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Catalina Restrepo turns personal tragedies into academic success

Catalina Restrepo

ECC graduate, Catalina Restrepo

Initially, Elgin Community College was not my first option. I had plans to attend a four-year institution, until I had to be realistic about what my family could really afford. At first, I was skeptical about attending ECC, primarily because I did not know enough about the school. Actually, the very first time I stepped into ECC was when I had my orientation. My experience in my orientation definitely made me view ECC in a more positive perspective because the Spartan orientation leaders always had great comments and gave us a tour of the school. From that moment on, I felt reassured about making ECC the first step in my educational journey.

In the last two and a half years at ECC I grew so much in diligence, perseverance, and confidence. There is so much I have to thank ECC for. Specifically, the support I received from faculty and staff when I encountered a variety of unfortunate situations. My first semester my dad was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor, and then the following semester my grandma - who lives with us - fell and broke her hip. Both my dad and grandma went through surgery and an extended period of recovery. In addition, I underwent a lot of stress trying to figure out how I will continue with my education after graduating from ECC. Due to my citizenship status, I am unable to apply for financial aid; therefore, I always questioned if I would be able to accomplish my bachelor's degree. However, I had constant support from numerous faculty and staff, who believed in me and showed me ways I could continue which gave me hope.

For those incoming students and current ECC students, do not give up. Elgin Community College is an amazing institution with countless opportunities to help you excel in your academics and career. Take advantage of everything that is offered such as TRiO, clubs in Student Life, and the Tutoring Center. This may mean you may have to get outside of your comfort zone, and that is OK because that is where you will grow the most.

Elgin Community College allowed me the opportunity of countless experiences in these last two and a half years. Those experiences started the moment I became involved in a student led organization called ASPIRE, a club that is dedicated for First Generation College Students. I held the secretary position of this organization for three semesters, and became president for my last semester at ECC. Being involved in this student led organization opened the doors to networking with faculty and staff, learning many new skill sets, and creating lifelong friendships. In addition to my extracurricular experiences, I also had great experiences academically. I can honestly say that I liked each one of my courses and professors. They were always helpful, explained the material well, and believed in their students. Their support is one of the reasons why I did so well in my academics, and I am very thankful for them. 

Catalina Restrepo

Hanover Park  

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