Meredith Wolf wins 2015 Paul Simon Essay Contest at SIC

April 21, 2015

A student essay reflecting on the personal and family-like educational experience as well as the additional benefits of dedicated faculty, staff and coaches at Southeastern Illinois College has earned Meredith Wolf of Harrisburg the 2015 Paul Simon Essay award at SIC.

"I am very honored to have been selected as the SIC winner of the Paul Simon Essay Contest,” said Wolf. “SIC has played an enormous role in my life these past two years, and it was a pleasure to share how my community college has changed my life.”

This summer, Wolf will be studying a semester abroad at Harlaxton College, the British Campus of the University of Evansville, located near Grantham, England. After that, she plans on studying biology and would like to pursue a career in research. Wolf was valedictorian of her graduating class at Harrisburg in 2013.

Dr. Dana Keating, SIC vice president for academic and student affairs, congratulated Wolf on her award and presented her with a $50 check. Wolf’s essay will be entered into the Illinois Community College Trustees Association’s Paul Simon Student Essay Contest at the state level. The winner of that contest will receive a $500 scholarship during an annual awards luncheon this summer in Normal, Ill.

“It was very important to me to share my story here at SIC while wholeheartedly encouraging prospective students to consider it as a stepping stone to a better future,” said Wolf. “SIC has given me extraordinarily rewarding experiences and opportunities that would not have been possible elsewhere, and it can do the same for others."

For more information on the contest, call 217-528-2858, ext. 1.


Wolf’s essay by permission:

Community College

There I stood holding a golden plaque in front of over one thousand people. It was the April 2014 National Forensics and Debate Tournament. Okay . . . my eyes watered at this honor, but only a little. I looked over at my smiling coaches, and thought how fortunate-- how grateful-- I was to have gone to Southeastern Illinois College.

Rewind a year. I was a senior in high school. After a brutal college application season yielding equally brutal responses from eleven universities, I was left with the options of a university with a $60,000 price tag, local community college, and auditioning for reality television. It was a pretty obvious choice. I was nervous about attending community college; they were usually small, and didn’t offer the full “American college experience,” right? But after being a part of the SIC family for over a year and a half now, I refute those fears and stigmas wholeheartedly.

When I say being a part of the “SIC family,” it’s just that-- a family. I was recruited onto SIC’s speech team, welcomed into their theater department, and I work in the President’s Office on campus with some of the best people you might ever meet-- including our President. In all of these aspects of the college, I was treated as an equal and a friend.

Moreover, the educational experience is so personal. Often, I get to work one-on-one with my professors. Our instructors want us to exceed so much. It’s clear when they remind us of their office hours, help us when we get that deer-in-the-headlights expression, or even stop us in the hallway to chat about life.

This carries over into the extracurricular activities as well. The coaches of every team at SIC are so dedicated. And because of the small student-to-faculty ratio, we get more one-on-one coaching and experience than we could ever have hoped for anywhere else. Community college clubs and organizations allow for more travel and competition giving us the chance to experience some of the most rewarding and proud moments of our lives.

I am a firm believer that life is often what you take out of it. Community colleges are no exception. Going to a community college means something different to everyone. For some, it’s a second chance: to find a more suitable career, to learn about something interesting, or to finally get that education after high school. For me, it’s being treated like a person in higher education-- not just an ID number in a mass email. And for me and many others, it’s a stepping stone to something even greater; a great brick in the foundation we are laying to support the rest of our lives. Hopefully, you’ll see community colleges paving the way for hundreds of thousands of success stories every year. It goes to show that a small college can make a huge difference.