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GUEST COLUMN: Lake Land partners with communities

GUEST COLUMN: Lake Land partners with communities

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It is hard to believe the spring semester is already upon us. The start of a new semester is one of the most energizing and rewarding times at Lake Land College. There is an air of excitement on campus as students return to continue their studies. The start of a new semester is also a wonderful time to pause and take stock of Lake Land’s tremendous impact on its communities over its 50-year history.

Not only have communities embraced the mission of Lake Land College over the past five decades, they have welcomed the college as a partner in so many positive ways. Lake Land has become the preferred higher education pathway for district residents. Each August thousands of new students begin their educational journey and in May thousands more graduate with the goal of transferring to a four-year university or beginning their careers in their local communities. Some students even begin their careers before graduation. Take, for instance, Mattoon High School graduate Trey Overton, who is majoring in Computer Aided Design. Mid-way through his program, while seeking an internship opportunity, Trey’s talents were recognized and he was offered several jobs. Not only has Trey begun a promising career with a local employer, but he is continuing his studies and will soon complete his degree.

Trey and all of our Workforce Ready degree and certificate program students gain valuable hands-on training within their coursework that equips them with the skills to be successful in the local workforce. This provides an economic boost to our region’s economy by providing a well-trained workforce that is ready to contribute to a company’s bottom line.

Recently, the magazine Community College Week recognized Lake Land College for its excellence in graduating students with certificates. In these short-term programs such as cosmetology, practical nursing, industrial maintenance, dental assisting, EMS-basic, public safety telecommunicator, medical coding, horticulture, welding, automotive, programmable logic controllers and crop production, students complete programs in one to three semesters and are prepared for a life-sustaining career.

In addition to meeting rigorous academic standards, many of our students achieve their academic goals while balancing family, work and community commitments. Autumn Fain, an accounting program student originally from Casey, was one of those outstanding students. She received Lake Land’s Non-Traditional Student of the Year Award in 2013 and went on to transfer to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston where she completed a business degree with a double major in accounting and finance. Autumn is now working in her dream job as a finance analyst at State Farm Corporate in Bloomington and will be sitting for the final section of the CPA exam in February.

Autumn is just one of our many successful alumni who are making a difference in their workplace and communities. Each year we induct members into our Distinguished Alumni Society. The Class of 2016 included these successful members of One Laker Nation: Matthew Cekander, Effingham, CPA and firm partner, Doehring, Winders & Co. LLP; Renee Fonner, Hindsboro, on air talent/promotions director, Cromwell Group of Mattoon; Kerry J. (Lawson) Fearn, Charleston, formerly of Neoga, president and CEO, Area Educational Credit Union; Craig Greeson, Hanover Park, formerly of Neoga, product manager -- industrial business unit, Littelfuse, Inc.; and Kristopher Van Sickle, Woodstock, Ga., formerly of Newman, administrative officer, U.S. Secret Service, Carter Protective Division.

The personal and professional success achieved by these individuals is a strong representation of the tens of thousands of Lake Land graduates making a difference throughout our communities.

When asked about their experiences at Lake Land College, our alumni often cite the professional and knowledgeable faculty and staff as having the most positive impact on their paths to success. On a daily basis, I hear stories about how an instructor or a staff member touched a student’s life in a positive and profound way. Those moments of genuine connection with a student are what make our roles as educators so rewarding. But there is also satisfaction found in recognition of our work by professional peers. Lake Land is home to many distinguished, and recognized, faculty. For instance, Cheryl Beam, nursing instructor/director of nursing, was selected to participate as an item writer for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing Licensure Examination (NCLEX); Dustin Heuerman, criminal justice instructor, was appointed to the Illinois Community College Board; Marcy Satterwhite, business instructor/program coordinator, desktop publishing/graphic design, was named Outstanding Post-secondary Teacher of the Year at the Illinois Business Education Association Conference; Kathy Black, division chair business/business instructor, was named Outstanding Administrator of the Year at the Illinois Business Education Association Conference; and Mike Rudibaugh, geography/earth science instructor, was named the Illinois Community College Faculty Association Instructor of the Year.

So many of you have a Lake Land College story to share -- a family member, a friend, an employee you know has turned to us to launch a degree, overcome a challenge or begin a new career. Lake Land College is the starting point for a new life for thousands of people each year; the resource for hundreds of businesses that call our towns home; and the link to accomplishment for countless alumni who move on to success.

It is my pleasure to share these stories with you as a reminder that Lake Land College is here for you! It has been an honor to serve as your community college for the past 50 years and we look forward to being a part of your future in our next 50 years.

Dr. Josh Bullock is president of Lake Land College in Mattoon.

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