Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon receives an Honorary Degree from Prairie State College President Dr. Eric Radtke (right) and Brenetta Hill-Corley (left). | Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 17, 2013 6:04AM
Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon addressed Prairie State College graduates at the 54th PSC commencement ceremonies held at the Pioneer Fieldhouse on the Chicago Heights campus.
Simon thanked all the graduates for investing in themselves and assured them they would reap the benefits of their education, according to a news release.
She also recognized the role families, friends and professors played in helping the graduates achieve their education goals.
Simon emphasized the state’s goal of increasing the number of Illinois residents holding certificates and degrees from 41 percent today to 60 percent by 2025, according to the release.
“A better educated state workforce benefits everyone,” she said.
She also extolled the virtues of the Illinois Community College System.
“I know what open admission means and how it opens the door to education for so many Illinois residents,” Simon said.
Prior to the commencement, Simon interviewed five PSC graduates, using their stories to illustrate the college’s five core values: teaching and learning, community, diversity, excellence, and caring and concern.
Garrett J. McAlister, a president leadership award recipient and an associate of arts degree graduate, represented teaching and learning. He told Simon that Prairie State had offered him a million opportunities to learn and grow as a senator of student government and by being a member of numerous campus clubs and organizations, according to the release.
Erin Tomlinson, a high school dropout who returned to school for a GED and graduated with an associate’s degree, represented the core value of community. Her catalyst for continuing her education was a PSC scholarship that Tomlinson said “changed her life.”
The core value of diversity was represented by Barry Rogers, a non-traditional student whose passion for information technology led him to PSC and will take him to Arizona State University for his bachelor’s degree.
Addison Jackson Jr., president leadership award recipient, exiting student government president, disabled veteran and father of three girls, represented the core value of excellence. Jackson will be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Representing caring and concern was Francine Poindexter. Graduating with her associate in applied science degree in nursing, her education story also started with obtaining her GED and enlisting in the U.S. Army. While a student at PSC, she served as president of the Student Veterans Club during the spring 2012 semester. Her plan is to continue pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“You should all be proud of your own story. You also should be proud that you will earn $1 million more during your lifetime than if you had stopped your education at a high school degree,” Simon said, according to the release.
More than 400 students graduated from PSC with associate’s degrees and certificates this year, and approximately 275 graduates participated in the ceremony.