"How My Community College Changed My Life"

Lauren Stengel, Kaskaskia College
2018 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Honorable Mention

I just returned home from a two-day trip to Memphis, Tennessee with my philosophy class. We visited the National Civil Rights Museum after spending some time studying the philosophical ideas behind the movement. There's a proverb that claims that "knowledge is not what you can remember, but what you cannot forget," and I have never heard a statement more true. I'm sitting on my couch, hours later, and I'm still filled with this deep sense of awe.

Kaskaskia College student Lauren Stengel accepts her $250 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarshipfrom Illinois Community College System Foundation president Dr. Joe Kanosky.

Kaskaskia College student Lauren Stengel accepts her $250 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from Illinois Community College System Foundation president Dr. Joe Kanosky.

Of course, it wasn't my first time learning of the movement and the injustices faced by our fellow humans, but now it's different. I've actually been there. I stood mere feet away from the spot Martin Luther King was assassinated. I looked through the window at the boarding house across the street where James Earl Ray took his fatal shot, and I am chilled. It's unforgettable experiences like these that help me grow as a person, and through the overwhelming generosity and encouragement from the staff at Kaskaskia College.

During my years in the public school system, I never truly appreciated the importance of education, and after graduation, I had no desire to go back. Years later, I decided to try again because I wanted the opportunity of getting a decent job to provide a better future for my children. But my experience at Kaskaskia College has become so much more than that. I love and enjoy what I'm learning, and I give all the credit to the ability of the professors. The professors at Kaskaskia College are second to none. I've never had a teacher more intelligent and encouraging than those I have had the pleasure of learning from at KC. It's because of their true love of knowledge that I am going to become the person that I've always wanted to be, and for that, I am so thankful.

Not only are the professors at Kaskaskia College the best around, but my advisor also goes above and beyond to aid in my continued success. Going back to school has been financially difficult for my family and me. I work fewer hours and struggle to make bills meet. She encouraged me to apply for scholarships and walked me through the process step by step. I truly believe that without her help and persistent encouragement, I wouldn't have attempted to apply at all. These scholarships wouldn't be possible without the dedication of the Kaskaskia College Foundation and their desire to help provide affordable education.

I honestly do not believe that there is a word that can describe how thankful I am for Kaskaskia College and their staff. It's because of their love for knowledge that they have provided me with a truly unforgettable experience that has ignited something inside of me that will continue to push me forward.