Back in 2016, I lost a few of my childhood friends to gun violence. I felt the world crashing, and I stopped going to school. I was attending Northern Illinois University at the time, and I thought I would never go back to college.

So, I got a job as a teacher’s assistant instead, not expecting to discover a passion for the field. After a few years of settling into the role, I noticed that the students, parents, and staff seemed to really like me. The principal let me know how valuable I was to the school and how proud he was of my ability to work with any grade.

That motivated me to finish what I started—to earn my college degree. Five years after I swore off school for good, I found myself enrolled at Kennedy-King College to get a degree in education.

Not only did I set out to complete my associate degree in three semesters, but I decided I wanted to keep going. I visited the Transfer Center at Kennedy-King, which was a big help. They walked us through the process of applying to schools and connected us with other graduates who were going through the same thing. Learning about their struggles and hearing their tactics, it just made me feel good. Knowing there are students out there feeling like me about life, school, and work made me feel comfortable.

Ultimately, I was able to transfer Northeastern Illinois University, where I’m working on earning my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. The goal is to keep going after that and get my master’s.

I never expected to continue my education, but my mentors at Kennedy-King College helped me discover that goal. I can’t wait to help my future students discover theirs.

—Deidre Burnett, Kennedy-King College Class of 2022

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