For Jesus Tovar, ‘Sandburg was Already Like a Family to Me’

  Aaron Frey
  Friday, March 27, 2020 3:51 PM
  Campus News

Galesburg, IL

Jesus Tovar has faced his share of challenges, but he’s always found a way to get back up.

“The world can be a bad place, but it’s up to you if you let it keep you down,” Tovar said. “If you let it hit you, it can bring you down to your knees, but it’s up to you to stay on your knees.”

The support he’s found at Carl Sandburg College has helped Tovar stay upright.

Just months before graduating from Monmouth-Roseville High School, Tovar went back to his native Mexico to help his mother take care of a family issue. He thought he’d be in Mexico for two months. It turned into two years.

When Tovar finally returned to Illinois, he finished his high school equivalency at an alternative school before taking classes at Sandburg, but after a semester he headed off to Indiana to assist another family member in need. He also enlisted in the Army Reserve during that time and spent 20 weeks at basic training. But while away, he continued to receive emails and see social media posts about things taking place at Sandburg. When he completed basic training, he knew his next stop.

“Sandburg was already like a family to me,” Tovar said. “I knew what the plan of action was, and I’d already started it. I’m not the type of person to start something and just drop it. It keeps plugging in the back of my head, ‘You need to finish something.’”

Tovar, now 23, came back to Sandburg last fall and stays plenty busy on campus, not to mention working a third-shift job in Monmouth. He’s president of Sandburg’s Hispanic-Latino Student Association in addition to being a member of Men of Distinction, TRIO Student Support Services, a student ambassador and a student worker.

“I tell everybody Sandburg is not just your normal college where it’s just come and sit and listen to lectures,” Tovar said. “It’s more like a family and you see the teachers out there and they’re more interactive.”

One of the instructors Tovar credited with helping him was Keith Williams, coordinator of Sandburg’s business programs. Williams sponsored Tovar’s pledge to join Men of Distinction, a campus service organization.

“He was the first person to push me to take a step forward,” Tovar said.

Tovar also highlighted his relationship with Anthony Law, who serves as MOD’s advisor and Sandburg’s coordinator of diversity and inclusion.

“He’s my boss, but he’s also like a father to everybody,” said Tovar, a student worker in Law’s office. “He’s seen different points of me, like the frustrated, I-don’t-want-to-talk-to-any-of-you point to the yeah-I’m-totally-just-crushed-I-need-help point. He’s always been there and helped me out.”

Tovar is on track to graduate this fall with his Associate in Science, then go into nursing school (“Anything in the medical field for me feels amazing. I just watch too much ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’” he joked). But before that, he’ll make sure to savor his moment of walking across the stage at Commencement.

“Graduating will be a big, big moment since I couldn’t do it in high school,” Tovar said. “That opportunity, unfortunately, got taken away from me going to Mexico. I’ve always had that dream of grabbing my little hat and throwing it up. It’s an accomplishment in my family.”

He’ll have achieved it with the support of his family at home and at Sandburg.

“To me, Sandburg is like a second home,” Tovar said. “I know I can come to Sandburg and be having the worst day of my life, but I come in here and somebody can get a smile out of me.”

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Aaron Frey