I want to thank everyone for coming to graduation. I haven’t seen this many happy people in quite some time. It is humbling to be able to address and represent a group with so many different stories to tell. I want to thank all of my teachers and family members for their investment in me. Additionally, I would like to mention everyone who makes this school run smoothly; custodians, cooks, counselors, maintenance crews, board members, professors, advisors, secretaries, and anyone else behind the scenes making Elgin Community College so great.
ECC has been an opportunity, a blessing, a second chance, and a place to put my head down and get to work. I, like many of you here, have become more mature, accountable, adaptable, and independent. 2020 had changed my life as it had for everyone else. The world was upside down, and in my first community college class, I realized that I had a fantastic opportunity ahead of me. I started Elgin Community as a 17-year-old high school senior through the dual enrollment program which is a partnership between high schools in the district and Elgin Community College. I was able to work through to fulfill high school credits and college credits while I was still in high school. Through some of the hardships COVID brought my classmates, family, and friends, I realized nothing was promised, and the opportunity I had was something many wished they were given. It was time for me to take full advantage of my education and learn the content inside and do more than try to earn the bare minimum 90 percent requirement for an A. That is why at the same time, I consider ECC a wake-up call for me. And because of ECC, I am on track to graduate from a university before my 21st birthday, although just three years ago, I was not sure how I’d get through college, how I would pay for it, and if I was even going to go.
Reflect back on the late nights, early mornings, and stress we have all been through to achieve our goals. There have been failures, successes, disappointments, make or break assignments, and worry. Yet we woke up the next morning and continuously got right back to work. We got closer to the finish line one day at a time, and we will continue to do that as we move toward universities.
To some, the hardest part was not the schoolwork itself; it was finding time to get it all done, finding ways to communicate with professors we had never yet met, paying for education, or finding the courage to get started on it. To forget about what was going on in our world, relationships, work, and our safety to do our classwork may have been the hardest part for some.
The hard work has helped bring connections and friendships, knowledge, and advancements to our academic journeys. Most importantly, I feel that we are now equipped to battle any challenge that comes our way.
Through all the effort that has been given, many of us have improved the lives of our families as well. I commend those of you who have worked full time, taken care of your kids, and pursued your degree at the same time. You have opened up so many doors for you and your family.
I like that Elgin Community College is labeled community college because, truly, it is a community. We here are a community at Elgin Community College, a community of staff and students, each with the goal of success. Among students, one student succeeding does not mean another student is worse off. At ECC, we all bring each other up, and we want to see our peers succeed. The staff took jobs at Elgin Community College for a reason, to help students succeed. Many staff members attended ECC themselves, and because of their favorable experiences, they came back to create positive experiences for us now in their community. One of the ways I enriched my experience the most was by getting to know professors on a personal level. Every Wednesday, I stayed after class and asked Mr. Packard questions about class, business, and whatever else was going on in life. Every time he said I should go, I just happened to have another question for him, so I'm sorry for keeping him, Mrs. Packard. The deeper you immerse yourself in the community, the better. If you put yourself out there, you will realize that at the end of the day, we are all just college students, no matter what we look like or how old we are. My time as a chair in Phi Theta Kappa has also enriched my time here. Working alongside fellow honors students to better the community, school, and ourselves has been an honor. I have taken away many great memories and friendships from ECC.
Education has clearly improved each of the graduates' lives tremendously. I want each of you to continue to pursue your education. And if you're in the audience questioning if you should take the leap of faith and register for an Elgin Community College class, do it, start with one. It may change your life. The support system here is so strong, you will get professors who want to help and see you succeed. Professors that can help you with professional development, personal issues, and whatever else that is on your mind. The staff and faculty choose to work in the community out of their wishes to help us. And for that reason, I will urge my siblings and my kids when I have them to go to community college. Truly I feel as if less than two years ago, I entered ECC as a boy and left as a man.
So congratulations, I am so proud of you all. We have done so much work to get to this point, so go ahead and pat yourself on the back. Let it sink in, and celebrate your accomplishments. This is not the finish line; many of us are blessed to move forward and attend four-year universities. We are only halfway there. Each of us is very capable of succeeding at the next level. We all have our stories and experiences that have shaped who we are today. Yet we have the rest of our lives to create new stories and write new chapters. Don’t forget where you came from and what you have been through. I urge you to continue to pursue your passions. Celebrate this moment, but more importantly, celebrate what is to come
Dylan Mejdrich '22
Associate in Arts
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