By Dawn Williams
Being a non-traditional student and having the experience of six different colleges over the years, I thought I knew what to expect when I started back to school after my husband’s death. Yes, I got experience in English, Algebra, Science, Literature, Philosophy, Ethics, History and the arts. That experience met, and often exceeded, my expectations. I got to interact with other students, learn from them some things and help teach them other things from experiences we each had. But there were also a lot of unexpected surprises that I was completely unprepared for, and so very grateful to have been able to be a part of.
Starting my first semester with a stroke was definitely not in my plans. But students rallied behind me, offering to assist in carrying my books to class, texting homework assignments to me and generally encouraging me every day. Teachers worked with me to catch up on the days I missed, offered a little extra leeway now and then for due dates and stayed late in the day to let me make up work or help me understand the things I missed while in the hospital.
In my second semester I was introduced to PTK (the honor society for 2 year colleges). I was honored to serve as secretary three semesters in a row. I met a panel of students that collaborated on projects and fundraisers, and went to regional conferences where I learned so much about myself and the world around me. I met a lot of caring students: we worked hard, played hard and studied hard together. The people in this group were like family to me. We spent a lot of time together and created memories that will be with me for the rest of my life. I also got to work closely with our advisor who encouraged us to take personality quizzes, put together fund raisers, raise awareness of the “Commit to Complete” program, and develop our soft skills with the PTK five star programs.
Through my time at ECC, I learned that my teachers cared not only about my grades in their class, but my health, my overall success and my personal heartaches. I found that they would go to bat for me in a crisis and stand by me when I was at odds with myself and my conscience about what I should be doing. I could ask them questions, not only about their own subject, but about other issues that arose in my learning process. I could come to them for advice for study tips, references of books to read or movies to watch that would be of interest to me. I even shared my dreams, aspirations, frustrations and accomplishments with some of them. I developed a better sense of what I want from my life and what I don’t want. The staff and faculty at ECC exceeded those of any other institute I ever studied at. They seemed to pull together as a team to help me develop into the kind of person I want to be.
Though ECC is really a stepping stone for many students to jump start into a bigger four-year college degree, the atmosphere is both professional and friendly. Etiquette is required and professionalism observed, but there is also the small town feel of being in a place surrounded by people who are so dedicated to what they do that they often put their own families on hold while assisting their students to be successful. I take with me a small part of every teacher whose class I was ever in, as well as a few that I never managed to schedule into. I take a bit of the wisdom they instilled in class, the professionalism they displayed in multiple circumstances, the personal experiences they shared individually or in classroom settings, and a bit of their personality that I incorporated into my own character. Any time I am asked about the opportunities at ECC versus other schools, I am eager to relate to them the experiences I have had. No other educational facility I have ever been to, visited, or heard about has had better, more qualified or more dedicated staff and faculty than ECC. I advise people that even if they want to transfer to a more specialized, bigger, more famous college to complete their degree, starting at ECC will get them off to the right start to be successful and do the very best at whatever dream might aspire them onward in life.
I am truly thankful to have been a part of the ECC experience, and as I prepare for the rest of my life, I know that I have come away a better person than I was when I began classes here in the fall of 2013. I hope to have lasting relationships and have received wonderful letters of recommendation. Most of all, I have a better understanding of myself and the world as it is today, and as it continues to grow. It is with a touch of sadness that I write these final words for the ECC Cornerstone.