photo of amy watson

A Free Ride from Lansing to Urbana

Amy Watson, of Lansing, had a difficult decision to make. Stay home to pursue her goals at Columbia College of Chicago, or to move away to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. Unlike many students making choices about their academic future, Amy was fortunate that hers would not be dictated by finances because of the success she achieved attending community college first.

Amy received a full-ride scholarship offer from U of I. She was one of only 10 recipients of Columbia’s Chicagoland Transfer Award (CTA). The essay required applicants to describe how their community college experience prepared them for success in the future. Amy said her essay discussed the opportunity to both become a student leader and excel academically.

“I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today without my experiences at South Suburban College,” Amy recited from her essay. “I grew up in so many ways.”

She credits opportunities provided through the college’s campus culture as much as her academic experience for growing her confidence and voice both as a student and an artist.

“I was someone who was very shy and wanted to contribute silently in the background rather than being out in front. I was nervous when talking to my peers as a group and those in faculty positions.”

While at SSC, Amy was recruited to join S.W.A.A.G (Students With Artistic and Academic Goals) – a student group that focuses on networking and the development of career goals in the arts and academics.

“Joining S.W.A.A.G really helped motivate me,” said Amy. “It enabled me to strive to do more with my major in music and to seek out more leadership opportunities. Also, I gained a life-long family of creative people in the process, and that’s something I will forever be thankful for.”

She eventually became secretary of S.W.A.A.G and from there, vice-president and president. Amy says her passion for lifelong learning is equaled only by her music and her faith.

“I’ve been writing songs since a young age and it has gotten me through a lot of moments, good and bad. Sometimes I will sit down and all of a sudden receive words from God that become a song or a poem. Inspiration comes at any time from anything, and I know every word is God-inspired and God-given.”

Amy maintains her peace in her everyday life and that is what she says she will continue to do. “I tell anyone who will listen to take advantage of learning from every situation that you find yourself in and to focus on the positive. I went to community college not knowing where my education would take me,” said Amy, who ultimately decided to take a leap of faith at the U of I this fall.

“You never know for sure where your experiences will take you. South Suburban College opened my eyes to more than I could’ve ever imagined, and I am grateful.”