After high school, I left home for university life, which was very appealing at 18. I did okay my freshman year, but my second year was rough, and I was missing home. I decided not to return after a horrible academic sophomore fall semester and began working full-time at a daycare center. I attempted again to attend class at a community college near my home, but life got in the way, and I quit – again. I eventually left the job at the daycare center and entered corporate America, where I was relatively successful and had a position with a company that I loved for almost 17 years. In 2016, I was laid off from this company and decided it was time to return to school.
This time I was living near Elgin Community College and decided to check out the programs offered. I chose human services – it seemed like the right fit for me, and the program is structured so that I could take either day or night classes and get my degree. I completed my first semester in the fall of 2016 and was proud of what I accomplished while working part-time and raising two kids. Then, reality set in again, and I needed to work full-time to pay the bills as my severance had ended and my savings were dwindling.
In 2021, things had calmed down a bit with COVID, and I looked into what I needed to complete my degree at ECC and decided that if there ever was a time, it was now. All the classes I needed to complete my degree were online, allowing me to be home with my teenagers at night while taking classes and still work full-time.
Without the flexibility of the human services program allowing for the program and support from the ECC Foundation’s Complete to Compete scholarship, I don’t know if I would be preparing for graduation or if I would still be wondering – what if.
I owe a lot of gratitude to Dr. Rosenfeld and Dr. Hope, as they have been instrumental in helping me to find the belief within myself to complete my degree and continue my education in a field I love. I also need to thank my parents, who have encouraged me through the 27 years since high school graduation that it took me to get to my next graduation, and my two kids, who have inspired me to finish this next step in my educational path and are so very proud. It’s really never too late to find and follow your passion.
Melanie Thomas ‘22
Associate of Applied Science
South Elgin, Ill.