Name: Emily and Taylor Parks
Class: Heartland Class of 2008 and 2010
Degree: Associate of Arts
Interviewer: Colleen Reynolds, Associate Director of Alumni Relations and Outreach
Colleen: This latest Alumni Spotlight features not one, but two graduates who have made attending Heartland Community College a family affair. These two sisters join a third family member in completing degrees at the campus in Normal.
Taylor: Hi, I'm Taylor Parks and I'm going to be a 2010 graduate with an Associate's in Science and I plan to go into ISU to major in English with a concentration in Literature and eventually get a Masters in Library Sciences and become a librarian.
Colleen: And we have Emily.
Emily: I'm Emily Parks. I am a senior at Illinois State University in Merchandising and Apparel Design and I plan to graduate in December of 2010.
Colleen: So Emily, tell me what you enjoyed about your Heartland experience?
Emily: I loved my classes that were really small at Heartland and being able to really connect with the teachers and talk with them one-on-one without having huge, you know hundreds of students in the classroom, bogging me down or having to get through to the professor. I also loved how I was able to start while I was still a high school student and get some credit hours before I even graduated high school.
Colleen: Taylor, I am going to ask you the same question and it's ok if you have the same answer.
Taylor: lmost the same answer -- I started while I was still in high school and I really appreciated that. I really liked that I can get to know my professors pretty well. Almost all my professors have learned my name and I have developed somewhat of a relationship with them. I really liked that about Heartland.
Colleen: Going to Heartland has been kind of a family affair. What drew you to the College in the first place?
Taylor: My oldest sister started when she was in high school and there was a "compete and rebate" program.
Emily: A high school student could pay and then they get reimbursed partly for the credit hours for the classes.
Taylor: Heartland is already really cheap comparatively but that made it incredibly cheap college credit and I learned a lot. It helped me adjust. I’ve always been homeschooled before so getting used to deadlines and the classroom environment at Heartland helped me.
Colleen: And what about you Emily?
Emily: It definitely helped me adapt when I moved over with my Associate's to ISU and in the lecture halls. I wasn't used to that because I really loved the smaller classes and being able to get to know the professors. Being able to transition, Heartland really helped me with getting to know not only the faculty that I came in contact with as my professors but also the staff throughout the college, being able to transition and go to a bigger environment.
Colleen: Both of you were the product of a scholarship or benefited from a scholarship program here at Heartland.
Taylor: I received the John N. Stevens Memorial Scholarship, Bloomington Rotary Scholarship and the Art Adams Scholarship so my tuition was covered.
Colleen: Was that helpful for you? Did it take the pressure off in terms of maybe having to work and go to school at the same time?
Taylor: It helped me quite a bit. I could only pull about minimum wage. I can't work full-time and go to college. The only way I would be able to go to school full-time was getting those scholarships.
Emily: I definitely agree. I'm a studier so I was very blessed to receive the Presidential Scholarship here at Heartland that covered full tuition and gave me the ability to not have to work full-time or as a part-timer or even through the summer or during the semester. It allowed me to concentrate on my studies and excel and even push beyond by doing extra credit projects and really spend the time and effort to produce I was very excited and very thankful to receive the scholarship here and that is the only way. I originally did not even want to go to college. Once I learned of this opportunity, I applied for it, and then I got the scholarship. I was really excited to take classes and pursue my passion and to continue on to get a four year degree as well.
Colleen: You almost didn't go to college and yet you qualified to be a Presidential Scholar?
Emily: That's right. I have always been really involved in our community. That really helped with the leadership opportunities and being involved on campus and in my hometown really helped with my scholarship application.
Colleen: Did you have any mentors in the two years you spent here?
Taylor: English Professor Sharon Migotski was. I have taken every class she teaches here. One of the classes is Women's Studies and she really helped shape my mindset. Laura Duvall got me really interested in psych and self-analysis. I am not going into either of those fields or majors but I think they really helped me develop as a person.
Colleen: Did you have a mentor or mentors while you were on campus?
Emily: I definitely had a couple of mentors. I’ve always really loved art classes here. Joe McCauley was one of my all-time favorite teachers and I think I took every class that he had in all four semesters worth of his art history classes. I just love his outlook on life and the way he really influenced his students do their best and reach beyond to pursue their interest. Although Joe McCauley was one of my favorites, there were others that made an impact on my stay at Heartland. Art professor Mac McCavoy and English Professors Tom McCauley and Matt Felumlee all taught me in their own way to push myself and give my best . I graduated from Heartland knowing I should never be satisfied with the bare minimum and that you can make a huge impact if you just try thanks to some great mentors in the classroom.
Colleen: You're at ISU now and you are attempting to eventually get a job in the fashion industry.
Emily: I would love to officially set up a home-based design business that specializes in design alterations for bridal and specialty work once I graduate.
Colleen: Do you feel like the education that started here laid a good foundation for that kind of a career?
Emily: Absolutely. I can comment about my art classes and I've always been creative and artistic but those have really set the foundation to allow me to take those art classes by applying creative outlook on paper or canvas on to fabric and fashion and allowed me to be very, very good going from different media to different media.
Colleen: If you had to describe in one word your thoughts about being here, what would it be?
Emily: Personalization is definitely a good one. I love walking down the hallways. Even now, I can go down and be recognized by professors and my former teachers. Memories is another one because I love the education I received here at Heartland and be able to come back and feel that sense of community even though I’ve been gone for two years.
Colleen: We have a pretty strong alumni association that is growing by the day. Are you interested in reconnecting with the college or staying in touch with the folks that you knew here?
Emily: Absolutely, I would be. I would love to have people to come back and visit during Spring or Fall Fest. Being able to stop by and speak with some of my former my professors.
Colleen: You've done that already, haven't you?
Emily: I have this year. This year I got to come back and talk with a couple of them. It was really fun.
Colleen: Taylor, do you see yourself back on this campus?
Taylor: It is a part of me now. I enjoy studying and I think I am going to be one of the students that after I have all the degrees I need and have a job I am still going to want to go take some classes and never stop learning.
Colleen: You have another sister who also graduated from Heartland. Tell us a little bit about her and what she's doing now.
Emily: Her name is Kailey Parks. I graduated in 2006 so she would have finished her degree in 2004 from Heartland. She also started taking classes while she was a junior in high school and continued on until she graduated high school, like Taylor and I did. She went on and got a music business degree from ISU and she has since then had a full-time job and then she's also just finished her finals for two classes. She came back for a couple classes this semester.
Colleen: So, Kailey has become a lifelong Heartland learner.
Emily: Absolutely. Kailey received the Art Adams Scholarship just as Taylor did. (The scholarship was named for founding Board of Trustee Member Art Adams who attended this year's Celebration of Excellence event in which he met Taylor).
Colleen: Is there anything else you want to add that I didn't ask you about?
Emily: I guess I wouldn't write off Heartland even though it might be in your hometown or it's too close to home because it is a quality education.
Colleen: Thanks for sharing your Heartland experience with us and we hope to see you at some fun alumni events this summer.
Heartland Community College's Alumni Association has just changed its Facebook presence from a group page to a fan page which will allow us to post photo albums and have better, two-way communication. Please join us in our new location on Facebook.