Editor’s Note: This post was written and submitted by Jacqui White, a PTK member from Johnson County Community College in Kansas and a 2021 All-USA Academic Team Scholar.
It is an understatement to say that I have had an untraditional educational journey. When I graduated from high school in 2015, I immediately attended a large state school that fall. After accruing over $15,000 in student loan debt in just one year, I realized that I needed to make a change.
I dropped out of college and started working full time as a pharmacy technician. After finally giving debt the axe three years later, I felt called to continue my education and enrolled at Johnson County Community College.
Community college gave me a second chance. Here’s how:
1. Flexible schedule. I was able to attend Johnson County Community College part-time for a year while I continued my full-time job in healthcare. Online course offerings and summer classes were a godsend, enabling me to ease my way back into school. The flexibility that my community college offers continues to be invaluable, even as a full-time student.
2. No more loans! Community college tuition is significantly more affordable than that of state universities. That has made it much easier to cover costs without loans coming into the equation.
3. Phi Theta Kappa membership. -Since I attended community college, I was able to join PTK! The leadership, fellowship, scholarship, and service experiences that I have gained through my membership have been vital to my growth and success. PTK has been my ticket to a true community.
4. Connecting with other non-traditional students. I assumed that there would be an age gap between me and all of my classmates, making it difficult to form friendships. I am overjoyed to have been wrong about that! I have had the pleasure of connecting with fellow nontraditional students at my school through PTK and various classes.
5. Student-focused educational experience. Instead of being in classes with 200 students, I was in classes with 20 students. This has enabled teachers to give me the individual support that I need to excel.
6. Exclusive scholarship opportunities. Nontraditional students are ineligible for many scholarships. That makes opportunities like the Hites Transfer Scholarship, All-USA Academic Team scholarship, and PTK transfer scholarships that much more valuable.
7. Debt-free degrees! I am proud to be on track to graduate with my associate and bachelor’s degrees 100% debt free! This incredible blessing was only made possible by my time spent at community college.
Johnson County Community College will always have a special place in my heart. It has bridged the gap between where I was stuck and where I long to be. My time at community college has equipped me with the skills, scholarships, and confidence that I need to thrive — at my transfer university and beyond. I am eternally grateful to community college for the many ways that it gave me a second chance.