Alumnus overcomes obstacles; helps others find their paths
Toma Kpandeyenge admits that attending Elgin Community College was not his original plan. He aspired to go to a four-year university, play football, and major in graphic design. However, after graduating from high school with a third-grade reading level due to undiagnosed dyslexia, he faced new challenges.
Unable to gain admission to his dream schools, Kpandeyenge reluctantly enrolled at ECC. Though disappointed at first, Kpandeyenge decided to view ECC not as a second-rate choice, but as the path to his new future. “ECC forced me to face myself and decide if I was going to give up or use my newfound opportunity to course-correct,” he said.
Kpandeyenge credits Robert Laws, former ECC director of financial aid, as the person who propelled him toward a brighter path. Laws became a mentor to Kpandeyenge, helping him obtain a student worker job in the financial aid office and offering constant words of support and encouragement. With renewed confidence, he threw himself into classes, working hard to overcome his dyslexia. By the end of his first year, Kpandeyenge was reading at a college level and named to the Academic Scholar’s and Dean’s Lists. After receiving his associate degree, Kpandeyenge went on to complete a bachelor’s degree at Judson University.
Kpandeyenge feels that choosing ECC was the right decision. As a testament, he has achieved continued success in his career, working his way up at companies such as T-Mobile, Aon Hewitt, and ADP. Now at LinkedIn, based in Chicago, he is a senior relationship manager for talent solutions. Driven to keep moving forward, he is currently working on his master’s degree at Judson University and has a vision for his future at LinkedIn with a leadership role in sight.
“I never imagined I would be working for LinkedIn, a place that is more competitive than Harvard,” he said. “I am currently the only ECC graduate working at the company. Now, I get to inspire those who dare to believe they can be the next.”
While LinkedIn offers career development courses, Kpandeyenge reminds people to also take a closer look at their local community colleges. “I felt extremely prepared after graduating with my associate degree. I knew that whatever came my direction, I was going to be okay and would find a way to overcome it,” said Kpandeyenge. He imparts that same wisdom to those today who are looking to start or change careers: “ECC is an opportunity. With resources to help you identify the skills you want to grow into, faculty who truly care about your growth, and mentors to help you network, you can find a new way forward.”
Read the entire Fall 2020 issue of IMPACT online.