Graduate Essays

Graduation Cap

A few ECC graduates share what this achievement means to them

Graduate stories and more


We've asked a few ECC graduates to talk about what this achievement means to them.

Kira Spears, student speaker for the Spring 2023 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/22/2023

Kira Spears: I want you to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel

During my time at ECC, I have learned a lot about my fellow Spartans. They are talented, skilled, and full of wit. They are strong, determined, and wise. Today is a day to celebrate these incredible humans.

Cristina Bahena Benitez, 2023 State of Illinois High School Diploma graduation speaker
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/22/2023

Cristina Bahena Benitez: My diploma is just the beginning of my journey

For Cristina Bahena Benitez, the Education and Work Center provided the support and guidance she needed to earn her State of Illinois High School Diploma.

Chioma Echefu, student speaker for the Spring 2023 University Transfer Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/22/2023

Chioma Echefu: I charge you to venture into the unknown with courage as I did

I am a foreign student from Ibadan, Nigeria, and I would never have imagined myself giving a commencement speech in a reputable college in the United States of America.

Paulina Sequeda Malave, student speaker for the Spring 2023 University Transfer Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/22/2023

Paulina Sequeda Malave: This is not over; life is barely beginning

You welcomed me to this country with smiles and open arms, and I will personally miss all of you. I've never been one to give good pep talks, so I'll keep it honest. This is not over; life is barely beginning, and I can say that many challenges await us in the coming months.

Melanie Escobar, student speaker for the Fall 2023 University Transfer Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/19/2023

Melanie Escobar: I thank Elgin Community College for enriching my education

Good afternoon, fellow graduates, family, friends, and faculty. It is my greatest honor and privilege to address such a diverse community of different stories and walks of life. Thank you to our distinguished guests for your attendance today to celebrate a special milestone.

Jesse Ramirez, student speaker for the Fall 2023 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/19/2023

Jesse Ramirez: This day is just the start

Good morning, ECC students, staff, family, friends, and loved ones of those who are here. First off, I would like to say how much of an honor it is to be standing before you here. If you had asked me five years ago when I came back to ECC if I would be standing here, I probably would tell you it wouldn’t be possible.

Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Gwyneth Canlas
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/15/2023

Gwyneth Canlas: Always follow your dreams and do what you love

My dream of becoming a Nurse has been something I had imagined my entire life. I was able to fulfill the goal of achieving my degree along with finding myself in the process.

Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Clarissa Murphy
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/12/2023

Clarissa Murphy: My self-doubt was replaced by faith in my abilities as a student

I had no original intent of joining the Human Services program; in truth, I went in thinking of project management, but I’d always been passionate about connecting with folks, mental wellness, and listening to people's stories.

Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Tara Retondo
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/11/2023

Tara Retondo: Nothing or no one will ever decide where I end up in life except me

My dream goal for years was to work in the mental health field because, as someone who had a battle with mental illness, I would find meaning in helping others through theirs.

Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Dayana Bagdo
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/11/2023

Dayana Bagdo: My peers and professors helped me overcome my fear

Exactly four years ago, I moved to this country from Venezuela. One day, I was 17, graduating high school in my country, and the other day, I was trying to find a job to support my family in our process of creating a new life in a new country with a different language.

Elgin Community College December 2023 graduate Aolany Campuzano
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/11/2023

Aolany Campuzano: I am a first-generation high school and college graduate

As a first-generation Mexican-American, entering higher education was a world unbeknownst to me. All I knew was that I had to do this to make my parents sacrifice immigrating to this country for me and my family worthwhile.

Kira Spears, student speaker for the Spring 2023 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/22/2023

Kira Spears: I want you to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel

During my time at ECC, I have learned a lot about my fellow Spartans. They are talented, skilled, and full of wit. They are strong, determined, and wise. Today is a day to celebrate these incredible humans.

Sheronda Murray-Jamison, Class of 2023 State of Illinois High School Diploma graduation speaker
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/22/2023

Sheronda Murray-Jamison: I now have options for my future

For Sheronda Murray-Jamison, her State of Illinois High School Diploma has opened the door to new career options.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Ariana Marchan
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/18/2023

Ariana Marchan: ECC helped me balance school and athletics, preparing me for my future

On my first attempt at college, I went away to school, as most 18-year-olds leaving high school wanted to do. I quickly realized it wasn’t for me, and when I moved back home, I enrolled at Elgin Community College. I was excited; I felt better being back at home with my family, and at ECC, I was awarded a scholarship to play for the women’s basketball team – a sport I absolutely love.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Laureano Escobar
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/17/2023

Laureano Escobar: My ECC education gave me the tools to improve lives in my community

I am a first-generation college student. My parents were immigrants from central Mexico, and both came to this country at a young age but did not have the same opportunities I had. Thanks to their efforts and sacrifices, I discovered what I truly wanted to do with my life.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Jordan Williams
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/17/2023

Jordan Williams: My advice for future students is to never give up

My time at Elgin Community College has been quite the experience! I first enrolled in 2016 to start my journey to qualify for the nursing program.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Dominic Di Palermo
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/17/2023

Dominic Di Palermo: ECC experience prepared me for my future

After deciding that I would stay home and enroll at ECC, I decided that I would make the absolute most out of the two-year associate degree I was pursuing - A goal I definitely achieved.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Megan Petronella
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023

Megan Petronella: From ECC employee to ECC graduate

My journey to discovering what I wanted to be when I grew up was very long and winding. I have started and stopped college multiple times. Right out of high school, I originally went to college for another science-based degree and struggled.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Kip Kane
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023

Kip Kane: Though the journey was difficult, I learned I am stronger than I know

In the fall semester of my senior year of high school, I took on one of the hardest challenges of my life. My school offered a dual-credit program where I could simultaneously work on my high school diploma and an associate degree from Elgin Community College.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Juliet Duncan
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023

Juliet Duncan: Sometimes dreams take a long time to fulfill, but it’s worth it in the end

My love for the medical profession began when I was just two. I was in a sledding accident and had to go to the ER to get eight stitches in my right eyebrow. That experience sparked something in me.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Jocelyn Thammavongsa
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023

Jocelyn Thammavongsa: I experienced a strong sense of community and belonging at ECC

My time at Elgin Community College was a life-changing experience that I will always treasure. I’d never reflected on the past two years here until I was asked to write this essay.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Hannah Garcia
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023

Hannah Garcia: ECC gave me a platform to make an impact

I have been a student at Elgin Community College since the fall of 2021. In this short time, I had the opportunity to engage in our diverse student organizations and be involved in our theater productions. Most importantly, I have been blessed with a robust education.

Elgin Community College Spring 2023 graduate Beth Barnes
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 05/15/2023

Beth Barnes: I am beyond grateful for all of the experiences ECC has provided me

My time at Elgin Community College has been the best years of my life. Since a freshman in college, even during the height of the pandemic, I was able to make new friends and get involved, whether virtual or in person.

Tiffany Jensen, student speaker for the Fall 2022 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/19/2022

Tiffany Jensen: My experiences at ECC made me more confident in my abilities

It's been a long road, some of us longer than others. And if you are wondering, I am one of the others! So, are you ready to go on my journey?

Julio Hernandez, student speaker for the Fall 2022 University Transfer Commencement Ceremony
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/19/2022

Julio Hernandez: We can make a difference in our communities, thanks to ECC

It is a pleasure to be speaking here today. I have dreamt many times of being here. Over the past two years or however long it has been for you - reflect on how much has changed.

Elgin Community College December 2022 graduate Melanie Thomas
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/15/2022

Melanie Thomas: Thanks to ECC, I’m no longer wondering ‘What If'

After high school, I left home for university life, which was very appealing at 18. I did okay my freshman year, but my second year was rough, and I was missing home. I decided not to return after a horrible academic sophomore fall semester and began working full-time at a daycare center.

Elgin Community College December 2022 graduate Theresa Rees
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/13/2022

Theresa Rees: ECC helped me prove I can accomplish any goal I set for myself

My college journey started in the fall of 2015. I wasn’t sure if I would like Elgin Community College, but I thought I’d give it a try. College life hasn’t been easy for me, I am a first-generation student, so I have put pressure on myself to finish what I have started.

Elgin Community College December 2022 graduate Emma Bell
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/13/2022

Emma Bell: ECC brought out the best version of me

At Elgin Community College, I was warmly welcomed and shown how to better myself through education. I was given the opportunity to learn from outstanding professors and connect with excellent staff - their dedication and communication profoundly contributed to my overall success.

Elgin Community College December 2022 graduate Aurora Light Moushon
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/13/2022

Aurora Light Moushon: Working in the math lab alongside my teachers has inspired me

When I started college, I was nervous because I knew my classes would cover twice the material in half the time compared to what I was accustomed to in high school. On that point, my instructors did not disappoint; however, they surprised me with how well they explained the material.

Elgin Community College December 2022 graduate Ruthann Schatz
Commencement | Graduation Essays
Published 12/12/2022

Ruthann Schatz: ECC helped me achieve a goal a lifetime in the making

Ruthann Schatz tried college once, and it didn't work out. Almost 40 years later, encouragement from her son gave her the push to give college another try. Now she's graduating with her degree and a new dream for her future.

Evelin Gonzalez, student speaker for the Spring 2022 Career and Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/23/2022

Evelin Gonzalez Tapia: I am standing in front of you because I have received help

Thank you Dr. Gregory Robinson, and ECC faculty and trustees. It's my honor today to deliver the commencement address for my incredible fellow ECC classmates. Also, I want to welcome peers’ families, and faculty to this graduation day at Elgin Community College. Please note that each one of you has made a positive impact on each one of us who is graduating today.

Dylan Mejdrich, student speaker for the Spring 2022 University Transfer Commencement Ceremony
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/23/2022

Dylan Mejdrich: ECC has been an opportunity, a blessing, and a second chance

I want to thank everyone for coming to graduation. I haven’t seen this many happy people in quite some time. It is humbling to be able to address and represent a group with so many different stories to tell.

Claudia Robles, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/19/2022

Claudia Robles: ECC gave me the opportunity to mature and learn

When I was a high school student, I never thought I would be able to say I am vice president of student government, the social media coordinator for the Human Services Club, an Elgin Community College honors graduate, and transferring to my dream school, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Karina Hernandez Flores, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/18/2022

Karina Hernandez Flores: Whatever you want from life, you will be capable of reaching it

Did you have a chance to stop and think about what you want from life? It might be one of the most challenging questions that someone can answer. As a mother of eight children, my immediate answer is “to be a good mom,” but a question behind that answer resonated in my mind: “How to become that good mom that my children need?” Then I realized that what I needed was to understand who I am.

Jenna Manzano, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/18/2022

Jenna Manzano: ECC has taught me to be proud of who I am

Elgin Community College was a surprise in many different ways. I hadn’t considered applying here until a few weeks before school started in 2020. My future was uncertain due to the global pandemic and family complications, but ECC provided me with normalcy.

Patrick Able, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/16/2022

Patrick Able: For the first time in my life, I am not directionless

I never considered getting an education past high school was something meant for me. For ten years, I was in and out of Elgin Community College multiple times, trying different things. I reapplied to ECC one last time, and it has been one of the best academic experiences of my life.

Madeleine Ryan, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/16/2022

Madeleine Ryan: At ECC, I finally found my future in nursing

Growing up, I was never a kid that knew what they wanted to be when they grew up. I went through phases of wanting to be a teacher, a doctor, a vet, a ballerina; all the things little girls say they want to be. It wasn’t until my high school AP biology class that I really started to fall in love with human anatomy and the medical field.

Kristine Darvin, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/16/2022

Kristine Darvin: ECC helps students find success

The past four years of being a student have not been easy. I started my journey in the spring of 2019, and since then, many things have changed in the world of academics.

Hailey Hall, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/16/2022

Hailey Hall: Pursue your passion no matter how hard it may seem

It has been a great journey attending Elgin Community College for the last two years. ECC has allowed me to enhance not only my educational career but also my career in softball. I have played softball for the last 15 years, and I was not sure if I would be able to continue playing once I reached the collegiate level.

Eduardo Chaidez, Spring 2022 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/16/2022

Eduardo Chaidez: To ECC, thank you for the memories

Between 2013 and 2022, I've changed majors eight times, been to three universities, earned an associate in science, completed over 100 credit hours, have a cumulative GPA of 2.8, earned my industrial maintenance certificate, and will start my career repairing kidney transporters. During my time at Elgin Community College, I was part of the Anime Club.

Diana Rodriguez, Spring 2022 Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/16/2022

Diana Rodriguez: I’m grateful for all that ECC has done for me

When I began my journey at Elgin Community College, graduating with my Associate in Science appeared to me like an impossible goal to achieve. I felt this way for many reasons, and it seemed that there were more reasons why I would not make it than reasons why I could.

Cassie Stevens, Fall 2021 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/16/2021

Cassie Stevens: Thanks to ECC, I'm finally starting my dream career

I have wanted to be a nurse for as long as I can remember. In 2018, the time was right for me to go back to school. I investigated a number of schools, and found my home at ECC.

Justin Martinez, Fall 2021 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/03/2021

Justin Martinez: I leave ECC with a sense of immense pride and gratitude

Since high school, I have had a passion for engineering and have always planned to get a degree in that field. However, despite being told multiple times that taking a gap year was a bad decision, I wasn’t sure I was financially ready for college. In the end, I decided to take a gap year to work and build up my finances.

Juan Chavez, Class of 2018, is the guest speaker for the 2021 High School Equivalency Graduation Ceremony.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/26/2021

Juan Chavez: My story is proof that ECC is a place where people can come and fight for th

We all have different reasons to learn English, to get our GED diploma, but we have in common something great, which is our desire to change our lives and the lives of those around us. I hope that my story inspires and motivates you to keep moving forward and keep fighting for your goals and dreams.

Taryn White, student speaker for the Spring 2021 Career & Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/26/2021

Taryn White: Find the right path and fight to stay on it

Taryn White, student speaker for the Career & Technical Programs Commencement Ceremony, took a risk that paid off big for her future.

Zain Alsalhani, student speaker for the Spring 2021 University Transfer Degree Commencement Ceremony.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/26/2021

Zain Alsalhani: We have been equipped with the necessary tools to be able to overcome any

Zain Alsalhani reflects on his time at ECC. We are here to celebrate our achievements and comradery not as just students but as a community.

Larissa Scott, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/20/2021

Larissa Scott: ECC challenged me to strive for excellence and put my best foot forward

Elgin Community College constantly challenged me to strive for excellence and put my best foot forward. Because of ECC, I am more driven and embrace challenges.

Ashley Freeman, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/19/2021

Ashley Freeman: ECC Let Me Explore My Career Options

For Ashley Freeman choosing Elgin Community College was a no-brainer. While studying at ECC, Ashley was able to find the right career path in Healthcare.

Sandra Djou, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/18/2021

My Immigrant Story is a Success Thanks to ECC

Shortly after immigrating from Cameroon, Sandra Djou started her ECC journey as an English as a Second Language. Now, she's graduating with her associate degree and heading to her bachelor's.

Linda Kooper, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate.
Academics | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/17/2021

Linda Kooper: It's never too late and you are never too old to follow your passion

Linda Kooper knew she wanted her life to be different by having a brighter future. She thought about the best path for her, so she decided to attend ECC.

Taylor Vitacco, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/14/2021

Taylor Vitacco: No place strives for student success like ECC

Taylor Vitacco reflects on her journey at ECC. This school has provided me with endless opportunities, such as taking leadership roles within different clubs.

Katherine Castiglione, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/13/2021

Katherine Castiglione: ECC opened new doors to my future

Elgin Community College helped Katherine Castiglione smoothly transition to college. The warm welcome brought a sense of belonging.

Leslie Miranda, Spring 2021 ECC Graduate.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 05/11/2021

Leslie Miranda: Never underestimate your potential

Leslie Miranda is highly grateful to her professors and clinical instructors in the nursing program at Elgin Community College.

December 2020 Graduate Najmu Sahar.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Najmu Sahar: ECC is a great place to start

Graduate Najmu Sahar knew she was not ready for a four-year college. She turned to ECC to start her college experience while she figured out her path. Read more about how ECC put her on the right path towards her goals.

December 2020 Graduate Wendy Rivera.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Wendy Rivera: At ECC, I finally felt like I belonged

Wendy Rivera never imagined graduating with high honors or going on to pursue a bachelor's degree. Read how ECC shaped her into who she is today.

December 2020 Graduate Robert Phelan.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Robert Phelan: ECC gave me the confidence I needed

Robert Phelan returned to school after seven years to move his education forward. Read more about how ECC helped him develop the confidence to pursue his dreams.

December 2020 Graduate Danielle Lauritzen.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Danielle Lauritzen: ECC let me grow into who I am today

In high school, Danielle Lauritzen was lucky enough to know what she intended to make of her life. At ECC, she was able to grow and come to understand her place in this world through the work she had a passion for - teaching.

December 2020 Graduate Lisbeth Castillo.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Lisbeth Castillo: ECC taught me to embrace challenges at opportunities to grow

Experiencing culture shock and learning English as an immigrant moving from Guatemala at age 14 significantly impacted Lisbeth Castillo's life. Read about her how ECC opened doors to her brighter future.

December 2020 Graduate Ruthie Chae.
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Ruthie Chae: Pursue your dreams, no matter what

Career and Technical Programs ceremony student speaker Ruthie Chae reflects on her time at ECC. Never be afraid and follow your dreams.

December 2020 Graduate Kori Stoll
Accomplishment | Commencement | Graduation Essays | Student Profile
Published 12/11/2020

Kori Stoll: Keep going, because it's worth it in the end

During the introduction to Education course at Elgin Community College, I finally realized that what I wanted was to teach middle school.

Liam Coleman, class of 2020
Accomplishment | Commencement | Student Profile
Published 05/20/2020

Liam Coleman: ECC is a bright choice for a bright future

I was able to transition from high school to college in a fun, friendly, and engaging environment that allowed me to work towards my associate degree whilst giving me time to figure out and explore what I wanted to do with my life. I cannot recommend ECC enough to prospective students, and can personally attest to ECC being a bright choice for a bright future.