"How Community College Has Changed My Life"

Eric Essen, Kaskaskia College
2008 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

Like many high school students, I was not certain about my future education plans. Even though I was an honor roll student, I did not want to pursue a four-year college degree. To me, school was something I had to do to get a good job. It never held my interest. Therefore, I did not want to devote more than two years to my post-secondary education. I wanted to graduate as quickly as possible, with enough background for a lucrative occupation.

I thought I would eventually enjoy a career in computers. I had been building and restoring them since I was 14 years old.

Eric Essen, winnerof ICCTA's 2008 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest

Eric Essen, winner of ICCTA's 2008 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest

One thing was for sure; I was interested in either a small technical school or a community college.

I wanted something entirely different from my experience in a large St. Louis school district. Anticipating a move to Carlyle, Illinois, I toured the campus of Kaskaskia College. The staff and teachers were cordial and very accommodating, and the school environment was intimate and personable. It seemed to meet all of my academic needs. Consequently, I enrolled in the Cisco Networking computer program.

After starting classes, I was introduced to Kaskaskia College's Trenton Education Center coordinator. She had heard of my knowledge with computers and was looking for a computer teacher for the senior citizens classes. She recognized my strengths and gave me a wonderful opportunity. I was hired to teach Computer Understanding I, Computer Understanding II, and Introduction to the Internet. To my surprise, the more I did my lesson plans and taught my classes, the more I enjoyed it. I discovered that I did not want to be behind the scenes repairing and setting up computers. I wanted to be the person introducing others to the world of technology.

For the first time, I was excited about school and what I wanted to do with my life. During my second semester at Kaskaskia College, I changed my major to secondary education. I thought I would enjoy teaching high school computer classes. However, during my first education class, my instructor placed me in a third-grade classroom. I had to observe the teacher and students for an entire semester. It was such a great experience that I decided to pursue a certificate in secondary education. I want to help elementary-aged children navigate the computer in a safe and informative way that will enhance their education experience.

To say the least, my community college has changed my life. It has been instrumental in helping me make a career choice. It has helped me discover my passion for teaching.

Caring faculty and staff saw my potential and gave me the opportunity to use my talents and explore new possibilities. Kaskaskia College has given me a wonderful foundation for the rest of my academic studies. At only 20 years old, I can already say I am a faculty member. I hope to always be a part of the community college system.