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Success Stories

2017 Valedictorian - Cymba McReynolds

Health problems heavily affected Cymba Reynolds' performance in high school, so her options where limited when she graduated. After taking a year off between high school and college, a healthier Cymba started at Kennedy-King College as an affordable way to transition to college and get her GPA back up to where she wanted it to be.

As someone who loves learning, a reinvigorated Cymba immediately took to student life. It felt good to be back in the classroom, but she did have to learn new ways to manage her time, particularly in writing heavy classes. Luckily, she always found the help she needed and adapted to the changes with ease. As she prepares to finish at Kennedy-King, Cymba hoping to go on a study abroad trip to China, which she learned about by being a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor's Society. "If I can go overseas and come back better, I feel like I can do anything," she says. Her ultimate goal is to continue her education and eventually open a business in her local community.

2017 Salutatorian - Jenna Schinleber

After working as a massage therapist for a number of years after high school, Jenna knew it was time to think about a career change when an injury to her shoulder made it difficult to do her job well. Being interested in the health field, she was attracted to the dental hygiene program at Kennedy-King College. While she was anxious about starting classes after being gone for so long, she found that she fit in with her classmates really well. While she was shy at first, she says the rigor of the program quickly brought her classmates together as they developed their own support system.

Working as a tutor and putting in many hours of clinic work at the MXC Dental Hygiene Clinic, Jenna credits her faculty with driving her success. “The faculty don’t just teach,” she says. “They are truly passionate and they create an environment that builds that passion inside of you too.”

As she finishes her degree, Jenna plans to start working once she passes her board exams. During that time, she will be saving money to eventually complete her bachelor’s degree.     

2016 Valedictorian - Andrianna Hicks, Associate in Science

She was pleasantly surprised to find an environment where it was easy to get to know your instructors and classmates. Andrianna was always willing to accept help when she needed it. As a frequent visitor to the writing lab, she learned tips to improve her essays. She also utilized the Transfer Center to research four-year college options and schedule college tours. She plans to major in chemical and biomolecular engineering. Andrianna was accepted at both Roosevelt University and the Illinois Institute of Technology, where she was awarded the school’s Presidential Scholarship, which provides $25,000 a year in tuition assistance to recipients. She is also waiting to hear from Stanford University.


2016 Salutatorian - Sandra Mondragón, Associate of Applied Sciences

Despite only having an education through high school, Sandra Mondragon’s parents always kept her focused on her class work and wanted her to be able to go to college. After graduating from Gage Park High School, Sandra looked at her options and decided that the low-cost tuition and location of Kennedy-King College made it her best college choice.

Making the transition to college was difficult for Sandra at first.  She learned that being a successful college student required different strategies than in high school. She developed better study habits and sought out tutoring in math and English. When she received straight A’s in her first semester, she knew her new habits were paying off and she felt a lot less pressure.

She credits her instructors at Kennedy-King for challenging her with real-world scenarios that have prepared her for what to expect at her future job.  With an associate degree in applied sciences focused on accounting, Sandra is looking to start her career in accounting here in Chicago.

2015 Valedictorian - Dontea Williams, Associate of Applied Sciences

Dropping out of school at 17, the odds were stacked against Dontea to succeed. After being laid off from his carpentry job, Dontea knew his best chance at success and a career was by going back to school. It wasn’t an easy transition. Having been out of the classroom for nearly two decades, Dontea was definitely not used to being in an academic environment. Thankfully for him, his problems in high school were always more about ambition than ability. Passing his GED, Dontea didn’t want to stop. He knew not having an education made life harder. He wanted that chance to live an easier lifestyle.           

Enrolling at Kennedy-King College, Dontea felt right at home. He was surrounded by professors who cared and other students willing to engage and help him. From his first day, he thought he had entered a family environment. It was this environment that truly helped foster Dontea’s ambition. He admits that he started at KKC intending to get a certificate. It was the people he met and the things he learned that made him want to keep going.           

Equipped with an associate in applied science, he will transfer to the Illinois Institute of Technology to double major in industrial techonology and management and sustainable energy. He hopes to run his own consultancy firm, bringing sustainable energy initiatives into Chicago businesses.


2015 Salutatorian - Mary Wilson, Associate in General Studies         

Mary Wilson always hoped to go to college. After having a son at 17, she quickly realized she couldn’t be a student and a mother to a newborn at the same time. She started working, and saving as much money as possible. As her son grew, she knew she had the opening to get the education she always wanted.

Mary found starting at Kennedy-King College to be a stressful environment at first. The nerves and anxiety made her doubt if she was ready for such a big decision. Thankfully, Mary has always been determined to be the best. Using determination as a driver, Mary didn’t want to succeed. Mary wanted to be the best she could possibly be. Even though her personal life made things difficult at times, her choice of schools was one of the biggest reasons she was able to manage everything. Her professors worked with her when deadlines interfered with real life. She used college resources like the Transfer Center whenever she didn’t know what her next step should be. The reason she’s in such an amazing position now is because of the amazing support Kennedy-King has given her.

Mary will be transferring to Chicago State University to study business administration. Despite this, she says her true passion is social work. When she is armed with her bachelor’s degree, she plans to marry her education and her passion working in a Chicago social services facility.


Valedictorian Channel Clanton citycollegeschicago.jpg                     

2014 Valedictorian-Channel Clanton, Associate in Arts
• GPA: 4.0; member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK); was an honor roll student at Hyde Park H.S.
• Is married with four children ages 9, 14, 15 and 16.
• Channel will pursue dual bachelor’s degrees at Robert Morris College in the fall, majoring in Applied Health & Sciences and accounting, plans to become a surgical nurse. Also plans to sit for the C.P.A. exam as she is interested in the business side of health care.
• She has enough credits (80-plus) to earn her bachelor’s degree in one year. She credits her advisor with helping her to get on track by deciding on a major and mapping out her career pathway, including taking the right classes in the right sequence.
• Works nights, full-time, as the manager of security at a nursing home.
• She takes care of her mom, who suffers from a debilitating auto-immune condition, which caused Channel, who considers herself a “nurturer” by nature, to closely examine a nursing career.
• Channel’s epiphany: “I didn’t know what I was capable of or what I was lacking until I came to Kennedy-King. I didn’t know if I was good enough to cut it at the college level; I’d been beaten down so low by naysayers and haters. My husband and the supportive people that I encountered at KKC, helped me to build healthy esteem.”


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2014 Salutatorian-Lashanda Howard, Associate in Arts
• GPA 3.95, member of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), 2012 executive member of PTK, Spanish and math clubs.
• Completed her requirements in December; has been accepted at UIC; will begin studies there in the fall. She will pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science.
• Was hired part-time in March by KKC’s IT Office. Will work there part-time while earning her degree from UIC.
• She is a single mom of three children, ages 3, 10 and 12. Credits her parents’ support with helping her attain high marks in school. She and her family live at home with her parents whose   help has proven to be invaluable in allowing her to focus on studying and attending classes.

• GPA: 3.91; pursuing a pharmacy degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago; was admitted to Midwestern, Rosalind Franklin and Chicago State universities, as well. 
• Originally from Nigeria; Nebolisa came to the U.S. to pursue his college education.
• He played soccer at KKC on an athletic scholarship and received citation from his coach for his academic excellence.
•Planning on pursuing a career in pharmacy research.
• Favorite subjects are math and chemistry. He has taken classes at Olive Harvey and Daley. His CCC experience has been a good one. “My classes were not challenging because I put in the time and am serious about my education,” he said.

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Darlene Cook, Associated of Applied Science, Criminal Justice/Public Policy     

• GPA: 3.76; member of Phi Theta Kappa; has been accepted at National Louis University, where she will earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
• Runs her own social services agency that provides housing and re-entry support for ex-offenders—Operation H.E.L.P.
• She attempted college as a young adult and didn’t finish. She considered herself a failure and didn’t want to attempt it again. Once she got pass that hurdle, she became an over-achiever, hence all the certificates.
• Has overcome numerous health challenges—open heart surgery, an erupted appendices. Suffers from spinal stenosis, severe arthritis of the spine, which causes debilitating pain.
• A domestic violence survivor; she also overcame alcohol and drug abuse as a teen.
• Darlene was a Sergeant in the U.S. Army and was honorably discharged in 1987.

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Kenneth Lockhart, Associate of Applied Science, Media Communications
• GPA: 3.31; completed his studies at KKC in December 2013 and is participating in commencement exercises on May 3, 2014; interned at WVON Radio last summer.
•  Was recently hired full time as a Sales and Marketing team member at WVON; is interested in moving over to the broadcast side when an opening occurs; plans to own his own radio station one day.
• Retired from AT&T in 2012 as a sales representative and decided to pursue a career that would nurture his lifelong love of radio.
• Hosted a show, “Real Talk,” at WKKC while a student here.
• Married, father of six grown children; he and his wife are both ministers.
• Take away from KKC: “I had a ball. My life experience was respected by younger students and my professors. If more adults knew what Kennedy-King had to offer, they wouldn’t consider returning to school such a scary proposition.”  ​​​​​​