomb, IL. “I was hired on the condition that I passed my nursing boards (state exams) and one of my instructors was an instrumental part of supporting me in passing them,” she adds. Her goal now is to become a great ER nurse and then work on becoming a flight nurse. She has some advice for people thinking about starting college: “Just go for it. There is a saying I love to think about that says, ‘Don’t let the time it takes to achieve a dream deter you from it. The time will pass anyway.’”
“If I Could Do This, YOU Can Do This”
Joe Gomez is the proud owner of his own business – a busy restaurant in Davenport with a growing reputation for fresh, flavorful authentic Mexican food. But, Joe’s future didn’t always look this bright. And he’s the first one to tell you that. “I didn’t always make the best choices or decisions. Too often, I really didn’t care about other people and did what I wanted to do without always thinking about the consequences,” he says. “Looking back, that led me to years of my life that were just wasted and not something I could be proud of.” The good news? Joe made a decision to turn his life around. Which led him to the Culinary program at Scott Community College. “My instructors there really believed in me. They gave me a chance,” he adds. And, oh boy, what he’s done with it! “My cousin and I worked together to open this restaurant,” Joe explains. “He had some experience in the food business. All I had was a love for cooking, my experience through my education and apprenticeship with the SCC Culinary Arts program (Joe graduated with an A.A.S degree) and a real desire to build something successful.” Together with support from family and others, Los Primos now employs 8 people and is enjoying a growing business in its first year and a half in operation. “Getting my degree wasn’t easy – I had to work hard and really commit to making it work,” he says. “I was so happy and so proud on the day I graduated. Now I put those feelings into my business – doing something I love and making people feel good to be here. I want everyone to know: If I can do this, YOU can do this.”
“I Gained the Skills I Needed to Start Working Right Away in My Chosen Field”
Pantelis Korovilas now hails from Cambridge, Massachusetts – near MIT. He is the Lead Product Designer for the iOS travel application known as Hopper and is also working for the mobile product Whittl. “On a daily basis, I work with start-up CEO’s, developers, project managers, business analysts and data scientists to create elegant and user-friendly mobile apps that hundreds of people use every day all over the world,” explains Pantelis. He got his start in the Graphic Design program at Clinton Community College. “My classes at CCC played a big part in getting me where I am today. When I entered the Graphic Arts program, I was young, naïve and lacking any formal training,” he says. “By the time I graduated, I had the building blocks to help move myself forward: technical training on software, design programs and computer languages, professional experience through two internships and more.” Pantelis eventually transferred to ISU where he completed his Bachelor’s degree. “My very first year at ISU, I landed a part-time job as a designer for the university, and I can thank my time at CCC for preparing me to start earning and learning in my chosen field even while I was still pursing that degree,” he adds. And all of that experience paid off. “I walked away from college with new skills, professional experience, mentors and supporters – and I have CCC to thank,” notes Pantelis. “Work hard, keep building on what you know today and stay hungry for more.”
“It’s Important to Keep Growing and Learning”
As a non-traditional student who grew up during the dawn of the digital age, working in Information Technology was something Chris Ruggles had considered but never attempted. “But I needed a change and recognized my passion for the work, so it became an obvious choice for me,” says Chris. “Location and cost were important in my decision to enroll at Scott Community College.” Chris is now the Operations Director of the Texas division of Fidlar Technologies. He has been employed with Fidlar for two years and first began working there as an intern during his last semester at SCC. “The education I received at Scott certainly played a role in getting the attention of Fidlar,” notes Chris. Other benefits were the relationship with advisors and faculty that gave him a real world perspective to his education. “Right now, the sky is the limit. I always try to keep growing, learning and never become complacent. We just broke ground here last year in Texas and the future looks bright,” says Chris. And his future looks bright right along with it. He admits that you have to want it. “There aren’t any easy answers and the only magic is what you bring to it. I gave it my all and it was the best thing I ever did for myself. More important, it can be for anyone who wants it.”