Over the course of the next year, Carolyn Eck of New Baden will pull together all the items she needs to go away to college in fall 2014. It will be the next step in a long journey for the 30-year-old.
Her formal education stopped in eighth grade, but her desire to learn continued. After her sister Kathy came to Southwestern Illinois College to earn her General Educational Development (GED) certificate in 2008, Eck decided to follow suit and work toward her GED, taking the preparation classes and testing.
She passed with a score of 3000, which opened the opportunity for a Top 10 Percent Scholarship to attend SWIC.
"I never thought I would be able to afford a college education," she said. "When I received the Top 10 Percent Scholarship, it gave me the hope to pursue a degree."
She enrolled in SWIC credit classes in the 2009. "Brenda Futrell from the SWIC ABE department was a huge help with transitioning to SWIC credit classes. There were times when I would have been lost and she helped me find my way."
In addition to her studies, Eck participated in service projects. Last fall, she joined the Visual Arts Club and Schmidt Art Center on a project to create various Mola-designed squares that were assembled into a quilt and donated to Project Linus. The St. Louis-St. Charles counties charity provides new handmade blankets and afghans to children who are seriously ill, traumatized or otherwise in need. In the spring, she was part of a group of students who made a permanent mark on the college through their work on PROGRESS, a community art-based mural project now on display in the Belleville Campus First Floor Alcove.
In May, Eck earned her Associate in Arts degree. In fall 2014, she plans to be a student at Southern Illinois University Carbondale where she will study art. "As long as I find a career in the art field, I will be happy, but my goal is to be a fine art photographer."
To learn more about free Adult Basic Education GED classes and other available programs, call 618-235-2700, ext. 5525, or visit swic.edu/abe.