Kathi Miller, McHenry County College
2010 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner
I always told my sons they could do or be anything they wanted -- yes, even cowboys --
after they got out of college. In our house it was never a question whether or not they would
go to college; it was never optional. They were in elementary school when they found out that,
technically, you do not have to go to college.
Imagine the hurt in their eyes and the pain in my heart when
they learned that I had not been completely honest with them about having to go to college, and then
learned that I had not been to college and only had my GED.
McHenry County College student Kathi Miller (center)
accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest
scholarship from Illinois Community College System
Foundation board member Tom Pulver (far left),
ICCSF board member Jim Berkel, ICCSF president
Dr. Ray Hancock, and ICCSF board member
Dr. Alice Marie Jacobs.
I meant to return to school, but there were always excuses not to go . . . time, money, even less
time, even less money.
Fast forward 10 years later; as my youngest son walked away from the car anxious to begin his new
life as an Illini, he slowed to turn and look at me, and spoke with the unsullied wisdom of youth
and the brashness of a newly minted adult: "It's time to put your money where your mouth is, Mom."
A McHenry County College Academy Program poster that magically appeared that week at work was the
proverbial straw that broke the camel's back and ultimately goaded me into action. I made an inquiring
phone call, responded to the answering email, and the next thing I knew I was a college student
working toward my Associate Degree; it was that fast and easy. The first semester came and went
and suddenly, returning to school and getting a degree did not seem like such a formidable a task.
CS Lewis said, "You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream." After 20 years of
working toward goals for others, and that jolting wake-up call from my son, it was time to set some
goals for me. I set a goal to advance from doing a manager's job tasks to being the manager. I set a
goal to be the example for my sons, to get the degree they had always assumed I already had.
The attainment of all these goals rests on finishing my education -- finally earning my degree.
I will be able to submit my résumé for an opportunity and know that finally I will meet all the
qualifications, not just the knowledge and experience, but the education as well. I will be able
to continue to lead by example, to demonstrate that education is important at any age.
I will accomplish all of this and more, in no small part because of the easy access, friendly
environment, and affordability available at my community college.
Kathi Miller received a $500 scholarship for her winning essay, donated by the Illinois Community College System
Foundation. For additional information on the Paul Simon Student Essay Contest, please contact
Kim Villanueva at 1-800-454-2282, ext. 1.
Illinois Community College Trustees Association|
401 E. Capitol Ave., Suite 200
Springfield, IL 62701-1711
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