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Success Stories

Class of 2017 Valedictorian
Social Square_HWC VAL.pngDonggyun (Kevin) Woo is no stranger to studying far from home. Born and raised in South Korea, Kevin left his fine arts high school in Seoul to finish his secondary schooling in Canada. When he graduated high school, Kevin set his sights on going to college in the United States. He initially chose Chicago because he expected a warmer and more enjoyable weather than was experienced in Canada. Though he concedes he might have been a little off-base with that assertion, Kevin quickly fell in love with his new home.

Looking for a college offering a convenient location at an affordable price, Kevin picked Harold Washington College sight unseen. In fact, Kevin arrived in Chicago on the first day of his first semester. thanks to the dedicated help of an international student advisor, Kevin was able to enroll in a full-time schedule and begin classes immediately.     

Kevin got involved on campus as soon as he arrived, taking a role as a Student Government Association Senator in his first semester, and then becoming Harold Washington's SGA Vice President his second semester. During his first year, Kevin frequently attended the Transfer Center Workshops to figure out his post-graduation route. While attending those events, he discovered the concept of valedictorian and transfer requirements of selective universities. Since then, he has worked hard to achieve his newly-earned goals. In his second year, he was elected as SGA President for Harold Washington College,  role that allowed him to work and interact with students on a daily basis. Having served as SGA president and being selected as valedictorian, he feels grateful for CCC's provision of opportunities. "Being able to represent my college in various ways was something that I've wanted to accomplish from the start," he said. "So in that sense, it is literally my dream coming true.     

Class of 2017 Salutatorian
Social Square_HWC SAL2.jpgWhen Juan was in high school, he looked at colleges across the country, but landed on Harold Washington College. A recipient of the Star Scholarship, Juan said that free tuition and books made his decision simple. He is now part of the first class of graduating Star Scholars and is on his way to study graphic design - debt free.

He has enjoyed his time at HWC, especially the sense of community, the small classrooms, faculty members who are passionate about their subjects, and getting to go downtown for class every day. However, he says the best part of his college experience so far is getting to meet different people from different backgrounds with different lifestyles and different points of view While he remained friends with other students who came to Harold Washington College fro Hubbard High School, a CPS school on Chicago's South Side, he was able to branch out and meet people from all walks of life. "It gives you a whole new set of experiences. It helps you figure out who you are as a person."     

While there are challenges, he always kept his goals in mind to keep him motivated. "The college experience is just so different from high school, and you have to be self-motivated." He made sure to use the resources that were available to him, including getting help with his resume form the Career Center, utilizing the Transfer Center to figure out the best transfer option for him, and getting help choosing what classes to take from hi college advisors. His dedication to his long-term goals will see Juan attending a four-year college to study graphic design in the fall.     

Josephine Frempong  

Class of 2016 - Valedictorian      

An international vacation doesn't typically factor into a career decision, but that's exactly what happened to Josephine Frempong. Planning to become a surgeon in her native Ghana, Josephine was convinced by her brother that a degree from an American university would provide her many more opportunities. Having only visited one city in America, Chicago, Josephine started researching affordable college options for international students. She found Harold Washington College to be her best option.   

Having only seen American colleges in movies, Josephine thought all colleges offered classes in big lecture halls with unapproachable instructors. What she encountered at Harold Washington was just the opposite. She enjoyed the smaller class sizes and teachers who cared and wanted to help. She kept focused on school, thanks in part to how well her professors engaged with her.      

As she neared completion of her program, Josephine began utilizing the Transfer Center to find the best four-year college options. With help, she found a transfer match at Trinity College in Connecticut - known as one of the Little Ivies. Josephine plans to finish her undergraduate studies and hopes to reach her ultimate goal of attending Harvard Medical School.      

Nicole Stritch  

Class of 2016 - Salutatorian      

Graduating from high school in 1997, Nicole Stritch worked many jobs before finding herself at Harold Washington College. It was when when was laid off during the economic downturn that she finally decided having a college education was the only way to gain the workplace stability she wanted.   

Nicole took the leap despite being scared of what the experience would be like. She assumed she'd be in classrooms with kids in their teens and early 20s. She expected to have more in common with her instructors than her classmates. That was only half-true. Nicole found an environment where everyone was welcomed, regardless of age. Her teachers and classmates were engaging and helpful and the transition was one that was much smoother than expected. She loved having so many options to get involved outside of class. As part of her participation in Phi Theta Kappa, she helped coordinate with the Harold Washington College Student Government Association to plan events across campus.      

Even though Nicole jumped from job to job in the past, she is now laser-focused on her ultimate goal. She is applying to the Illinois Institute of Technology to major in digital humanities. With her bachelor degree in hand, she wants to become a digital archivist for the soon to be built Barack Obama Presidential Library.      

Tamila Pashaee     

A. A. Degree       

Class of 2015 - Valedictorian        

For some students, college gives them better work opportunities. For Tamila, education offered her freedom. Born and raised in Iran, Tamila started a family and worked as a commercial manager. It was only in her adult life that she began wanting more.  She left her home and family to pursue her dreams of being a free and independent business woman. At Harold Washington College Tamila focused on Economics and Business through College to Careers.  She also joined the Employment Success Skills Program (ESSP) to improve her soft skills and she became a tutor.  Tamila received multiple scholarships and has been accepted to multiple four-year institutions; she plans to continue studying business economics at Columbia University in New York City.    




Amir Lavi    

A.G.S. Degree       

Class of 2015 - Salutatorian        

Born in Israel, Amir was serving his mandatory military service time after graduating from high school. While serving as security for a tour group, Amir met a girl that would change his life and take him halfway around the world. Amir finished his service and moved to Chicago to be closer to his now girlfriend. Education was something that Amir took seriously, but he was unsure of what the transition would be like. He had been away from school for nearly five years, and he was used to speaking exclusively in Hebrew. He chose to attend Harold Washington College to ease the transition into higher education.  Amir worked closely with the Transfer Center, which led him to become more involved in organizations on campus.  He also worked in the ESL (English as a Second Language) Department, and as a Student Ambassador for Harold Washington College.      

Amir will continue his education at Columbia University in New York as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. He is thankful for his time at Harold Washington College. He says the last two years have allowed him to grow as a person, and as a student. He knows he would not have been ready for an Ivy League environment straight out of high school. Now, he’s ready to accept that challenge.         


Rose Lee        

A.A. Degree 
Class of 2014

Rose Lee transferred to Harold Washington College in Spring 2013 to study accounting, and by August 2014, Rose graduated and earned a position at City Colleges of Chicago College to Careers (C2C) partner company Fifth Third Bank.  Rose attributes her success to networking enabled by ESSP (Employment Success Skills Program) classes.  Rose is committed to making her time at Harold Washington College count.  She dedicated herself to her studies, joined student organizations, and set course to find a business mentor.
As she was searching for a mentor to help her enter the world of business, Rose reached out to the Career Planning & Placement Center, and was then encouraged to apply for the ESSP courses.  There she was introduced to leaders of Chicago businesses, including Robert Scharringhausen, VP of Human Resources for the Midwest at Fifth Third Bank.  Mr. Scharringhausen not only encouraged Rose to apply to work with Fifth Third Bank while she completed her education, he also introduced her to Regional Managers.  Rose was able to find a position as a Customer Service Representative at a Fifth Third branch near her home.  Rose aims to transfer to a 4-year institution to continue studying accounting.  She plans to keep in touch with her mentors like Mr. Scharringhausen and ESSP professors at Harold Washington College as her career progresses.

Cornell McCollum       

A.G.S. Degree + B.C. in Accounting
Class of 2015

Cornell McCullom, 21, originally went to University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, but he quickly realized the university wasn’t the right fit for him. He transferred to Harold Washington College and has enjoyed the small class sizes and personal attention. He met with his advisor when he started at Harold Washington College and she helped him create an education plan. He picked the business focus area and the marketing pathway. He checks in with her regularly to make sure he’s on track to graduate and to transfer. He completed in May 2015 and is still determining which university he’ll attend next (he has already been accepted by Howard University and is waiting on decisions from several other institutions). Cornell appreciates the GPS program at City Colleges because it gave him a focused path through the system. He’s also benefited from the Career Center, which placed him into a  research role with the Hollands Group.    


Susana Balcazar    

A.A. Degree 
Class of 2014
In her final semester at Harold Washington College, Susana Balcazar was selected as an Aon Scholar, providing her with an opportunity to work for a small business that completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Susana was matched with architecture firm Tilton, Kelly + Bell to assist with bookkeeping for the Spring 2014 semester. Susana did so well that the architecture firm asked her to stay on through the summer to cover the maternity leave of the company’s full-time bookkeeper. And when the bookkeeper returned, Susana was asked to stay as she provides a different skill set that the company values. Susana continues to work part-time for Tilton, Kelly + Bell as she pursues her bachelor’s degree in accounting at University of Illinois at Chicago. She is considering the master’s degree in accounting at UIC as Susana wants to earn her CPA. She completed her associate degree in May 2014.



Shaunea Brown

A.A. Degree         
Class of 2014 - Valedictorian         


Shaunea Brown graduated as the first female in her family to earn a college degree. At Harold Washington, she completed the Employment Success Skills Program and the Mary T. Washington Wylie Internship Preparation Program through the Illinois CPA Society. The latter included three days of professional development and a $500 scholarship. She has also landed an internship for Summer 2014 with a top public accounting firm. Shaunea will transfer to a four-year university this fall to pursue her bachelor’s degree in business.      



Ashley Porter

A.A. Degree
Class of 2014


“I came to Harold Washington College because I felt that community college was ‘doable.’ I had been out of school for a few years and was juggling work and life as a newly single mom. It was easy to make community college work for me. It gave me the tools to take the small steps necessary in order to continue towards all of my goals. With the confidence and education I have acquired here, I am looking forward to pursuing my bachelor's degree and then my master's degree in social work."         




Courtney Shepherd

A.A.S. in Management/Marketing
Class of 2014


Education is the foundation of the standards I want to set for my children. When I finished my five years with the Marine Corps, I enrolled in Harold Washington College. I’ve benefited from the great instructors here as well as the support of student services like Career Planning & Placement Center which helped me land an internship at Aon, my first job in the corporate world. I'm now pursuing my bachelor's degree in marketing at Roosevelt University.”        




Carolina Molina

A.S. Degree
Class of 2014


I discovered how much I enjoy physics and science at Harold Washington College. I now have a year-long internship at Northwestern University and I look forward to pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering with a minor in astronomy.”​        

Carolina will pursue her bachelor's degree at Illinois Institute of Technology. She was awarded the Presidential Scholarship by IIT and also won the Friends of Harold Washington College Graudation Award.    


business     ​