As the days until the Waubonsee Community College commencement ceremony dwindle down, I catch myself looking back at how quickly my two years at the college have flown by. One minute I am sitting on the couch working my way through the college’s Electronic Registration and Planning (E-RAP) tutorial, and the next I am writing my graduation speech and figuring out what shoes will look best with my graduation dress.
If you would have asked me two years ago what my plans were for the future, I would have told you some elaborate plan to go out of state to a big university and never come home. I did not have community college anywhere on my radar until my high school counselor urged me to apply for the Lucile Gustafson Scholarship at Waubonsee. Receiving the scholarship flipped my future upside down and introduced me to the community college experience.
I have taken my time at Waubonsee in stride, absorbing any opportunity the college has offered me. Applying for the student trustee position was one of the scariest decisions I have had to make because it is the biggest student leadership position on campus, and I did not know if I was ready for something that serious. However, being the 2013-14 student trustee has been one of the best experiences of my life.
I have had the privilege of sitting on the board of trustees at the college and working with amazing board members, who have taken me under their wing. I have also worked closely with the president of the college, Dr. Christine Sobek, who has never failed to ask me about my life and take the time to get to know me personally.
I was able to work with other student trustees around the state as a member of the Illinois Community College Board Student Advisory Committee, where I took advantage of many networking opportunities and made close friendships with students from all over. I have traveled to Colorado and Washington, D.C., lobbied at Capitol Hill, and worked with legislators in Springfield.
My student trustee position has launched me into so many great experiences that will benefit my resume and future career. My advice for students looking into colleges right now – take your local community college into account because there are so many opportunities that you might miss by overlooking an inexpensive option for your future.
Graduation will be Thursday at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora. It will be a bittersweet moment; I am sad to leave the campus and the people behind, but I am excited to graduate (in air conditioning for the first time!) and see what comes next in my life.
As far as my future goes, I will be attending the University of Illinois to double major in East Asian languages and cultures with a focus in Mandarin Chinese, and global studies with a focus in governance. I will also be continuing my leadership as the newly appointed secretary of the Illinois Board of Higher Education Student Advisory Committee, where I will represent both universities and community colleges in Illinois.
• Mekenah Merrill is finishing up her one-year term as Waubonsee Community College’s student trustee and is a proud member of the college’s Class of 2014. The “Waubonsee Voices” column runs the third Wednesday of each month in the Kane County Chronicle. Comments and questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.