"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) Paul Simon Essay Contest winner Alexandra Spiers of Southwestern Illinois 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.

Alexandra Spiers of Belleville received a $500 scholarship for her winning essay during the Trustees Association's June 2002 annual banquet in Springfield. Her future plans include transferring to Western Illinois University in fall 2002 fall to complete her bachelor's degree in graphic design.

Illinois Community College Trustees Association
401 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 200
Springfield, IL 62701-1711
217-528-2858 (phone)
217-528-8662 (fax)
ICCTA@communitycolleges.org (e-mail)

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