Anya Pshenychny

Anya Pshenychny '10

Additional Alumni Spotlight Features

Tracy Engstrom '92 & '02

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ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT:

Name: Tracy Engstrom '92 & '02

Hometown: Monmouth, Illinois

Degrees and/or Certificates Earned:

Certificate of Completion: Science of People, People School (2020)
Certified Etiquette Consultant: The Etiquette Institute (2015)
Academy Certified Resume Writer: Resume Writing Academy (2013)
Associate of Applied Science: Administrative Office Management (2002)
Certificate of Cosmetology (1992)

Awards and/or Honors Received:

Outstanding Office Occupations Student (2001-2002)

Wonderlic Digital Badges: Communication Skills, Critical Thinking, Cultural Sensitivity, Demonstrating Initiative, Listening and Nonverbal, Problem Solving, Professionalism, Self-Management, and Teamwork

Numerous Ed2Go, LinkedIn and Skillpath certificates

Current Employer: Carl Sandburg College

Job Title: Coordinator of Career Development

Community Organizations You Participate In:

Abingdon Kiwanis Club
Abingdon-Avon School Board Foundation Board of Directors
Staff Representative to the Carl Sandburg Board of Trustees (2019-2021)

How was your Sandburg experience impactful? Please provide an example of how your experiences on campus changed the trajectory or your life?

My first experience at Sandburg was as a Federal Work Study student. I enjoyed that job so much that, when the position of Teacher's Aide became available in the same computer lab that I was working in, I applied.

That job is what I consider my first "real job" and, from that experience, I learned what true teamwork was all about. I was very fortunate to have met some wonderful people in that job who I consider my greatest mentors (some of those mentors still work at Sandburg today). Those mentors are who encouraged me to accept the position I am currently in. Without that encouragement, the trajectory of my life would be completely different.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

Sandburg professors truly care about you. I have some favorites I will never forget. The way they wanted to see you succeed and time put into ensuring that happened, was truly inspiring.

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

I use my degree everyday. My chosen academic program prepared me extremely well for effectively running the Career Development office with precision.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Treat your academic career much like you would future employment--show up to class on time, treat others with respect, meet deadlines, take initiative, showcase your leadership skills, and enjoy every minute.

Kayla Butler '18 & '21

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ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT:

Name: Kayla Butler '18 & '21

Hometown: Galesburg, Illinois

Degrees and/or Certificates Earned:

Associate in Arts '18

Associate in Applied Science degree - Nursing '21

Awards and/or Honors Received:

Honors list for consecutive terms

Current Employer: Residency Program at East Tennessee Children's Hospital

Job Title: RN

Please designate any family members who attended or graduated from Carl Sandburg College:

Cousin - Kelsi Kleine '21

Grandfather - Mike White

How was your Sandburg experience impactful? Please provide an example of how your experiences on campus changed the trajectory or your life?

I wouldn't say a moment has changed my life but a person who is now working at Carl Sandburg. I first met Stacy Bainter at Galesburg High School, where she was my CNA instructor. She showed me what it meant to be an empathetic and compassionate nurse when she went out of her way to help me when times were rough. I'll never forget that moment. I continued to take more classes taught by Ms. Bainter and when I heard that she was going to be a nursing instructor at Carl Sandburg I jumped at the chance to continue learning from her. I applied for the program and got in, but quickly realized that she was teaching the LPN courses not the RN courses which was fine with me because I knew if I ever needed help I could reach out to her. I look up to her and decided to become the best nurse I could be because of her. I owe it all to Ms. Bainter. If she didn't reach out to help me in high school, I don't what I would be doing right now.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

Failing doesn't mean to quit. You just have to keep pushing until you get to where you want to be.

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

My amazing instructors taught me well as they could under the circumstances (i.e. Covid-19) and helped me understand that things constantly change and we need to adapt to it in the healthcare field while protecting ourselves and others.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Enjoy every second of it! The beauty of college is it teaches you more about yourself than you thought was possible.

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg?

I keep up to date on social media, and I plan to visit campus when I make my way home.

Please share any additional thoughts or comments about your Sandburg story:

It has been a roller coaster of emotions but to where I am now, it was so worth it!

Keith Heiy '18 & '20

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ALUMNUS SPOTLIGHT:

Name: Keith Heiy, '18 & '20

Hometown: Plainfield, IL

Degrees and/or Certificates Earned: AAS Medical Office Professional
Medical Office Assistant Certificate
Certificate of Completion Employability Skills Academy

Awards and/or Honors Received:
Medical Office Professional Outstanding Student of the Year 2016-2017
Student Ambassador Service Recognition Award
Dean's List Spring 2017, Fall 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Spring 2020
Honors List Spring 2018

Current Employer: Medical Billing - DHR Health

Job Title: Business Office Specialist

How was your Sandburg experience impactful? Please provide an example of how your experiences on campus changed the trajectory of your life.

My experience at Sandburg has impacted me in many ways. Being part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and being a Student Ambassador are some of the top items that made it so. For a large part of my life, I have had very low self-esteem. Sandburg changed that with the engaging/encouraging staff and my fellow students. I made connections with teachers and others on campus that helped guide me to put myself out there and tackle fears like public speaking. Feeling empowered I pushed myself by taking advantage of the opportunities Sandburg presented to be out in front of groups. I was able to go to Monmouth High School with a recruiter and speak to high school students about how it is being at Sandburg. As an ambassador, being able to take students and their families around Sandburg and showing them what Sandburg has to offer, speaking to groups about life at Sandburg, I found out that I enjoyed it, and the more I pushed myself to volunteer I no longer feared public speaking. 

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

The most important thing I learned while at Sandburg is: I CAN DO IT. A simple saying, but that saying gave me a powerful drive to reach my goals. Hard work, determination, and never quitting. Going step by step I am reaching my goals. Giving the power of knowing if there is something I want to do, I can do it.

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today? 

I just started about 2 months ago and I have my own set of work, but if they need something done, I jump in and get it done. I do a lot of work in Excel, Outlook, Cisco phone, Cisco Jabber, and Medisoft (medical billing software) and Sandburg helped prepare me for this with my classes on record management, Microsoft suite of programs, typing, CPT, ICD-10, medical billing, medical terminology, business ethics both in person and on the phone.
What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience? 

I would suggest to current students that one of the key things is to get involved. Put yourself out there and join the groups at Sandburg. In fact, join as many groups as you can. Explore everything that is there. Sandburg even has a group that travels to different places in the world which is a great experience and while you are there at school is the best time to travel.

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg or how do you hope to do so in the future?

I do email some of my teachers here and there sharing how my career is going.

Any additional thoughts or comments about your Sandburg story?

I do have to thank my teachers and others at Sandburg for all the help they have given me. They are fully devoted to Sandburg and all the students. I am very glad that when I decided it was time for me to go back to school that Sandburg was there to welcome me. Thank you, everyone!

Tesha Woolley '14 & Lawson Crider '14

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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHTS:

Names: Tesha Woolley '14 and Lawson Crider '14

Hometowns: Tesha - Princeton, Illinois and Lawson - Mayfield, Kentucky

Degrees Earned: Tesha - Carl Sandburg College, Associate in Arts (2014) and Illinois Valley Community College (2019)

Lawson - Carl Sandburg College, Associate in General Studies (2014) and Lindsey Wilson College, Bachelor of Science, Major Biology, Minor Chemistry (2017)

Awards and or Honors Received:

Lawson - Carl Sandburg College Men's Soccer 1st Team NJCAA All-American

Current Employer and Job Title: Tesha - Labor & Delivery RN at St. Margaret's

Lawson - COO of Crider Farms

How was your Sandburg experiences impactful?

Tesha - Sandburg opened my eyes to new opportunities I didn't know I had. Plus, it gave me two of my very best friends, Lawson and Jordyn Chasteen '14.

Lawson - I met the love of my life and playing soccer with such a talented group gave me the confidence to be successful at the D1, NAIA, and semi-professional level.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

We learned that sometimes life doesn't always go according to your plan, but learning to adapt to new and unexpected situations is a huge part of life.

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

Tesha - It gave me the baseline of what I needed for nursing school.

Lawson - It gave me a starting point of what I needed to approach livestock management from a biological perspective.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Tesha and Lawson - You'll look back on your college years as the best ones of your life, so make the best of your time there, it goes fast.

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg?

Tesha and Lawson - We have Sandburg on several social media platforms.

Please share any additional thoughts or comments about your Sandburg story:

We met at The Villas and here we are eight years later!

Amelia Zielke '93

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SPOTLIGHT: Amelia Zielke

Hometown: Galesburg 

 Degrees Earned: Associate of Arts from Carl Sandburg College, 1993

Bachelor of Arts Cum Laude from Knox College, 2021

Current Employer: KCCDD in Galesburg

Job Title: Employment Specialist

Community Organizations You Participate In: Galesburg Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce Ambassador

How was your Sandburg experiences impactful?

I attended Sandburg with the intention of transferring to a university and majoring in Business. During my time at Carl Sandburg College, they had an Honors program that consisted of two separate classes, offered Fall term and Spring term. Both classes were tag teamed by two professors – each bringing their respective knowledge and perspective. The classes I had were titled ‘Creativity’ and ‘Social & Political Philosophy’. Both of these classes were incredibly intensive, but also life changing. I recently graduated from Knox College majoring in Philosophy with a minor in Business. Having the opportunity to take that one philosophy class stirred an interest I hadn’t even known existed. 

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

I loved the diversity of the student body - not only people from varied backgrounds but also people at different stages in their life. It was incredibly beneficial to engage with and learn from people different from myself. 

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

Graduating with my Associates degree from Sandburg not only prepared me, but set me up to succeed almost 30 years later to graduate from Knox College Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree. That success, along with my experience working with such a diverse student body, has most recently led me to create an exciting new Employment Program at KCCDD as their Employment Specialist, collaborating with both, community employers and our job seekers to obtain customized employment opportunities.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Each of you are in charge of your own experience. The instructors at Sandburg are top-notch educators and they genuinely want you to succeed. Engage with them. There are many instructors that have had lasting effects on me - academically, professionally and personally. Also, take that random class! You never know… it may just change your life!

Madelyn Turner '19

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ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT:

Name: Madelyn Turner

Hometown: Bushnell, Illinois 

Degrees Earned: Associate in Arts from Carl Sandburg College, 2019

Bachelor of Arts from Knox College

Awards and/or Honors Received:

1st Place Painting, “Blick Art Materials Student Art Show”, juried by T.J. Dedeaux Norris
Best of Show, juried by Chris Reno
Best Painting, juried by Jessica Bingham.
People’s Choice Award, juried by Jessica Bingham
Best Painting, juried by Cathie Crawford
Knox College Founders Scholarship
Knox Transfer Scholarship
Knox Founders Grant
Knox Grant Award
Blick Art Materials Scholarship
Carl Sandburg College Talent Scholarship Bushnell Prairie City Art Scholarship

Current Employer: Blick Art Materials / Knox College

Job Title: Product Information Specialist / Associate Exhibits Coordinator

Family: Lindy and Tom Turner (parents) and Macey '20 (sister and Sandburg Alumna!) 

How was your Sandburg experiences impactful?

Sandburg reinforced my love for the arts and my interest in teaching which made me want to work towards my goals even more. As well, Sandburg showed me that a community college is an excellent option for secondary education!

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

I learned a lot about professionalism in the arts while at Sandburg. Specifically the crucial skill of knowing the elements and principles in artworks which help you speak about your work professionally and with other artists. This focus has helped me in countless ways!

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

Sandburg in general really helped to make sure I was prepared before transferring for my BA. They helped me look through course requirements and curricula that best matched my interests and goals. Sandburg's curriculum is very well rounded also, so taking classes in several different fields of study prepared me for the liberal arts curriculum at Knox! Sandburg also helped me learn time management with work and assignments.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Get to know your professors! They really become one of your biggest advocates. Creating a community is very important, too. College can be stressful so if you have this solid community it will make your experience much easier with the support from your community. Also, enjoy the different classes you take. They will help you be a well rounded student in the future.

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg? 

I have done an interview for a recent magazine released by Sandburg about working through COVID and what the alumni have been up to! As well, I try to stay in touch with my professors such as Lisa Walker. She is a big help since I am applying to graduate schools right now and always offers great advice. 

What artistes were/are your main influences?

My main influences right now are Artemisia Gentileschi, Paula Rego, and Jennifer Packer.

What type of art do you predominantly create? 

My work is figurative and representational. I work a lot with memories and automatic drawing, both of which are crucial to my process.

What other types of art do you enjoy? 

Collage art is always my go-to for making a lot of work in a short period of time. It's a great way for me to break down my ideas and make sure they do not become too narrative or literal.

Please share any additional thoughts or comments about your Sandburg story or the alumni art show.

I am so pleased with this show! Sandburg has quite the talent in the arts and to be able to see alumni all together in one show is very exciting, especially to see how far we’ve come. 

Melissa Paris '18

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ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT:

Name: Melissa Paris

Hometown: Knoxville, Illinois 

Degrees Earned: Associate in Arts and Associate in Science from Carl Sandburg College, 2018 (Honors)

Bachelor of Science from Illinois State University, Major: Interior Design, 2021 (Honors)

Awards and/or Honors Received, Organizations You Participated In During College:

Sandburg: Phi Theta Kappa, graduated with honors, Student Ambassador, President of Student Government Association

Illinois State: University Honors Scholar

Current Employer: Carl Sandburg College 

Job Title: Covid-19 Tester

Family (please designate any who attended or graduated from Carl Sandburg College): Grandfather Doug Paris (Retired Sandburg Adjunct Math Professor), Father Tony Paris (Sandburg Coordinator of Mathematics, Professor of Mathematics), Brother Geoffrey Paris (current Sandburg student)

How was your Sandburg experience impactful?

Sandburg has been a home to me from a very young age. By the time I was a full time student I was welcomed with open arms. Students, faculty, and staff were all so caring and supportive. I have many amazing contacts to reach out to even after graduation. I have a large support system no matter how far away from campus I am!

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

Take every opportunity that is presented to you! When you get our of your comfort zone, and put yourself out there you gain insightful experiences and expand your view of the world. You gain knowledge and create long lasting bonds. Take advantage of each opportunity that comes your way. 

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

After my experiences at Sandburg, I have become an extremely well-rounded individual with many varying talents. I feel like I am prepared for anything that comes my way without being caught off guard, because I have experience in largely differing fields of knowledge. Not only in my four year degree, but also in every day occurrences.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Stay in touch with staff, faculty, and your peers. Your professional relationships will get you far in life and your career. The Sandburg community is supportive of you and wants to see you succeed! Don't be afraid to ask for help and put yourself out there to experience any opportunity you see.

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg? 

I am currently working part-time at Sandburg. It's not my ultimate career goal, but I am extremely grateful to be back with so many friendly familiar faces! Social media has also kept communication up when I cannot be in the Galesburg area.

What artistes were/are your main influences?

Many architectural works have inspired me, especially being in the field of interior design. One of my favorites is the Barcelona pavilion, the German pavilion for the 1929 World's fair designed by Mies Van Der Rohe. My favorite architectural periods include Art Deco, Neoclassical, Baroque, and Rococo. Though, being at Sandburg I was largely inspired by those around me including peers and mentors. Lisa Walker, has of course changed my view of art completely for the better. Many of my friends from the art program have also shaped my work like Katy, Megan, and Ashley!

What type of art do you predominantly create? 

I had the freedom in my art classes at Sandburg to create many different pieces such as paintings, drawings, and sculptures. Though, during my degree at Illinois State University, most of my work was strictly related to interior design. Hand drawn and digital floor plans, 3-D renderings, and even furniture design. These skills will carry me through during my future career.

What other types of art do you enjoy? 

I love art that isn't traditional such as sewing my own clothing, crochet, or even crafting holiday cards! I love getting my hands on anything that keeps me creative!

Zion Blue

ALUMNUS SPOTLIGHT: 

Name: Zion Blue

Hometown: Galesburg

Colleges attended or certificates and degrees earned: Knox College 2019 Bachelor of Science in anthropology and sociology with a minor in fine arts 

Attended Carl Sandburg College 2015-2016

Current employer: La Cantinita in Galesburg

Job title: Bartender and hostess

Community organizations you participate in: Big Brothers Big Sisters, Kiwanis International

Family members who attended or graduated from Carl Sandburg College: Katelyn Peterson '17 - sister

How was your Sandburg experience impactful? An English teacher recognized my contributions to class and when I was having a hard time she heard me out and referred me to counseling services. Sandburg's counselor Vicki McMullin introduced the concept of mindfulness and started me on a path of healing that I wouldn't have received from any class and for that I am forever grateful. 

Nicki Ponce and Lisa Walker were also instrumental in guiding my curious and creative mind. Without their direction I wouldn't have recognized my gift and they helped foster a greater appreciation for my craft. 

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg? 

That life takes direction with a little guidance so don't be afraid to ask fro help when feeling lost. 

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today? 

It helped prep me for Knox and their workload. 

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience? 

Think how future you could benefit from what you're doing right now. If you utilize the present to your best ability you're bound to appreciate moments where you actively bettered yourself, you'll learn from what your peers had to say, and you'll put yourself on a path of self discovery. 

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg? If not, how do you hope to do so in the future? 

Facebook has been a good help and just staying active in the community has kept me connected with old and new people associated with the college. 

What artists were/are your main influences? 

Van Gogh, Monet, Matisse, Munch

What type of art do you predominantly create?

Illustrations with colored pencils is my favorite medium but I have a number of oil and acrylic paintings as well. Spray paint has been a joy to work with also. 

What other types of art do you enjoy? 

I enjoy photography, poetry, design, textiles, clothing, and various sculpture/wood-working. Anything involving my hands and my creative mind is something I'll do. 

Please share any additional thoughts or comments about your Sandburg story or the alumni art show. 

I didn't consider myself an artist until my last year at Knox College. To those who may see their creative work as a hobby or doubt themselves as an artist, don't give up. No one says you have to create but some day you may look back and see everything you've given the world so far through your work and then that day comes I hope you proudly see yourself as one with the creatives, an Artist. 

Heather Hoadley '21

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ALUMNA SPOTLIGHT: 

Name: Heather Hoadley '21

Hometown: Kewanee

Colleges attended or certificates and degrees earned: Associate in Arts, Carl Sandburg College 

Dean's List: Fall 2019, Spring 2020, Fall 2020

Honors List: Spring 2021

Current employer: B&B Printing

Job title: Clerical

How was your Sandburg experience impactful?

Being exposed to new experiences and new art techniques while attending Sandburg has been the most impactful to me. Taking Lisa Walker's art classes helped me grow as an artist tremendously. Not only by teaching the wonderful world of art, but also by showing me where I was struggling with my art and how I was able to overcome it. This has made me eager to experiment with different mediums and techniques in my art.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

There is always someone to help you at Sandburg. Whether that be homework, classes, or personal issues; there is help. My father became ill in March 2021 and he passed away a month before my graduation. I will forever thank my professors that helped me complete my classes throughout this difficult time. It was hard, but I knew my father would've wanted me to get my degree and succeed.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Get out of your comfort zone, make new friends, explore new places, and most of all have fun!

What artists were/are your main influences?

Vincent van Gogh, Rembrandt, Claude Monet, and Edward Hopper

What type of art do you predominantly create?

I predominantly create colored pencil portraits of people.

What other types of art do you enjoy?

I also enjoy creating pyrography, paintings, and ceramics.

Carl Sandburg College's third art show of the 2021-22 season features the works of 13 Sandburg alumni from now-Jan. 15 in the Lonnie Eugene Stewart Art Gallery, located in Building D on Sandburg's Main Campus in Galesburg. In addition to artwork by Heather Hoadley, the exhibit I Did a Thing... features the art by Sandburg Alumni: Megan Anderson-Voegele, Paige Carlson Rohweder, Josh Dixon,  Lila Johnson, Jennie Elaine Nichols, Josh Niles, Adam Norvill, Melissa Paris, Katy Price, Madelyn Turner, Zion Blue, and Erika VanDaele.

Gretchen Wilkerson '20

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Name: Gretchen Wilkerson '20

Hometown: Eldridge, Iowa

Colleges attended or certificates and degrees earned: 

Associate in Applied Science Mortuary Science

Life Insurance License

Funeral Director/Embalmer License

Esthetics Certification

Awards or honors received: 

Carl Sandburg College Honors List

Sigma Phi Sigma President Certification

Recipient of multiple Sandburg scholarships

Current employer: Hinchliff-Pearson-West Funeral Directors and Cremation Services

Job title: Funeral Director/Embalmer/Pre-Need Consultant

Community organizations you participate in: VNA - I assist with the Meal on Wheels program. I also make frequent donations to the United Way. 

How was your Sandburg experience impactful?

I truly enjoyed studying under the wing of Matt Kendall. I had no idea what to expect when starting at Carl Sandburg in the Accelerated Mortuary Science program, but with the tools, patience, knowledge, and a little humor that Matt showed me, it truly changed my confidence in my school work. I was not a great student in high school academically, but because of my drive to succeed and the teaching style Matt gave, it really set me up for success. By the end of my time at Carl Sandburg, I was close to a 4.0 GPA, studying in an accelerated course, and taking on the responsibilities as President of Sigma Phi Sigma, all while trying to balance a job on the weekends and studying any time I was at home. Some nights were harder than others, and to be honest, I did shed a few tears and endure some panic attacks. But I made it through and amazed myself with how successful my time at Carl Sandburg College was. I want to recognize that amazing support I had from my classmates and instructors, all the way to Bill Gaither, who always kept a positive outlook for me when I was feeling down. Carl Sandburg, Bill Gaither, and Matt Kendall truly changed me for the better, and for that I will always be grateful for my time at Carl Sandburg College.

What is the most important thing you learned while you were at Sandburg?

That if you truly have a passion for something and have the support to back you up, it can really take you far in your studies and personal life. Through all the struggles and obstacles, comes a light at the end of the tunnel.

How did your education at Sandburg prepare you for what you are doing today?

Everything I went to Carl Sandburg for is what I am doing today. The Mortuary Science program gave me the knowledge and tools to become a successful Funeral Director/Embalmer. And with that knowledge it gave my the courage to obtain my Life Insurance license to go even further in my career life.

What advice would you share with current students to make the most of their Sandburg experience?

Be apart of clubs and activities!! Don't have tunnel vision in your studies, give yourself a break and have some fun all while making connections and building a network for a successful future.

How have you stayed connected to Sandburg? If not, how do you hope to do so in the future? 

I still continue to talk to Matt Kendall occasionally and help out students who are/were/will be in the Mortuary Science program. I also continue to talk to Bill Gaither and will always be happy to elaborate on my time at Carl Sandburg. 

Angel Peterson '16

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Sandburg Graduate Angel Peterson Selected for Fulbright-Hays Program

Angel Peterson knew she wanted to become a teacher during her senior year at Galesburg High School.

“Everything I’ve ever done has been with kids. I’m the oldest of six. I am good with kids,” Peterson said. “But funny enough, I really didn’t like school. It was just something I had to do. When I was at Carl Sandburg College, I actually fell in love with education and the process of learning.”

It was a class at Sandburg led by Kylie Price, assistant professor of developmental English, that influenced Peterson’s trajectory. Price pushed her to do more and inspired her.

“She was like, ‘Angel, you’re smart enough to get a doctorate.’ and I just laughed,” Peterson said. “And she added, ‘You are smart enough to be part of prestigious programs. You are smart enough to go do educational politics.’ I laughed again at her, but it really stuck with me and propelled me.”

While Peterson excelled in the classroom, she did not enjoy her first two months of college. A friend pointed out that Peterson was going to class and going home.

“My friend told me, ‘Of course, you dislike it. You need to join something. One thing,’” Peterson said.

One thing turned into multiple opportunities for Peterson. She was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, TRIO Student Support Services, Women of Character, a student ambassador and a student worker.

“I think that’s one of the benefits that people overlook of a small college,” Peterson said. “Those opportunities to be involved. There are more leadership opportunities.”

In addition to her campus involvement, Peterson took advantage of traveling and experiencing other cultures.

She enrolled in a class about the history of New York that ends with a one-week field research experience in New York City, where she visited historical locations examined in the course study. While at Sandburg, Peterson also traveled abroad to China and Europe with stops in Germany, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

“Sandburg got me my start traveling the world,” Peterson said.

Peterson’s love of travel was one reason she set her sights on the University of Northern Iowa to study elementary education.

“It was the only school I found within a reasonable radius of Galesburg that had an opportunity to student teach abroad,” Peterson said. “It was the biggest appeal to me, and after being a part of Sandburg’s abroad trips, it’s something I wanted to continue to do.”

Determined to achieve her dream, Peterson worked with staff of Sandburg’s TRIO Student Support Services program to make her transfer to UNI seamless, even after graduating. TRIO SSS is a federally funded program that assists first-generation college students as they work toward earning a bachelor’s degree.  

After graduating from Sandburg in 2016 with an associate degree, Peterson transferred and earned her bachelor’s in elementary education from UNI. Today, she is a third-grade teacher at Silas Willard Elementary in Galesburg. She’s also working to complete her master’s in education in curriculum and instruction with an anticipated December 2023 completion date.

It was late last year when Peterson leaped at the chance to combine her passion for education and travel by applying for the Fulbright-Hays Program. Established in 1946, and expanded in 1961, the prestigious program awards annual grants to teachers and professionals to conduct research and train abroad. The intensive application process required Peterson to write three essays and submit personal references.

In April, Peterson learned she was selected for the highly competitive program. She will travel to the Philippines this summer with 15 other educators from around the United States. During her four-week stay, Peterson will immerse herself in the culture while visiting and observing educational institutions.

“I love the opportunity to be pushed out of my comfort zone in a new culture, especially through the lens of learning,” said Peterson.

Upon her return to the States, Peterson will have three months to complete a project related to her experiences in the Philippines to submit for the Fulbright-Hays Program.

Since her graduation, what does Peterson miss most about Sandburg?

“That’s tough. I love Sandburg. I really miss the honors courses,” says Peterson. “They always had you thinking about things in a different way. The assessments were not, ‘Here’s a test.’, They were, ‘How could you apply this in a situation?’ It usually tied in with cool things like study abroad or project that built my skill. I learned so much from those classes, and I think that’s where I got my confidence.”