Congratulates graduates, stresses importance of degree completion
SUGAR GROVE – May 19, 2011. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon delivered the commencement address to Waubonsee Community College’s Class of 2011 this evening and encouraged them to share their stories and successes to inspire others to pursue higher education.
“The concept of a traditional college student is changing, thanks to your hard work, perseverance and achievement,” Simon said. “Many of you are balancing work, home and school. You have children, grandchildren or elderly parents at home. Yet you applied yourselves and today achieve a milestone, an education, which can never be taken away from you and will lead you to a better life. I encourage you to share your stories with others and act as role models for our next generation of students.”
During her speech to the 255 graduates, Simon referenced five in the crowd who took different paths to complete their degree, and along the way made significant marks on their school, families and communities.
Dexter Turner enrolled at Waubonsee to play basketball, and discovered a passion for coaching children. Alexandra Domar considered becoming a nurse, but instead blazed a path for women in the auto body department. Returning from the Air Force, Andrew Duangdara encountered difficulty, so he founded the school’s first Veteran’s Club to ease other’s re-entry into civilian life, Simon said.
Carla Childs enrolled for classes on a fluke, when she brought one of her six children to registration; now, she’s transferring to pursue a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Southern Illinois University, where Simon taught in the law school. Edgar Ixpata started at Waubonsee in a free ESL course just three days after immigrating from Guatemala; two children and 13 years later, he is earning an electronics degree, and is one step closer to his dream of being an electrical engineer, Simon said.
“Your commitment to education is inspiring. Illinois is a stronger state thanks to your dedication and learning,” Simon said.
Earlier in the day Simon met with faculty and administrators to discuss the college’s efforts to increase degree and certificate completion. Simon announced earlier this year that Illinois leaders want to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent from 41 percent by 2025. By touring the state’s 48 community colleges, Simon is able to see the successes at each campus, while also compiling ideas to overcome each college’s roadblocks to completion.
One of the challenges to meeting the completion goal is the lack of statewide metrics for college success and performance. Waubonsee is one of 40 community colleges nationwide (and one of three in Illinois) that is piloting a project to develop appropriate measures that – for the first time – will allow colleges to compare their data with peers and more accurately gauge their effectiveness. As a pilot site, Waubonsee is collecting student completion and employment information from January to August of this year and will provide feedback to the American Association of Community Colleges.
“We are so pleased to be able to welcome Lt. Gov. Simon to campus as part of her complete college tour and as our 2011 Commencement speaker,” said Waubonsee Community College President Dr. Christine Sobek. “Her focus on the importance of college completion is vital and one that is shared by the Waubonsee community. We look forward to discussing our current initiatives and how we can further collaborate and contribute to help our students, and the state, reach graduation goals.”
The visit marks the 13th stop on Simon’s Complete College Tour. As Governor Pat Quinn’s point person on education reform, Simon will report her findings to the Governor and legislature in an effort to help more young people and adults enter institutions of higher education and walk across the stage, diploma in hand, and toward a good-paying job.