Patricia Gibson grew up in a large family in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood—she’s one of 11 children. She was the last one of her siblings to go to college and the first one to get a college degree.

After high school, Patricia’s parents told her she had to go to work or go to college. She got a job and spent nine years working in fast food. But when her younger sister convinced her to fill out an application for a job at Nicor Gas, things really began to shift in Patricia’s life.

While working there, she began thinking about going to college. She went back and forth for a while, telling herself her 30s were too old to become a student and she didn’t have the money anyway. But Patricia continued to explore her college options.

“I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I was going to do something different,” she said.

While doing research, Patricia discovered there was an affordable college just 20 minutes away from her home at the time. So, in 2012, Patricia officially became a Richard J. Daley College student.

Two years later, she graduated with her associate degree in business. Her twin sister and her advisor wouldn’t let her stop there. They pushed her to continue her education at a four-year institution. Patricia wasn’t sure she would be able to afford more schooling. She had already worked overtime and budgeted to be able to afford her education at Daley. But she made it work.

Patricia graduated from Governor’s State University with a bachelor’s degree in administration. Now, she’s six credit hours away from her master’s degree and is working at Southern Company as a technology planning analyst—something she feels her Daley education helped her obtain.

“Daley has prepared me for today’s workforce,” she said. “It has definitely been the core reason why I pressed on to the bachelor’s degree and, now, to the MBA.”

Even though Patricia is no longer a Daley College student, she continues to give back to those who are. Daley recently opened a career boutique, where students can pick up professional outfits that have been donated for free. Patricia brought several items from her own closet to the boutique.

“I’m always going to give back in some capacity,” she said.

It’s her way of saying thanks to Daley as a whole and to the professors who prepared her for a successful career. She says she’ll be forever grateful for the staff who taught her perseverance, the importance of being flexible in life, and, above all else, to keep learning.

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