A sign to return to school can show up in many different forms. For Malcolm X College student Leonard Warren, Jr., it showed up in the form of a billboard.

As he was driving for Uber one day, Leonard saw a billboard for City Colleges of Chicago, which was the push he needed to head back to school and begin his studies in radiography.

Radiography has interested Leonard since his time working as a medical supply delivery driver. During the pandemic, he realized he wanted to give working in the medical field a shot. He began helping with procedures, doing work similar to a nurse’s assistant. In that role, he was able to observe an operation, and it fascinated him.

“I saw the C-arm [a medical imaging scanner],” Leonard said. “I thought, ‘That looks cool—very Star Trek-y—so why not try that?’”

Leonard spoke with a technician in the room who told him they had attended Malcolm X College, and it only took two years to complete the college’s program. Leonard remembered the technician’s story, and, after seeing the City Colleges billboard, he enrolled as a student at Malcolm X.

The campus is close to one of the spaces where Leonard’s band practices, making it an easier commute from his home on the South Side. Before beginning practice as the band’s drummer, Leonard is able to work on assignments and pop over to Malcolm X’s campus for tutoring. He credits the tutors at the college for helping him pass MATH 116 and suggests all new students take advantage of tutoring.

Overall, Leonard’s introduction back to school has been a positive one. Clinical Education Manager Jaklyn Hanipale instructed his Health Professions, or HEAPRO, course, which introduces students to vital information needed to succeed in a healthcare career. She and Leonard have kept in contact, even after the class ended.

“She’s been so supportive,” Leonard said. “I’ll occasionally email and let her know what I’m doing…”

Jaklyn also connected Leonard to an internship this past summer in the Radiology Department at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He applied on a whim and was accepted, and it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of his life.

“It wasn’t just taking images like in radiology,” he shared. “It was also comforting somebody’s soul. You’re actually dealing with real-life patients.”

Connecting with patients through his internship and learning from instructors at Malcolm X College who have real-world experience is preparing Leonard for his future career. It’s also assuring him that this is what he wants to spend his life doing.

“I enjoy helping people and scrubbing in and setting up a room,” Leonard said. “It’s almost like you’re being a ghostbuster in a way, but you’re actually getting ready to really help people.”

Leonard’s days are extremely busy. He’s a driver for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Uber Eats, he’s a drummer for three bands, and he’s a Malcolm X student—but he’s determined to reach his end goal.  After graduation, Leonard plans to find a career performing CT scans or working in interventional radiology. Both are fields where he could treat and diagnose diseases, and do what he loves: help people.

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