About Cari Rincker: How Community College Has Shaped My Life

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As some of you know, I received an A.S. in Agriculture from Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois.  I was recently awarded the 2018 alumnus of the year award and will be speaking at the graduation ceremony in May ( #pressure!) .  Here are some of my thoughts on my community college experience.  

When I reflect on my community college experience, I am reminded by the quote about the two gifts we give should give our children– “one is roots, and the other is wings.” Albeit trite, it aptly illustrates my community college experience.

As a daughter of a community college instructor, I have been around the junior college system and Lake Land College for my entire life. I have memories of going to school with my father as a little girl helping him “teach” class by running the slide projector on beef breeds and listening to collegiate livestock judging reasons on a straw bale at our home farm. I participated in 4-H livestock judging contests at Lake Land College and other community colleges in Illinois and observed staff members putting in the extra hours in early mornings and weekends ensuring the events for community youth went smoothly. I have listened to countless conversations between my father and Lake Land College students about their classes and career trajectory and watched my father, after a long day at work or an awards banquet, go back to his office to work on letters of recommendation for students.

When I taught my first college class at New York University, I became acutely aware of the hard work, dedication and talent that my educators possessed in all segments of my post-secondary education. Without question, some of my best instructors and educational experiences came from Lake Land College.

In the infancy of my college education, I am proud and thankful that was able to build a solid foundation in a supportive environment with more individual attention and smaller class sizes. As I accumulated student loan debt in law school, I am grateful that I was able to obtain a cost-effective associate’s degree while not sacrificing the quality of education or the intellectual horsepower of its instructors. Furthermore, I was able to stay close to home attending my local community college so that two years later I had the emotional maturity to then move 1000 miles from home to Texas A & M University.

I do not question for a moment the impact that my first two years of education at a community college has made on my career. My community college experience laid the building blocks for future adventures, educational milestones and career achievements. I am proud and thankful for the opportunity to attend a school that gives a quality, affordable education and a true community to support them through their own life’s ladder. Like a good parent, it provided me the requisite strong roots to give me the confidence to spread my wings.

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