"How My Community College Has Changed My Life"

Callie Smith, Southeastern Illinois College
2017 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest Winner

Imagine graduating high school on a cool Friday night and waking up on Saturday morning with your dream scholarship in your pocket and an exclusive job opportunity waiting for you to start the day. For me, I no longer have to imagine this scenario, I lived it. In May 2016, I graduated top of my class, and the day after, I had a potential job in the president's office of my community college.

Southeastern Illinois College student Callie Smith (right) accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarshipfrom ICCTA secretary Kathy Spears.

Southeastern Illinois College student Callie Smith (right) accepts her $500 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest scholarship from ICCTA secretary Kathy Spears.

Not only did I receive the theater scholarship I had been dreaming of getting, I got the job opportunity that was perfect for me. I enjoy doing office work more than an 18-year-old probably should, but I consider myself to be rather good at it. In this job, I have the opportunity to work for my college's marketing department, a career that I have been told time after time to consider, but never did. While working for marketing and struggling with deciding whether or not I wanted to stay in my intended major (psychology with a concentration in forensics), I performed the role of Marmee in Little Women. The opportunity to play my favorite character in one of my favorite childhood books was a dream come true, regardless of the fact that it was community college theater, because that's what makes it so awesome. You get to know each of your cast members and form lasting relationships with them that I wouldn't get on a higher level.

While performing I really took into consideration some of the advice that Marmee gives her girls. When Jo is faced with a major problem, Marmee tells her to 糎atch and pray, dear. And never think it impossible to conquer your faults." As many times as I rehearsed this line, it never really registered with me until the actual show dates. At this point in time, I started to think about potentially changing my major but never really wanted to bring myself to do it. Two weeks after, I knew that I needed to change my major, so after talking to our marketing coordinator and communications coordinator, I finally saw that marketing was the way I needed to go. Had it not been for this job opportunity, I never would have found what I loved.

I also have the opportunity to serve on my Student Government's Executive Board as a student trustee, president of our Phi Theta Kappa honors chapter, and secretary of our Theta Sigma Phi chapter. I have always been told that I have strong leadership skills. My experience serving in clubs in high school prepared me for the challenges I would face now. I love to serve others and do what is right. My favorite club, the National Beta Club, has a motto that says it best: "Let us lead by serving others." I have never found a greater job than serving others, and that is exactly what my community college does -- leads by serving others.