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My dad's story...

In 1975, my father returned home to Cedar Rapids after serving in the Navy during Vietnam. He needed to work, so he got a job at the post office as a mail carrier, but he also knew he wanted to continue his education. As one of eight children in a working-class household, he only had the means to do so through the GI Bill. He needed something flexible that would allow him to keep working, so he enrolled at Kirkwood Community College. Then, like it does for so many of our students, life intervened. My dad met my mom and they had me and then one little brother and then (much to my dismay) another one (just kidding, Alex). My dad kept going, but only had the time to drive out to campus for one class at a time.

I can remember seeing his books and notes as a little girl. Watching him study and hearing about what he was learning instilled a love of education in me that I have never lost (and in my brothers too, who both went on to become teachers). In all, it took him 10 years to get his associate’s degree. He finished in 1985 (which he remembers clearly because he picked up his diploma just a few months after my youngest brother was born).

Many of our students’ stories are like this. They tend to be older, they often have kids, and, many times, it takes them longer than two years to get a degree. But they keep at it, and they work hard, and they balance full-time jobs, parenting, school, and many other responsibilities.

For my dad, the impact was less tangible than we sometimes assume. He stayed at the post office and was a mail carrier until retirement, but it wasn’t really a career change he was after in the first place. He wanted to be someone with a college degree. He gained confidence and writing skills. He was president of the board at our credit union and wrote letters to the editor when he saw a need to speak out. He helped us with our homework and made sure we all went to college too. This is the kind of life-changing impact we offer students every day and why many of us keep doing this important work year after year.

-Emily Shields, Executive Director


What impact did Community College have on you? Share your story with us! Email or share on social media with #IowaCCMonth.

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