"In Pursuit of a Dream"

Jacob Poor, Illinois Central College
2013 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Honorable Mention

My life is the definition of an unconventional student. I've been supporting myself since my junior year in high school. I pushed myself to graduate while working a 3rd shift job and even found time for sports. Before I graduated, I knew that I wanted to pursue college, yet I couldn't afford rent and food in addition to tuition and books. I realized in order to survive I had to work instead of pursuing my dream of being the first family member to graduate from college. I lived in a small central Illinois community and felt that if I was stuck there, I would never amount to anything. I sought a way out of Illinois while also pursuing my college dream, so I joined the Army.

Illinois Central College student Jacob Poor (right) accepts his $250 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from ICC president Dr. John Erwin.

Illinois Central College student Jacob Poor (right)
accepts his $250 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from ICC president Dr. John Erwin.

During my first year, I paid into the Montgomery GI bill in order to fund my education. Unfortunately, during a training exercise in Germany, I tore my Achilles tendon and was denied proper medical treatment until several weeks later, back in the United States. Through a series of various traumatic events, I realized the cost of my dream was more than I could bear. Eventually I was discharged from the Army without any benefits or education.

Once again I realized I couldn't fulfill my dream. I came back to Illinois and joined the construction trades. I enjoyed creating and building something that didn't yet exist. After several years I lost sight of my dream and became complacent. In 2009 I was arrested on drug charges and sentenced to eight years in prison. Looking back, I realize that I failed myself. I can't tell you the exact moment it happened, but it started when I stopped learning and gave up on my dream of graduating college. It has been an uphill battle these last few years. Struggles have made up the majority of my life, but through it all, I have rediscovered my dream again and maybe that was the point of my afflictions.

Since my incarceration, I have taken advantage of every educational opportunity possible with community college programs. After this semester, I will have completed 67 college credits, including a construction trades certificate. During my incarceration I have found a natural talent as an artist. I started drawing March 2010 and haven't stopped since.

I currently reside at the Peoria Adult Transition Center until November 5, 2013, and although it has been a struggle to pursue my education, persistence and determination has paid off. Illinois Central College has given me hope to pursue my dream of a degree. I have been blessed with great professors, who have believed in me from day one. They have inspired me to continue on with art after I complete my associate degree, no matter how long it takes. I know that I will become something more than a statistic. I hope one day my story will inspire others to never give up on their dream!