Christina El Gamal graduated from Lane Tech and immediately enrolled in classes at the University of Kansas with her sights set on a career in speech language pathology. After a year there, she decided the major wasn’t for her after all, and she returned home to Brighton Park to decide her next move.

As she started training to be a yoga teacher, she knew she didn’t want to lose momentum in her education and decided to enroll in a few college classes that interested her. Harold Washington College fit the bill – she could choose some affordable classes she thought she would enjoy while figuring out the next step in her education.

At first, she didn’t think she would pursue her associate degree, but her first semester there, on her first day of class in a women in literature course, her professor had some words of wisdom that changed her perspective.

“This professor really encouraged us to think about the future. She said that things don’t always go as planned and that anything can put a pause on your education, but if you have an associate degree, at least you can say ‘I did this. I have this credential.’ Then, you can decide if you want to pursue your bachelor’s degree or find a career. That really changed my perspective,” said Christina.

Because she was still figuring out what she really wanted to do as a career, Christina decided to pursue an associate degree in Human Sciences (Liberal Arts). While she was at the University of Kansas, she had declared double majors of speech language pathology and theater, so she looked into what theater courses HWC offered. Once she sat down with her advisor and saw the scope of theater-related classes, Christina says “the rest is history. I took as many theater classes as I could, auditioned for shows, and was in showcases.”

While she was at Harold Washington, Christina was also a part of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society and took part in many volunteer opportunities.

“There is such a wide array of opportunities at Harold – it’s really what you make of it. If you’re willing to invest your time and energy there is so much to get involved in,” she said.

After graduating from HWC in 2014, Christina was accepted into UIC’s Bachelor’s of Fine Arts program. While she still thinks she would like to eventually be a full-time actor, she’s also focused on arts administration, which she is learning first-hand as an education apprentice at Chicago’s famed Steppenwolf theater. There, she works with education manager to supervise the theater’s in-school residency programs, and is also a teaching artist.

It wasn’t in her original college plan, but Christina is glad she found Harold Washington College, saying “City Colleges are a hidden gem and they don’t get enough credit. I had a negative perception of going to community college, but what I discovered there was that students were working harder because they were paying for their own education. Many weren’t traditional students, and they already had families, had been in the military, or were already working. This created a community of a wealth of different life experiences. The environment was vibrant, rigorous, and people were really committed because they had worked so hard to get there.”

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