"Redemption and Hope"

Amy Butler, John A. Logan College
2014 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

Having arrived early on January 13, 2014, I find myself anxiously pacing down blue hallways looking for my classes. Palms sweating, I glance at the diverse people wandering beside me. I wish I could say I am fresh out of high school and following the next logical step in education, but that's not my story. John A. Logan College has changed my life twice: the first provided redemption; the second, much needed hope.

John A. Logan College student Amy Butler (center) accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from JALC trustee Jake Rendleman (left) and ICCTA president Bill Kelley.

John A. Logan College student Amy Butler (center) accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from JALC trustee Jake Rendleman (left) and ICCTA president Bill Kelley.
In fact, it provides equal opportunity to everyone for success, but the hard work involved is up to me.

Although I was a high-honor student, I dropped out of high school my senior year because I was a teenage mom. The next chapters of my life include statistically predictable poverty, and trials and tribulations. I started attending John A. Logan College in spring semester of 2008, and there beside me was my 19-year-old daughter. We took all the classes needed for a medical clerk certificate, except one. I refer to this period at John A. Logan as redeeming because, although I had only a GED, at the end of the semester my GPA was 4.00. I immediately got a job at a local hospital in patient registration, and my daughter went on to work as a medical clerk at a local clinic. Later on, I made a personal decision to leave this job. Although I don't have any regrets, I didn't realize how vulnerable I would be for the perfect economic storm coming my way.

Recently I suffered a personal crisis which depleted my savings account. While dealing with this situation, I also lost my job, and due to the slumping economy, I was unable to find a replacement income. Though unrelated, these two separate events combined and produced a financial crisis. A deep primal fear about my ability to survive sent me to apply again for acceptance at my local college. John A. Logan was a light for me in a very dark period of life, and it sustains me with a hope for my future. An associate degree in social work is my new goal, and I am presently tackling core subjects of English, biology and math. I am determined to stay close to the redeeming GPA of 4.00 I earned the first time around.

I wish I could predict that my story will end in success. The redemption and hope I feel attending John A. Logan College have already changed my life and given me courage to reach for the "American Dream." I don't represent traditional students, who are young and on track, but I admire them and feel honored to attend with them. I may be an underdog, but I am trying to put the odds in my favor by taking advantage of financial aid, possible work study and the variety of other resources available. As English author George Eliot once said, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."

Amy Butler 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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