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Eastern has been a part of my life for 70 years. I have been thinking about how much Eastern means to me and our area. Though the years there have been struggles but they have endured and grown.

Like all public institutions, Eastern has experienced "downtime" in funding. Also, the exodus of many families from Illinois has reduced the pool of students for recruiting. However, there is "light at the end of the tunnel". The latest figures indicate at least a 5 percent increase in enrollment for the fall semester.

Eastern has always looked to the future to prepare students for the job market. I have talked with several recent grads who praised the quality of their education at EIU in terms of preparing them well for their new jobs.

Another important aspect to consider is the number of jobs that have been provided. The economy in our area has been enhanced because of those jobs.

Recently I attended one of Eastern's symphony concerts. As always, it was an outstanding performance. Not only were Eastern students involved, but also a number of high school and middle school students from the area. What a wonderful opportunity for these students to play with a symphony orchestra. This outreach program is just one of many provided to involve area students.

So many other opportunities are here because of Eastern. The music department also offers Concert Band, Jazz Band, and choral concerts.

We also have Tarble Arts Center, The Arts Festival, EIU Dancers, Theater productions, and many different sports events to follow. I may have omitted some activities and apologize.

So much is available at our doorstep!

Choose your area of interest and enjoy and appreciate.

Mary Lou Gaskill, Charleston

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