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Letters From Graduates

For eight Elgin Community College graduates, their path through college may vary, but their goal is the same: to succeed. As they prepare to embark on their bright future, the President’s Report asked them to reflect on what motivated them to succeed. They also offered advice for graduating high school seniors and future ECC students.

Susan Piotrowski

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I met many welcoming and inspiring people; I made many lasting friendships; and I got involved with the many interesting activities that Phi Theta Kappa put together. I would definitely recommend joining a club, any club, to get involved with our college and be a part of everything that happens on campus. You will realize that your days are more exciting, and when you get involved, you guide your own college adventure.

College is what everyone is looking forward to their senior year of high school. There are so many new experiences awaiting you as you leave high school and begin on your life’s next big adventure. My best friends were all excited to be packing up and moving to Texas to begin their college adventure; however, I knew that I was going to have to wait another two years before my adventure began or that is what I thought. I had decided prior to graduating my senior year of high school that I would attend Elgin Community College because my dad attended community college, and I knew that it was the right choice because of the affordability.

The school year began, and I attended classes, studied, went to work, and then home. I was often upset that I wasn’t out having a great time in Texas or somewhere else at school. However, that all changed during my second semester at Elgin Community College, when I began to get involved with Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), an international honor society. I met many welcoming and inspiring people, I made many lasting friendships, and I got involved with the many interesting activities that Phi Theta Kappa put together. I would definitely recommend joining a club, any club, to get involved with your college and be a part of everything that happens on campus. You will realize that your days are more exciting, and when you get involved, you guide your own college adventure.

I am now graduating and looking back on all the opportunities that ECC has provided me including many volunteer opportunities such as building a playground in the community, receiving scholarships like the Coca-Cola scholarship, helping me to find activities that would aid me in my future career like being a volunteer tax preparer, and many more. I have had a wonderful two years at Elgin Community College. I will be attending North Central College in Naperville in the fall to study accounting. I am excited to graduate with my Associate of Science degree, but I will definitely miss ECC because this is where my adventure began!

- Susan Piotrowski, Algonquin, Accounting

Karen Gonzalez

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ECC put me above average once I showed them what I could really do. I became Student Government president, joined Phi Theta Kappa, and even got a job at the office of Student Life, where I worked part time and was still able to go to class. The most amazing experience I had at ECC was all the caring and supportive people I met that believed in me and pushed me to accomplish my goals.

English was not my first language when I moved to the United States from Mexico at the age of 16.   When I graduated from high school, I was not accepted into my dream school right away. My ACT scores were very low, but universities did not care about the reason why. However, Elgin Community College gave me the opportunity to start fresh right away.

During my time at ECC, I have seen how students feel shame, sadness and even failure when they choose to attend ECC. You might not be going to a four year university right away, but you can transfer to your dream school in two years, plus not to mention all the amazing things that you can accomplish in between.  

ECC put me above average once I showed them what I could really do. I became Student Government president, joined Phi Theta Kappa, and even got a job at the office of Student Life where I worked part time and was still able to go to class.

The most amazing experience I had at ECC was all the caring and supportive people I met that believed in me and pushed me to accomplish my goals. Thanks to them, I was in the All Illinois Academic Team and even an unsung hero for the Elgin Chamber of Commerce. I also won scholarships like the Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital Scholarship, the Frank Lanza Scholarship, and the District 509 Board of Trustees Top 20 percent Scholarship.

Thanks to them, I became a leader and the nurse I always wanted to be. This May, I graduated from ECC with my nursing degree. As you see, ECC does not have to be your last option, why not make it your first? If I was asked to start at ECC all over again, I would not hesitate to say yes!

- Karen Gonzalez, South Elgin

Jake Arndt

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Don’t ever feel like giving up. There may be difficult times during your college career, but don’t give up. You will make friends that you will have for a lifetime and also have many mentors here on campus, such as club advisors, teachers, or counselors. There will be a lot of people by your side to help you to get to your main goal—graduation!

Graduating from ECC is one of the greatest accomplishments in my life. I have never worked so hard for something. I will never forget the experience that I have had here. I do not only want a better life for myself, but also for my family. They have been my drive to graduate. I am one of the first people in my family to graduate from college. The main reasons why I chose ECC are because it was the best option for me financially. I knew that I wanted to go to a four year university but there was no way I would be able to pay for it. Another reason was because I was undecided about my major, so it seemed like a great place to figure out my major.

I think that all graduating seniors should attend ECC. It really saves you money so you can save up for your future and it can also help you find your major if you are undecided. Also, make sure that you become a part of extra-curricular activities such as the wide variety of clubs and organizations we have on campus. This year, I was the Student Government President. I learned so many skills that I could use in the classroom and also in my future career. Lastly, don’t ever feel like giving up, there may be difficult times during your college career, but don’t give up. You will make friends that you will have for a lifetime and also have many mentors here on campus, such as club advisors, teachers, or counselors. There will be a lot of people by your side to help you to get to your main goal, graduation!

- Jake Arndt, South Elgin, Accounting

Areli Solano

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It is such an honor to graduate from such a great institution. My advice for graduating high school seniors is not to be afraid to speak up and ask for guidance. Follow your dreams, and even when people tell you it isn’t possible, you should believe in yourself. No obstacle is greater than one’s determination.

Deciding to continue my education and attend college after high school was the best decision of my life. After graduating from Larkin High School in Elgin, I enrolled at Elgin Community College becoming the first in my family to attend college.

ECC seemed like the perfect place. It was close to home, and was very affordable in such an economy. After attending orientation, I realized how friendly and welcoming everyone was. People tried to help me understand the importance of continuing college while letting me know that they would provide their support every step of the way.

Today I am proud to be able to say I did it. I completed all my general education credits and am graduating with an Associate in Arts degree from ECC this May. I will be continuing my education at Chamberlain College of nursing in the fall. I have accomplished one more goal in my life and will not give up.

It is such an honor to graduate from such a great institution. My advice for graduating High school seniors is not to be afraid to speak up and ask for guidance. Follow your dreams and even when people tell you it isn’t possible you should believe in yourself. No obstacle is greater than one’s determination.

- Areli Solano, Elgin, Nursing

Samantha Migatz

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I am absolutely shocked when I think about how I’ve changed over these last three years, and it is all due to what this astonishing institution has provided me with. Knowing that I am a college graduate makes me feel successful and accomplished. I have just increased my chances of earning $1 million more over my lifetime because I chose to attend a community college before a four-year institution.

For most seniors in high school, determining a college to attend is difficult. With so many conditions to consider, it can be an overwhelming task. As a senior at South Elgin High School in 2010, these were not the troubles I faced. I knew exactly where I wanted to go and that was Elgin Community College. I did not “shop around” or visit any school except for ECC.

I selected this school for many reasons, first, because it was literally a 10 minute drive from home. As a senior in high school, I was not interested in institutions that were far from my house and I still feel that way now. Initially, ECC was my ultimate choice because of the location. Looking back on my three years now, however, there were many other reasons I chose it such as cost, class size, and because my closest friends were attending ECC as well.

Being a graduate from ECC is an amazing feeling. I am absolutely shocked when I think about how I’ve changed over these last three years and it is all due to what this astonishing institution has provided me with. Knowing that I am a college graduate makes me feel successful and accomplished. I have just increased my chances of earning $1,000,000 more over my lifetime because I chose to attend a community college before a four-year institution. Being a graduate makes me feel like I have the skills to be a dominant force in society and that I can still have millions of lessons to learn. I know I have the ability to accomplish anything I want now.

My best advice for graduating high school seniors is to simply get involved with the campus and community. I would have never known what I wanted to be if it was not for my involvement in Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Had it not been for this amazing advisor and group of students, I could possibly be majoring in a career that was not meant for me. I encourage every high school senior to find an organization, club, or extracurricular activity they enjoy and invest themselves in it like I have done with Phi Theta Kappa. Lastly, I want to encourage students to live by a quote and exercise it on a day to day basis, “Wherever you go, lead by example and make a difference.” Campus involvement and community service are two of the best decisions you can make as an incoming freshmen and individual.

- Samantha Migatz, South Elgin, General Studies, Business

Ray Hernandez

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Continue to seek bigger and greater challenges that will allow you to discover new abilities and improve yourself. Be confident that attending college will allow you to be in an environment where you can thrive, learn, and contribute as a student. So walk those hallways that I once walked; register for early morning classes; and drive in circles to find parking—because in the end, it’s an investment for your future.

My decision to attend college developed during my middle school experience. One day, I was walking into the building and a school administrator pulled me aside and asked me if I was late for the bus. Scared and confuses, I said “yes.” Little did I know that by accident, I was placed onto a school bus full of other classmates heading to Elgin Community College (ECC). It was a college day field trip and all the students on the bus were selected to witness college firsthand and open their eyes to that experience. It was this experience that helped me realize that attending college was a goal I wanted to pursue. Witnessing all the possibilities and given a road map to follow, I made the decision that attending college needed to be in my future. This long-term goal has enabled me to become the first in my family to pursue a college education. Along the way, my parents have instilled the value of education in my life and helped me make it a priority.

My experience as the president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society has helped me develop my deficiencies and bolster my talents as a leader in the classroom and on campus. I have acquired many new skills and have developed many new networks. After all, your net worth is a reflection of your network. However, all good things come to an end. My graduation will mark the end of me walking down building F or walking from building K to Building A. Whatever the case, through the years I walked those hallways, I pushed through the crowds, I registered for class at 7 a.m., and I too felt lost the first day of school. So I tell all incoming students, no matter what you do and no matter how long you take to complete your degree, the point is to complete.

Continue to seek bigger and greater challenges that will allow you to discover new abilities and improve yourself. Be confident that attending college will allow you to be in an environment where you can thrive, learn and contribute as a student. So walk those hallways that I once walked, register for early morning classes, and drive in circles to find parking; because in the end, it’s an investment for your future.

- Ray Hernandez, Carpentersville, Construction Management

Pamela Tomany

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Because of my involvement at ECC, I have developed life skills and experiences that will help me to be successful. I have grown so much and feel ready to transfer out of state. I have been very blessed. The scholarships I have received and the experiences I have acquired have been all made possible because I chose to go to ECC and got involved.

I am so excited to be graduating with both an Associate in Arts and an Associate in Science degree from Elgin Community College. I am studying to be a special education preschool teacher. I am so proud of myself for earning two degrees in two years while juggling two jobs. I am also very involved on campus. If I could offer advice to high school graduating seniors who are getting ready to go off to college, I would tell them to make the best of their college experience by getting involved in campus clubs and activities.

I graduated from Jacobs High School a year early so I did not have time to apply for universities nor did I feel ready to go off to a university. Choosing ECC was the best decision; it has been so rewarding. I am a student advisor for the Honors Program at ECC, a Spartan Leader on campus, which means I help run and coordinate all New Student Orientations, and I am the Information Officer for Phi Theta Kappa, an International Honor Society. Because of my involvement in Phi Theta Kappa, my transfer university, Texas A&M University-Commerce, is rewarding me with a very generous transfer scholarship and I am in the running for a full ride.

My involvement on campus, and off campus at the deLacey Family Education Center, as well as my outstanding academics, allowed me to make the All-USA Academic Team and become a Bronze Scholar winner.

Because of my involvement at ECC, I have developed life skills and experiences that will help me to be successful. I have grown so much and feel ready to transfer out of state. I have been very blessed. The scholarships I have received and the experiences I have acquired have been all made possible, because I chose to go to ECC and got involved.

-Pamela Tomany, Lake in the Hills, Early Childhood (Special Education)

Yvette Argueta

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Looking back, I am glad that I decided to get involved during my time at ECC. Not only did I grow as a person, I also made new friends and formed lasting relationships. As I get ready to attend UIC, I know that getting involved will make my experience more rewarding and give me the same opportunities to make new friends. My advice to high school seniors is to be open-minded when you go to college. Allow yourself to engage in school activities. It will be more fun and more worthwhile.

It is funny how history repeats itself. All of the emotions I felt when I first started attending Elgin Community College as a high school student are coming back now as graduation is right around the corner. I feel the same emotions I felt as a senior at Dundee-Crown High School in ECC’s Tech-Prep program. This program offered students the privilege to attend classes at the college while they were still in high school. I was excited to attend classes at the college and get a head start. At the same time, I was nervous and afraid that I would not be accepted by the other college students.

But all my fears and anxieties went away that first week of classes at ECC. After my senior year at the Tech-Prep program, I was extremely eager to enroll at ECC as a full time student. After my first semester at ECC, I realized that I wanted more out of my education. I wanted to get a true college experience and by doing this I had to join a club or organization and be more involved on campus. I chose Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (PTK), because it held the students accountable for their grades and I needed that support.

I loved how welcoming PTK was to me and it motivated me to take a role in it. I started off as a chair for two of the officers and then worked my way up the chain of command. But as I leave ECC and head to the University of Illinois at Chicago, I am afraid and nervous that when I transfer to UIC, the students there will not accept me. It is definitely a bitter sweet feeling. But I am happy and relieved that I have accomplished the almost impossible dream for me. I encountered a lot of obstacles in my life that made it difficult to continue my education. My advice to high school seniors is to be open-minded when you go to college. Allow yourself to engage in school activities. It will be more fun and more worthwhile. It will also keep you motivated to achieve your dreams. This advice goes for all students because it is never too late to become involved to better yourself and your community.

-Yvette Argueta, Carpentersville, Communications