"How Community College Is Changing My Life"

Nada Omer, Moraine Valley Community College
2013 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

As a young girl, I loved school and was unashamedly excited at the start of every school year. I was the kid whose nose was always buried in a book. During the summer, when kids my age were running around pulling pranks on each other, I discovered other worlds through my National Geographic magazines, or learned new theories of physics watching documentaries on PBS. I had lofty dreams and I thought I was going to become a scientist, a writer, and an inventor. I had such hope and belief in my potential to do and achieve great things.

Moraine Valley Community College student Nada Omer (left) accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from MVCC president Dr. Sylvia Jenkins.

Moraine Valley Community College student Nada Omer (left) accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from MVCC president Dr. Sylvia Jenkins.
However, life doesn't always plan out the way we want it to. When I was 16, I moved halfway across the world after my parents decided to spend their retirement in their homeland of Yemen. I ended up dropping out of school due to the dismal standards of education of a third-world country. My ambitious plans for my future were beginning to fade.

I spent a good four years in Yemen before I got married when I was 20. I moved with my husband to the U.A.E., where he worked and lived. There I gave birth to my first son a couple of years later. Finally, after a total of seven years living in the Middle East, I returned to the U.S., but now in tow with a husband and young son.

After all the years that had passed, my slumbering passion was beginning to awaken. The problem was that I didn't have a high school diploma or a driver's license and absolutely no hope to progress my future without them. Without hesitation I enrolled in GED preparation classes at Moraine Valley Community College. Every morning without fail, my husband would drive me to class, and in the afternoon he would teach me to drive.

It only took me eight weeks to complete the classes, and I went in to take the test when I was seven months pregnant with my second child. All that hard work paid off when I received my score of 3550 out of 4000 and received my driver's license the same year. I was ecstatic, especially as I knew there were scholarships available for those who did well on the exams. I applied for one and received it. It allowed me to attend Moraine and one day transfer to a four-year university.

I now have a 4.0 GPA and an internship to Argonne National Laboratory (a program funded by the Department of Energy for community college students), another experience I would not have gotten without Moraine. Moraine gave me that opportunity to succeed when no four-year college would have taken me as I was. I will never forget the school that opened the doors to my future and I will be forever grateful.

Nada Omer 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
217-528-2858 (phone)
217-528-8662 (fax)
ICCTA@communitycolleges.org (e-mail)

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