"Success for Dummies: How My Community College Has Changed My Life"

By Alexandra Spiers, Southwestern Illinois College
2002 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

I knew my mistake immediately. There was no taking the words back. They were spoken, just hanging out there like dirty laundry on a clothesline for all to see. I stared into the eyes of my challenger as they sparkled with triumph. Slowly her mouth curled into a smirk that would put the Grinch to shame.

"Oh, I see. Well. I guess that is better than NOTHING at all," said my former high school classmate.

Slam! She'd hit right where it hurt. I reeled from the force of the blow, almost collapsing in humiliation at her feet. In her mind I had plunged into the depths of mediocrity. I was attending a community college.

ICCTA president Richard Anderson
(right) congratulates Alexandra Spiers of Southwestern Illinois College, the winner of
ICCTA's Paul Simon Student Essay Contest
for 2002.


Fortunately, I don't see it that way at all. Instead of settling for mediocrity, I strove for excellence. Thanks to a lengthy resume and a 4.0 grade point average, I had many opportunities after high school graduation. Why would I possible settle for less than the best? Community college didn't chose me, I chose it.
The school I selected had a record for academic excellence, community cooperation and ease of transfer. I've taken the same classes I would have taken at a four-year college and kept my 4.0. Some of my less responsible four-year institute friends frequented drunken brawls while observing their grade point averages plummet just as far as the nation's economy. Don't get me wrong, four-year institutions provide a great education but none of them were right for me two years ago.

Success is not defined by how far your parents went in debt to send you to a college with a name. I saved money, attended a good, accredited college, and lived with parents who give me respect and love.

Despite my snotty friend's opinion, I'm not a failure and never plan to be. I was successful, I am successful, and I will continue to be successful. I'm ready to move on to the next phase of my life at a four-year college.

Wherever I go, I will be proud of my community college experience.