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The way we define success can be personal, professional, or a combination of both. How do we know when we’re successful? How do we recognize success in others? Does success begin with setting goals or reaching them?

What we do know is everyone defines success differently. Every positive thing you do that leads to earning your degree is success. Small victories add up to big accomplishments. Tell us how you define success and you could be featured as our next student success story.

Read stories from real Ivy Tech students by clicking a name from the dropdown below.

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Meet Ernesto! 

Ernesto Rivas gained extensive military knowledge after more than 12 years in the United States Marine Corps. However, civilian life proved to be a new challenge and Ernesto struggled to make ends meet.

After learning of the GI bill, Ernesto was able to begin his transition from soldier to student.

Read more about how Ivy Tech helped Ernesto along the path to a career serving other veterans by choosing his story below. 

Jennie Miller

Meet Paul! 

According to Paul, you should "Believe in yourself." After working at a Christmas tree farm for three years, Paul decided to reevaluate his future and go back to school. He is now a leader at a global communications company in Indianapolis.

Read more about how Ivy Tech helped Paul become a technology pioneer by choosing his story below.

Read how other Ivy Tech students define their success!

Cathalyn Ajayi

Indianapolis Campus | General Studies Graduate

“I am thankful for the opportunity and experience I had at Ivy Tech. This was quite a journey for me.”

Cathalyn Ajayi chose to come to Ivy Tech Community College as an adult, after being out of school for many years. She originally started taking courses at Ivy Tech several years ago, but stopped out. In 2014, she made the decision to come back, and she is now on track to graduate December 2016.

“I chose Ivy Tech because I had heard about it and how easy it would be to attend after so many years after high school; it would be an easier transition to get back into learning.”

She was attracted to not only the ability to transition into school as an adult at Ivy Tech, but also to the more than 1,000 online courses offered by the College.

During her time at Ivy Tech, Cathalyn took courses directly related to her job in administration and computer information systems. She noted that her studies at Ivy Tech helped her achieve a promotion in her career. As of December 2016, Cathalyn works at St. Vincent Health in the administrative field.

Cathalyn plans to transfer her credits and start her bachelor's degree in February 2017 in business information systems.

Cody Arnold

Fort Wayne Campus | Network Infrastructure Graduate

"Student takes first place in Cisco networking competition"

As Cody Arnold took a computer networking certification exam in April, he applied a recommended approach to test-taking: Be confident. Proceed. Breathe. Repeat.

The strategy proved hugely successful for the Ivy Tech Community College Northeast network infrastructure major. Arnold achieved first place in the 2015 Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician, or CCENT, competition among 170 high school, college, and university participants from the United States and Canada.

“I was fairly confident I would do well, and I thought the rounds would be easy to me,” Arnold says. “However, I did not expect that I would win at all. The second round, the one that really matters, was so difficult and unclear I thought I had completely failed, so I nearly forgot about the competition soon after submitting my work. I was very surprised to see myself in first place when the notifications rolled out.”

The first portion of the exam involved a 100-question virtual test that lasted an hour, equaling out to less than a minute per question. The second portion included a virtual lab with vague instructions, allowing Cisco to see if competitors could think on their feet, Arnold says.

For winning, he received a $150 voucher for CCENT certification.

“I really do owe my success to the people who teach me and the educational structure that surrounds me. Literally everything in the competition, I learned from Ivy Tech,” says Arnold, who is also a student intern with Ivy Tech Northeast’s Computer and Technology Services office on campus.

Associate Network Engineer Alexander Jovanovich has supervised Arnold since his internship began last December.

“Cody will be America’s next networking all-star one day,” Jovanovich says. “He has an inquisitive mind for the subject matter, and he retains knowledge very well.”

In May, Arnold took his knowledge a step further by earning a CCNA (Cisco Certified Network Associate) certificate—a degree of networking skill higher than the CCENT—which complements his existing certifications: A+, Net+, and Security+. He plans to continue competing, too, with his sights on the 2016 USA and Canada CCNA NetRiders competition next spring.

Lore’al Avery

Indianapolis Campus | Business Administration Graduate

According to Lore’al Avery, “Impossible is nothing.”

Growing up in Gary, Indiana, being the daughter of a single mother, and the first in her family to graduate college, Lore’al has proven that no matter your background, “Impossible is nothing.” Lore’al began her college career with three goals in mind: to finish college, to do so debt-free, and to do so with a 3.5 GPA or higher.  This year she accomplished all three of her goals, graduating Cum Laude from Ivy Tech. She took advantage of most, if not all, of the opportunities provided to her during her collegiate career. Lore’al is a former volunteer for Girls Inc., and a Bowen Scholar, which she credits as one of the biggest reasons that she was able to accomplish her goals during her time at Ivy Tech.

Lore'al Avery - Ivy Tech GradIn November 2015, Lore’al competed for the crown and title of Miss Indiana USA 2016. Along with this, Lore’al was provided with several opportunities to network with some of Indianapolis’s most elite individuals. She attended an event put on by the Indianapolis Urban League at the Lucas Estate and went to see Judy Smith, Star Jones, and Steve Harvey during their visits to Indianapolis. She also accepted two invitations to speak on behalf of the Bowen Scholarship Program; at Ivy Tech’s Circle of Ivy Women in Philanthropy Initiative and in Naples, Florida at the Bowen’s Estate.

Lore’al is transferring to IUPUI in fall 2016 to study business and finance, with a minor in communications. She will be competing Miss Indiana USA 2017.

Odessa Aytch

Fort Wayne Campus | Business Administration Graduate

"I like to tell my story to students" Alumna’s experience with being mentored helps her pay it forward.

Challenges from parenting, transportation issues, and tight budgets can serve as barriers to college graduation, but none of them is an acceptable excuse to Odessa Aytch (pronounced like the letter H).

In fact, these examples are rites of passage from her journey through poverty, single parenting, work–school balance, and having no car.

Today, Aytch is an Ivy Tech Community College Northeast graduate and a Student Success instructor who, each semester, teaches a few IVYT classes, a college-preparatory requirement for first-year students.“I love teaching these classes,” Aytch says. “I like to tell my story to students and encourage them to continue their educational endeavors despite the challenges they might be facing.”

Aytch’s own story begins in the Bronx, a New York City neighborhood where she grew up sharing a five-bedroom apartment with her mother, sister, aunt, uncles, cousins, and grandparents in James Monroe Houses—a low-income housing project with nearly 2,900 residents.

“I grew up in poverty, but I didn’t know I was poor,” Aytch says. "Everyone I knew lived the same way I did, but I still have great memories.” Those memories include running through jets of water spraying from opened fire hydrants and chasing after the Mr. Softy truck to enjoy an occasional ice cream cone with sprinkles. Some of her memories do not belong in any childhood: Drug addicts smoking crack along the staircases where she lived. Men urinating in the hallways and elevators.

By the time Aytch was 17, her mother wanted to provide a better life for her daughters, so she completed an application and was approved for public housing in Fort Wayne, where her sister already lived. The family relocated, and Aytch transferred to Snider High School and experienced culture shock. “I just didn’t fit in,” she says. “Students would ask me if I was Jamaican or African based on my accent. In the Bronx, people would just mind their own business and befriend you with caution.”

Feeling unwelcomed, Aytch dropped out. She didn’t want to end her education, but she did want out of Snider. Within a year, she earned a GED, becoming the first person in her immediate family to complete a high school credential. “I had something to prove,” Aytch says. “I had always heard I will never amount to anything.”Four weeks later, she enrolled at Ivy Tech Northeast, majoring in office administration and taking one class a semester while working a retail job.

In 2004, Aytch got pregnant and continued her classes until it was time for her son’s birth. When Aytch returned to school, she realized her life had transformed significantly, from single student to single mother and work–study student enrolled full time. On select days, she made as many as nine bus transfers to attend classes, go to work, and address her childcare needs. 

Fortunately, Aytch found a mentor in Rula Mourad Koudsia, who had been one of her office administration instructors when she left school to have her son. Thanks to Koudsia, Aytch completed her class. Their teacher–student relationship expanded into a series of email exchanges and impromptu visits to discuss community services referrals, career advice, and life goals.

“As she transitioned from class to class and then approached finishing her associate degree, I said, ‘What’s next?’” says Koudsia, now the Student Success program chair. “I didn’t want to give her the opportunity to say, ‘I’m done.’” Following graduation, Aytch earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, which made her eligible to teach IVYT classes. Koudsia hired her immediately.

“There are many students who can relate to her on a number of levels, whether it’s her race, socioeconomic status, role as a single mom, or position as a student just trying to be a better person,” Koudsia says.

Aytch says next on her agenda is the completion of a master’s degree in management later this year and preparation toward a career in higher education as an academic advisor, executive assistant, or program chair.

“No matter what I do, I want to give back and pour into students as people have poured into me,” Aytch says.

Ivy Tech Black Expo Mr. Ivy Idriss BahIdriss Bah

Indianapolis Campus | Informatics Graduate

Excited to pursue a career in informatics, Ivy Tech graduate Idriss Bah earned his associate degree in May 2018. After graduating, he wanted to continue his education and transferred to Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.  

“I really enjoyed the diversity and the amount of people,” said Idriss. “It was cool to have because in the real world, you work with different sets of people.”

During his time at Ivy Tech, he loved getting involved at his local campus. He was involved with Project Voice, a small podcast where he discussed current events and different topics. Idriss was also a member of Phi Theta Kappa, a national honor society that recognizes academic achievement and provides opportunities to help them grow as both leaders and scholars.  

“The program staff and the campus resources have helped me in terms of reaching my goals and having high honors and GPA.” 

Despite receiving several job offers after graduating from Ivy Tech, he declined in order to pursue his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University. 

His advice to students at Ivy Tech?

“Stay on campus, get your work done, stay focused and utilize all the resources provided by Ivy Tech.”

Even after graduating from Ivy Tech, Idriss has continued to stay involved. He was the student/graduate representative, “Mr. Ivy,” at the College’s exhibit during the July 2018 Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration. 


Audrey Ballard

Indianapolis Campus | Respiratory Therapy Graduate

When looking back on the foundation of her career in respiratory care, Audrey Ballard immediately thinks of Ivy Tech. Not only did her time as a student create the inspiration to go down this path, but also showed her how rewarding a career that helps others could be. 

Audrey discovered Ivy Tech while attending a four-year college. She was three years in with an undecided major, working in a hospital that surrounded her with career ideas. 

“I was intrigued by the desire to help someone in need,” she said. 

From there, Audrey began to research local respiratory programs. When making a decision, she knew she had to make the right choice. She was a new mom and needed to take into consideration a healthy way to balance home, work and school life. That’s when she found Ivy Tech. The School met all of her needs and she was able to go part-time. 

During her time as a student, she was very close with her classmates. Not only did they study together, but participated in team building activities outside of the classroom too. 

Audrey continued to serve others while being a student and became a mentor to incoming respiratory students during her last two years. She supported the respiratory program to help advocate for the profession by becoming a student member of the American Association Respiratory Care (AARC). 

On top of all of this, and being a mother, she made the Dean’s List and graduated Cum Laude. 

In May 1997, she graduated with her degree—and it only inspired her to further her education. 

“I was able to advise colleagues on procedures and patient needs, as well as assist in developing protocols,” she explained. “That led me to want to do more and help make a difference in organizations that served the public.”

Audrey went on to graduate with her Bachelor of Science in Allied Health from IUPUI in 2002, then a Master of Arts in Executive Development from Ball State University in 2007. Five years later, she graduated with a Master of Public Health from the IU School of Medicine. 

While continuing her education, Audrey was mother of three and a clinical specialist for respiratory care at Methodist Hospital. She held this position for 14 years. She came back to her alma mater Ivy Tech to be an adjunct instructor for four of those years. 

Audrey changed directions and in 2006, worked at Indiana Donor Services (formerly the Indiana Organ Procurement Organization) to enhance lives of those on a transplant waiting list. 

All of these roles were fuel to the fire for her passion to help make a difference in the lives of others. 
Shortly after obtaining her Master of Public Health in 2012, she moved to Virginia where she served as Manager for

Respiratory Care and Pulmonary Diagnostics and Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital. 

Over the years, Audrey has also spoken at respiratory care conferences to share significant statistical information. This helped provide important information with others in the profession, allowing them to have a better understanding of what overall needs were, and better ways to serve patients. 

All of this experience since graduating from Ivy Tech grew Audrey’s interest to an international level. In November 2016, she came back to Indianapolis where today, she is a consultant for Eli Lilly and Company. She works in the oncology business unit for patient tailoring and global strategies. 

This role allows Audrey to work with cross-functional teams on a global level. They work to close gaps and provide a robust strategy for those with cancer. 

“While working in my field, there had been challenges along the way,” she said. “I have met many people and these individuals have influenced me. I’ve listened and sought ways to help make a difference despite the challenges.”

Audrey has built trust in her patients, their families and individuals she has led. When she thinks of how it all came to be, it all started at Ivy Tech. 

For students looking to ways to grow in a career, Audrey recommends Ivy Tech. 

“Ivy Tech is personable,” she said. “Seek the resources they have on campus. Understand how these resources will align with your needs to help you be successful in achieving your academic and career goals.”

Audrey remembers the campus being friendly, and noted it is an excellent environment to develop professional relationships. 

“The classrooms are not extremely large or overwhelming so there is an opportunity to reach out to your instructors for additional guidance. Developing this approach will help you in future endeavors.”

Audrey’s career path is inspirational to others, including her three children and granddaughter. 

She continues to give back to her local community and participates in the Big Brother Big Sister program in Indianapolis, where she is a “Big” to her 11-year-old “Little.”

Sandra Banales

Sandra Banales, 24, couldn't speak a single word of English when she sheepishly walked into Klondike Elementary School in West Lafayette on her first day of first grade. She learned the language in no time, and over time, grew passionate about it. Sandra is now on track to receive her master's degree in English (Literary Studies) from Purdue University in May 2017.

She is quick to credit others for the motivation to succeed in the classroom. "First and foremost" is her mom, who consistently believed in her and challenged her; a first-grade teacher who was "far from intimidating" and made learning English fun; and Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette, where she began her post high school education in the fall of 2011. 

"As my high school years were coming to a close, I began to think about my future. Going to college was a given, but I wasn't ready for a large and rigorous university like Purdue," says Sandra. Her two older sisters had attended Ivy Tech for a year before transferring to larger universities, and they enjoyed their experiences. Sandra decided to pursue the same route.

"From the first time I visited the cozy Lafayette campus, I was hooked," she recalls. "The Ivy Tech faculty and staff were so welcoming, and I was attracted by the many ways to get involved."

Soon after the semester began, she discovered the Latino Student Union (LSU), and quickly felt at home. "This group was like family to me," she says. "I participated in events such as Hispanic Day on Campus and volunteered at places such as Lafayette Transitional Housing." She notes some of the friends she made through this organization are her friends today.

Through LSU she also had the opportunity to attend the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute annual conference in Chicago, a premier opportunity to network with others and hear from Latino leaders and motivational speakers representing various fields. "I was so inspired by these influential Latinos. I decided then I wanted to be one of those people one day," she says.

In the classroom she took primarily core courses: math, English, and history. "I was fortunate to have excellent instructors in all my classes who explained information well and because of the small class sizes, were able to provide individual attention to students. I maintained a 4.0 grade point average, and felt ready to begin my next journey," she says.

That next step was to apply to Purdue. All but one of her Ivy Tech classes transferred. She initially applied to Hospitality and Tourism (HTM) and was accepted, but she quickly realized the major was not for her. She decided to switch to Exploratory Studies before taking any HTM classes and began taking English literature classes during her sophomore year. She says, deep down, she always knew she had a "connection with English." At the start of her junior year she transferred into the college of Liberal Arts and officially declared English Literature as her major.

During her senior year she realized she wanted to get an advanced degree, and applied for the competitive Master's program in English. "More than 400 students applied, and less than 10 percent were accepted. I was one of them," she says proudly.

She graduated with her Bachelor's degree in May 2015, and began her master's program that fall. In addition to taking classes, she is also a graduate instructor for Purdue's introductory composition class, English 106. "I have been teaching 20 students each semester, and I love it," she states. Apparently students and faculty are equally pleased with her efforts. For her "excellence in teaching" she was awarded the Quintilian, or "Q," teaching award in the Spring of 2016 for being in the top 10 percent of instructor evaluations in the department.  

What is next along Sandra's journey? "I am not certain about my future job once I graduate," she says. "But I am thinking about working in the education field, maybe teach English outside of the United States, in Mexico or another country."

She's come a long way from when she first entered Ivy Tech Community College, but she says she often thinks about it. "Ivy Tech prepared me to handle Purdue," she states. "I honestly believe I pursued a master's degree and tried so hard to excel academically because of my experiences at Ivy Tech and with the LSU. I was motivated and surrounded by both like-minded individuals and others I could learn from. I am forever grateful for having gone to Ivy Tech for my first year."

Alexandra Banuelos

Fort Wayne Campus | Business Administration Graduate


Alexandra always knew that she was interested in the field of business. She decided to take dual credit courses so that she could earn both high school credit and college credit towards her business major. “I knew it would help me get through college quicker and save me a lot of money.” She enrolled in business marketing as well as business financing.

Prior to enrolling at Ivy Tech, Alexandra knew that she wanted to stay home for her first two years of college. Ivy Tech helped her to get a feel of college before she chose a university to attend.

“I felt that the dual credit classes would help me get a head start in college. My credits would transfer easily.”

During her time at Ivy Tech, Alexandra was very grateful for the free tutoring services. They helped her accomplish many tasks that were holding her back. Another aspect of the college that she enjoyed was Ivy Tech’s student organizations.

Her future plans involve transferring to a four-year university in order to finish her degree in business administration. Ultimately, Alexandra’s career goal is to work in a successful marketing firm.

“My advice to dual credit students it that it is worth taking dual credit classes because you will be ahead of the game.”

Christopher Bowen

Indianapolis Campus | Accounting Graduate

“Ivy Tech has been instrumental in redefining, re-inspiring and redirecting my life.”

During Chris Bowen’s time at Ivy Tech, he got to meet President Obama, serve as Student Government Association President and start a whole new career path. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, and he would be the first to tell you.

“Returning to school as a 40-something is not a decision easily made, and with the demands of children, current career, and just everyday life, following through on the decision can seem impossible,” he said.  But Chris knew he had to do it.  “For me, it was about doing my part to set a good example for my child. Telling him how important his education is, while not completing mine was not the message I wanted to send.” Chris and his son were both enrolled in college at the same time and competed in a “friendly competition” to spur each other on to higher grade point averages.  “Currently, he is winning, but in the end, we will both be winners,” Chris said.

The other reason Chris chose to return to school was to have a bigger impact on the Indianapolis community. He previously worked for Fortune 500 companies, and after a career in restaurant management where he had even been a partner in a popular local establishment, he wanted more. “At the end of the day I felt like all I had done was feed someone who would soon be hungry again.  I wanted to learn how to serve others in more important areas of their lives,” Chris said. He started volunteering at one of the Mayor’s Charter Schools and it led to being hired as a bookkeeper.  However, shortly after the downturn in the economy, the restaurant closed and the part-time position with the school was not enough income to support his family. To add insult to injury, the rules for Charter School financial management changed, requiring certifications he did not have. His options were to return to the restaurant industry or to update his skills and education.  “Failure and unemployment were not options, and as depressing as it was to be unemployed, I knew it would only be a temporary setback if I invested in myself,” Chris said.

Chris was intimidated to come back to school, but he had a strategy. He got involved in Student Life, volunteering for Ivy Tech Days of Service and the panel build for Habitat for Humanity.  As he became more involved, more opportunities were presented to him, such as the Chancellor’s Service Scholars program and the Leadership Academy.  Eventually he served as Student Government President and had the honor of meeting President Obama during his visit to Ivy Tech. President Obama told Chris he could “see why he was selected by his peers to represent them.”

Even though he received many job offers after the first year of coursework, he decided to push through and finish his degree. Chris graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Accounting and was hired by Ivy Tech to work in the Office of the President in the finance office. From there, he was recruited by a CPA group in Indianapolis.

“I am honored to be an alumnus of Ivy Tech ... I could never repay this institution for what they gave me, but I will try by telling everyone who will listen that Ivy Tech really does help make  our dreams a reality and should they be considering attending college in Indiana, Ivy Tech should be the FIRST place they look to help them reach their goals.”


Paul Brenner

Electronic Engineering Technology Graduate

Ivy Tech graduate Paul Brenner is a technology pioneer. Paul is president of NextRadio and TagStation at Emmis Communications, a diversified global communications entity that owns and operates radio, television and magazine entities in large and medium-sized markets throughout the U.S., Europe and Latin America. He has worked very hard to get where he is today—and he credits Ivy Tech with getting his career off to the right start.

“Ivy Tech gave me choices,” Paul says. “Now I’m a corporate technology executive in a global company. I really view Ivy Tech as the beginning of my career success.”

When Paul was a high school student, he didn’t excel academically, and he struggled to find a career path. His less-than-stellar grades made him think he wasn’t cut out for college, and he spent three years working at a Christmas tree farm and party supplier. After overcoming some personal challenges, however, he reevaluated his future and decided it was time to go back to school.

Paul started in the photography program, but quickly switched majors after discovering a passion for the rapidly expanding field of Electronic Engineering Technology. The once-unlikely college student thrived, at Ivy Tech after earning an associate degree he went on to complete a bachelor’s in E-Business and Masters of Information Systems at University of Phoenix.

When a job opened up at Emmis, Paul seized the opportunity, eventually rising through the organization to the position he has today. The lesson, he says, is that you can do anything if you’re willing to work hard.

“You don’t see a lot of division presidents who started at community colleges,” he says. “I had to fight for my accomplishments. People judge you based on what you’ve done. They care about what you can do for their organization.”

Paul’s current project is to get NextRadio, the FM radio streaming app that he built from the ground up, on every smartphone.

“Believe in yourself,” Paul says. “Use every failure and every success to re­flect on your ability and ways to improve. Be adaptable. Pick a career that motivates you, not just gives you a paycheck. Never stop learning, be humble and you will be fine.”

Paul currently serves on the Regional Board of Trustees for Ivy Tech Community College Central Indiana, where he continues to give back to the College where he got his start.

marc brewer i define success storyMarc Brewer

Indianapolis Campus | Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology Student

Marc Brewer has worked at a distribution center in Indianapolis since 2006. He started in the outbound department, loading boxes onto trucks, eventually moving to inbound, where he helped receive freight. It was here that another job caught his eye.

As Marc worked in the distribution center, he saw the mechanics repairing and troubleshooting equipment and it sparked his interest. He approached his employer and learned about a program at Ivy Tech Community College that would prepare him for a job as a mechanic.   

In January 2014, Marc made the decision to enroll in the Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology program at Ivy Tech’s Downtown Indianapolis Campus. 

Through the program, Marc has been able to get hands-on experience with equipment such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs), which has been one of his favorite aspects of the program.

“A lot of things I learn at Ivy Tech, I do in the field. It’s not like you learn about it in the book and then it’s completely different in real life,” Marc said. “You can learn something from the book, but once you get your hands on it and actually do it, that’s how you get a better understanding of it.”

Prior to attending Ivy Tech, Marc had earned a degree from another institution, but it did not help him advance in his career, and ultimately cost him valuable time and money. He noted it was a set-back, but he decided to move forward, encouraging other students to do the same. 

“Don’t quit school. Find something you’re interested in, whatever intrigues your mind, that’s what you should go with. There are always opportunities to change your mind.”

Along the way, Marc has kept a busy schedule. He has his hands full with work, taking care of his teenage niece and nephew and a having a baby of his own. Marc said he could not have done it without time management skills and the support of his wife and family. 

Due to his pursuit of additional education, Marc has gotten a promotion at work as a mechanic, where he gets to do what he loves. Marc is also now teaching classes part-time at Ivy Tech in the Advanced Automation and Robotics program while finishing his degree. 

“Through Ivy Tech I got a promotion at work and the opportunity to teach students, so I can pass on what I’ve learned in the field. It makes me feel good about myself that I can take what I learned and pass that knowledge onto other students.”

Casey Bridgeford

Indianapolis Campus | Political Science-International Relations Graduate

Casey Bridgeford graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and started his own successful company to help fellow entrepreneurs, all by starting at Ivy Tech. 

Casey Bridgeford made the decision to enroll at Ivy Tech Community College after his first business venture was unsuccessful. At the start, his primary goal was to earn good enough grades to retain the Bowen Scholarship he had been awarded. It wasn’t long before he established himself as a stellar student, consistently on the Dean’s List. That led Casey to consider what else he might be able to accomplish.  He joined the Phi Theta Kappa Honors Society and started to apply himself.  “I began to set my sights higher,” he says. “I began to inquire about the possibility of going to an Ivy League university.”

That dream became a reality after Casey was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania. He was able to transfer the credits he earned at Ivy Tech to earn a bachelor’s degree in Political Science-International Relations. During his time at the University, he was a member of the Onyx Academic

 Honors Society and served as a Wharton Fellow, working on the roll-out of Wharton Social Impact Initiative-Africa.

Casey started his own company, OnCast Media, which helps African entrepreneurs overcome barriers and connect them to resources to help get their businesses off the ground. He has also received several honors, including the Citizen’s Energy “125 Leaders” Award and the opportunity to give a TED Talk titled “When Talent Isn’t Enough.” He was recently asked to be on a panel with Forbes 30 under 30 on CNBC Africa’s Young Money segment to discuss the state of entrepreneurship in Africa.

He is actively involved in his community, as a current advisor for My Brother’s Keeper, board member of 18TWENTY8 and advisory board member for NetLiteracy. Casey is also a member of Think Tanks and Civil Societies, a prestigious research group to produce content for the internationally acclaimed publication “The Global Go To Think Tank Index.”

Casey says his experience at Ivy Tech transformed him from someone who adamantly rejected the benefits of higher education to one who sees it as an essential tool for achieving his goals. Accordingly, he has become an advocate for young people to attend college.

“I can, and any other student can, make it from right here. Anyone can achieve anything from starting right here at Ivy Tech.”

Rochelle Brown

South Bend Campus | Criminal Justice Graduate

"...I needed a college that was affordable, flexible, and close to home..."

At the age of 5, Rochelle was sent to live with extended family in the Michiana area. It was different, and a long way from her home in Denver, Colorado. Michiana had no mountains, and the winters were bone-chillingly cold—nothing like a Colorado winter. But, Rochelle eventually adjusted to her new life, making the best of it until she had to leave home again as a high school senior. This time, after just turning 18 years old, it was Rochelle’s responsibility to find a place to live. She was 18, out on her own, and still in high school.

“I had to make it work,” said Rochelle. “It wasn’t easy. It never is. But, I learned a lot about myself and my drive to not just survive, but to make something of myself.” For many high school seniors, working two jobs, paying for your own place, food, and bills is unimaginable. For Rochelle, it was her life. And, despite the odds, she finished her senior at Clay High School.

“After I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue going to school, but I needed a college that was affordable, flexible, and close to home…because I still had to work two jobs,” said Rochelle. “A friend told me about Ivy Tech and suggested I look into it.”

At Ivy Tech, Rochelle said she found what she needed: flexible class times and formats, low tuition and small class sizes. This allowed Rochelle to keep working while pursuing an associate degree.

In 2009, Rochelle graduated from Ivy Tech with her associate degree in Criminal Justice and transferred to Trine University. After graduating a couple of years later with a bachelor’s degree, Rochelle went on to earn a Master of Science in Administration of Justice and Security in 2014 from the University of Phoenix.

Now, Rochelle is a probation officer for St. Joseph County, and can serve in any court in the State of Indiana.

She is also a court substance abuse management specialist and an adjunct faculty member at Ivy Tech’s South Bend and Elkhart County campuses—teaching the courses she took not long ago.

Rochelle continues to contribute to her community beyond her public service career. She volunteers with Big Sister in Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, serves in leadership positions with her church, and helps develop the church’s youth programs. Rochelle is also involved with the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, which offers programs and service to local communities and charities, funds scholarships, and promotes legislation for social and civil change.

“Regardless of my past I am somebody, and my journey doesn’t stop here,” Rochelle said. Her goals for the future include becoming a probation officer for the United States Courts and starting her own minority female private investigative firm.

Matthew Burbrink

Lafayette Campus | Design Technology Graduate

Meet Matthew Burbrink, a 2014 Ivy Tech graduate from the Lafayette campus. He took an unconventional route to achieve his Design Technology degree with Ivy Tech.

Matthew took time off after graduating high school, working in and out of factories for three years before deciding to make a change.

“Ivy Tech was more willing to take me in,” Matthew said, after being away from school for years. He choose Ivy Tech for the “affordable rates, the ability to transfer credits, individualized attention from instructors and career focused courses.”

The courses in Matthew’s program prepared him for a professional career that gave him an edge when it came to finding a career as an entry-level employee.

“I doubt I would have the position I do now, if it wasn’t for the courses or my design instructor that guided my class through the transition into the workforce, this gave me the confidence needed to stand out amongst the crowd,” he said.

The internship program offered through Ivy Tech was also a key element in his success.

Currently, Matthew works for Jayco Inc., where his team designs all facets of a motorized recreation vehicle. He originally started as an intern, through the Ivy Tech program, and was hired immediately after his graduation. Matthew worked his way from an intern to his current role as an Engineering Supervisor.

Matthew advised by choosing Ivy Tech, it was the smartest choice he could make to find a career instead of another job. His advice to those interested in Ivy Tech?

“If you’re not sure what to go in for, take a chance and select something that feels right because once you find that path, it will open up a whole world of possibilities.”

Kirsten Calhoun

Indianapolis Campus | Nursing Graduate

According to Kirsten Calhoun, sometimes in life people get stuck thinking about all the things they thought they got wrong or what they could have done differently. She noted that her graduation day was a day to reflect on what she had done right.

Kirsten first knew she wanted to be a nurse in high school, which was more than 20 years ago. Her goals were delayed by starting a family and choosing a different career path but her passion for nursing never left.

Her journey to achieve her career aspirations was not an easy one. Over the course of the years she helped care for her grandmother, who eventually passed from lung cancer, her father, who became ill and required care at home and her late husband, who passed away in 2012 from lung disease. 

“It was then that I took a chance and left my 15-year career with a local school district to finally obtain my dream,” Kirsten said.

The summer of 2012 she started taking her pre-requisites at Ivy Tech Community College in hopes of eventually getting into the nursing program.

“This is the program everyone talks about, the program with the best reputation, the program that everyone works so hard for to get that acceptance letter,” Kirsten said.

In June 2015, Kirsten was ecstatic to get her acceptance packet from Ivy Tech.

“I had the excitement of a 5 year old on Christmas morning, but that excitement soon became unraveled,” Kirsten said.

A month before she was to start nursing school, Kirsten’s world was turned completely upside down when her 23-year-old son passed away. She was devastated by the loss and decided to meet with the nursing department chair to discuss her options for moving forward.

“The compassion I received that day from Ms. DeLeon told me to keep pressing forward and I knew it was the right thing to do. I knew that Ivy Tech would become a part of my family and I was going to get through this,” Kirsten said.

Along the way, she met classmates who shared the same passion for nursing and developed lasting friendships. She noted that with every accomplishment she made in the program, her professors were there to cheer her on.

“Always reflect on and embrace your own personal journey that reminds you of what you got right today, because this will be one of the most valuable journeys you’ve ever gotten right,” Kirsten said of graduation day.

Kirsten graduated December 2016 and served as the student commencement speaker for the school of nursing ceremony. She plans to work in the community to help combat the heroin epidemic. Kirsten also plans to work toward her master’s degree in nursing education so she can return to Ivy Tech to teach.  

Good Bones David Carnes, Ivy Tech graduateDavid Carnes

Indianapolis Campus | Design Technology Graduate

A few years ago, David Carnes knew he was ready to make his third career change, but wasn’t sure what exactly he wanted to do. He knew he loved graphic design and construction, and was looking for a way to combine those two passions. 

After research, he found Ivy Tech Community College’s design technology program—and it was the perfect fit. 

“That’s what CAD (computer-aided design) is,” he said. “It was very adaptive to my past construction in graphic design and I fell in love with CAD.”

David loved the design technology program and working with his professors. Through his hard work and relationship with his instructors, he was able to have a job lined up before he graduated with CG Vision. 

Since graduating in December 2016 and joining the team at CG Visions, he has advanced within the company four times.  

“I started at an entry level position and moved up three times, then moved laterally to a different district in the company,” he said.

Today, David is a senior revit BIM (building information modeling) designer for residential buildings all across the United States, Canada and Australia. 

In addition to his full-time job, David had another exciting change in his career that he never expected: Being featured on HGTV’s “Good Bones.” David got involved with the show through his side business, Indy Woodsmith. 

Alongside friend and college roommate Craig Smith, the two have a custom woodworking business in Indianapolis. 

While the two were selling items at an event, Mina Starsiak of the show walked by. David had never actually seen the show, but knew Mina from a television spot they did together in the past. He reached out to her and she had actually wanted to buy a few pieces for a home they were working on. They came back with a camera crew and filmed for the show. 

From there, Indy Woodsmith has also been featured on six additional episodes of Good Bones. They may continue working with them for the third season, too. 

“It’s always pretty surreal when you’re going to be on national TV show,” David said. 

He wasn’t sure when the first episode was going to air and was in California for work at the time when his phone began to go off. 

After being featured on the show, Indy Woodsmith’s orders had doubled overnight and their social media presence quadrupled. 

Through his side business to his full-time work, David loves being able to use his skills and is fond of his time at Ivy Tech. 

“You’re going to see the best bang for your buck,” he explained. “You’re going to have the ability to get a job after you graduate. I have nothing but good things to say about Ivy Tech. I’m still paying off my bachelor’s degree from my undergrad and Ivy Tech gave me the ability in a year and a half to have a higher level, higher paying job.”

For those considering their options, he said a community college education is a very valuable investment. 

During his time at the College, he became close with his professors Jason Roth and Jamie Hamilton. To this day, he still remains in contact with them and they will occasionally reach out with job opportunities they hear about—even though they know he is happy. 

David advises students to network and develop relationships with fellow students, alumni and professors. 
For more information about Indy Woodsmith, and to see video clips of them featured on Good Bones, visit Facebook.com/IndyWoodsmith

Photo above (left to right): Craig Smith, David Carnes, Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak. 


Mira Cassidy 

Indianapolis Campus | General Studies Graduate

When Mira Cassidy decided to go to college, she was a single mom looking for the opportunity to improve herself and to provide a better quality of life for her child. She wanted a school that was cost-friendly and convenient. 

Mira became interested in Ivy Tech after visiting the campus and hearing the wonderful things said about the school. 

“The one thing that attracted me the most was the reputation. When giving advice, others would suggest to me, ‘Try Ivy Tech,’ and I’m glad I did,” she said. 

Since she was a child, Mira remembers keeping a journal and writing poetry. While finishing her Associate Degree in General Studies, she took a creative writing course that sparked a career in writing. She felt like all of the puzzle pieces were coming together. 

“I was blossoming, and I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned not only in creative writing, but throughout my education, and apply it to my life and my career.”

Today, Mira is a self-published author. Her debut novel, Let Mia Tell It, is based off real events that tell a story about domestic violence, and how it can happen to anyone. She hopes to become a best-selling author and to take her experiences to a public speaking format. 

“I’d like to give the life lessons that I’ve had or what I’ve learned to others, so they can be encouraged and hopefully make better decisions to benefit themselves.” 

Because of Ivy Tech, Mira learned critical thinking skills that helped her achieve success. She advises students interested in Ivy Tech tour the campus, visit career services, and talk with individuals from different departments. 

“Ivy Tech is the number one community college in the United States of America. That’s a big deal! Ivy Tech has proven to be a reliable center for education and advancement. I’m proud to be an alumni.” 

Brayan Castillo 

Northeast Region | Business Administration

Why did you choose Ivy Tech Northeast? I chose Ivy Tech not only for its affordable tuition, but also because it’s close to home. The Business Administration program at Ivy Tech can transfer to most universities in Indiana. Many of my business courses are preparing me for the business world through class projects and connections on campus and within the community.

What are your plans after graduation? After I complete an associate degree, I plan on transferring to IUPUI and applying to its Kelley School of Business. I plan on double-majoring in marketing and international business and minoring in Spanish.

What is your No. 1 career goal? I want to be an entrepreneur. My ultimate goal is to own a business and expand it to global markets. I also want to be an educator and mentor aspiring entrepreneurs.

Who has been your biggest cheerleader? Honestly, I don’t have just one cheerleader. My cheerleaders are my family and friends. Some of my biggest motivators are my peers from GOAL y Amigos (Graduating Outstanding Achieving Latinos and Friends), a student organization on campus. GOAL y Amigos has motivated me to become a better student, and I can always come to the members for help in anything.

What does “success” mean to you? Success, to me, means enjoying what you do in your career and doing it well. Like the saying goes, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

FearGod Okwubido

Richmond Campus | General Studies Graduate

Meet FearGod Victor Chinecherem (Chin-ĕ-chair-um) Okwubido (O-kū-bē-doe) Williams, a General Studies major. He arrived in Richmond, Indiana from Nigeria to begin his educational journey. He quickly adjusted to campus life and within a short time became the Vice President of the Multicultural Student Organization (MSO), a member of Student Government Association (SGA) and Campus Activities Board (CAB). He also became a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He completed his associate’s degree within four semesters, while simultaneously enrolled in courses at Indiana University East Richmond and maintained a 4.0 GPA. FearGod’s ultimate goal is to obtain his medical degree and return to Nigeria.

This is his story in his words.

“Once I started my Ivy Tech studies, the question from most easily became my cultural background and heritage. Every time I started a new class or met a person for the first time, I would get prodded with questions with one underlying denominator: whether or not I was from or around Richmond, Indiana. Once I say otherwise, the individuals, colleagues and instructors alike, would always want to know more; from the inquisitive who want to understand why I choose to be at Richmond, to the exotic, who want to know if I have seen elephants or lions, to the surprised, who desire to examine my thought process in travelling out of my country, as they say “just” for an education. In the first few months, it was a struggle in classrooms and conferences alike, as it seemed like all everyone cared about was how I spoke English well, or with an accent, or how I must miss home, amongst other numerous scenarios.

However, the more the questions churned out, the better I had to become in articulating responses that were as representative of me or my country, as they were correct. Today, I am known as FearGod to some; to others, it is the International student from Nigeria; to the rest, a human. I attest, I am all of these every day. Life as I perceive it has and will remain a lifelong learning process. My high school was a melting pot of some kind; the four-year hiatus before my first college class was the crucible; my home the drawing board; society at large, a people, and, most importantly, my education representing the platform to serve, follow, learn, and lead as a significant student. This understanding of the platform of my education was only made clearer as I studied at Ivy Tech.

On May 7, 2016, I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in General Studies, and I wholeheartedly know that for me, education has and will never been a one-time phenomenon. Ivy Tech to a large proportion represents truly what it means to have a solid college system that keeps one going forward as long as their visions stay clear. Every single one of the Ivy Tech staff – my professors, the learning resource and tutoring staff members, the advising and admission office members have left indelible marks on my life forever. I will never forget their names, and my story is never complete without according them honor.

As I assimilated into the program in the beginning and even as I climbed to new heights, I got help from every person all along the way. This will never be taken for granted, because just as Theodore Roosevelt expressed, Ivy Tech really helped me “keep my eyes on the stars, with my feet on the ground”. I am FearGod Okwubido-Williams. I am Ivy Tech now and always. My educational experiences here in the States have represented everything I had never really understood education to be.

Yes, in Nigeria, I knew I was part of a society, but the main focus was on a basic classroom education. Ivy Tech on the other hand, exemplifies the true purpose of an education of purpose and change. I leave there knowing that a model society is only made by the encompassing service inputs and otherwise from her students and schools.

At Ivy Tech, I have treaded the education sidewalks, carefully building my firm vision and foundation, patiently learning the roles of the solid framework - which is the school [as a necessity for society]. Importantly, boundaries on my basics and responsibilities as a student have been essentially eliminated by this education. Now, I move into the streets, which efficiently represent the educational juggernaut I am transferring to and the world I hope to impact, aspiring to be that student; studious, teachable, understanding, disciplined, exemplary, nurtured and transformed in every facet of life.

I want more than a Bachelor’s or even a PhD degree, for reason is not lost on me, that there remain children like me, who have stories to share, but may never have the opportunity to tell them. I could not have stood more with Malala, the proponent of the indisputable ideal that “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen, can change the world.” I hope with the platform of my education, I can be the teacher with books and pens, empowering people to break free of the pain – psychological and otherwise, poverty and hopelessness that once engulfed my family and me. The power of a liberated future and hope to be heard all lie in the story. This is my story and every day, I remember I am truly lucky to have been given the mantle, the books, the pens and the teachers. I intend to pass these on to as many as I can reach.

Education has provided me with the steps to reach out, impact and inspire; here I am this day, vowing to climb those steps until the end.”

Esther Condé

Indianapolis Campus | ASAP Graduate

Esther Condé earned her bachelor’s degree in three years and is now excelling in her career.

By taking advantage of Ivy Tech’s Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP), Esther Condé was able to earn her bachelor’s degree in three years and get a head start toward a great career. Esther speaks French fluently and is originally from Guinea, where her parents still reside. She made the decision to come to the United States to pursue her education.

In 2011, Esther graduated from the ASAP Program, earning her associate degree in just one year. The credits she earned at Ivy Tech transferred to Ashford University in Iowa, where she received a full-ride scholarship to study business administration. Just two years later, she was able to complete her bachelor’s degree.

“Transferring from ASAP to Ashford University was really easy for me because of my friends and because of the support staff. They really pushed me throughout ASAP and I took that with me to Ashford University,” Esther said. “I feel like I’m more successful because of ASAP.”

Upon graduation, she was hired by NextGear Capital as an audit reconciliation representative. She found the job opportunity through a career fair during her time at Ivy Tech. Esther has been offered a promotion within her company to a position in Canada, where she can utilize her French-speaking skills and the knowledge/skills she learned at Ivy Tech.

Oumar Coulibaly

Indianapolis Campus | Information Technology Support Graduate

“Ivy Tech helped make my largest dreams come true.”

According to Oumar Coulibaly, the word success defined his experience at Ivy Tech.

During his time at Ivy Tech Community College, Oumar successfully achieved his biggest accomplishments in life. Oumar is from the country Mali, so attending school in the US was a huge achievement for him.

Since Oumar was learning as an international student, he did not think that college was meant for him. Just three years ago, he was not even able to speak English. Some of the challenges he was forced to overcome were accommodating himself to the English language as well as the American culture.

He gained more knowledge with new technology software at a low cost through Ivy Tech. Oumar appreciated the computer skills that he learned that give him the opportunity to study something he is extremely passionate about.

His favorite parts of attending Ivy Tech were his helpful instructors and the Learning Resource Center. The small class sizes were also important to Oumar, because he felt personal attention from each instructor.

Oumar is proud of himself and his success at Ivy Tech. Being a foreign student in a different country is an accomplishment in itself. Not only was he able to attain his degree, but was also able to experience an entirely different culture other than his own. “Graduating from college was a dream to me. Ivy Tech helped make my largest dreams come true.”

In the future, Oumar plans to gain as much experience in his field as possible after attaining his college degree. With his Ivy Tech degree, he will transfer to a four year institute and achieve his future goals. He plans to open a school for computing and English in his home country Mali.

According to Oumar, “Ivy Tech made me believe in myself and helped me to find my way.”

Kelsey Dugle

Columbus Campus | Environmental Design Graduate

Kelsey Dugle’s interior design skills will soon appear on televisions everywhere.

A 2016 graduate of Ivy Tech Community College, Dugle recently worked as a design production assistant for the HGTV show “Good Bones.” The show, filmed in Indianapolis, features mother and daughter real estate team Karen E. Laine and Mina Starsiak renovating homes in the Fountain Square and Bates-Hendricks neighborhoods.

As a design production assistant, Dugle helped decorate and stage newly renovated homes for the show.
“We go in and we make it look pretty,” Dugle said. “We bring in the rugs, the furniture, the lamps, the artwork, and we put the room together to stage it for the show.”

The design skills she learned at the Ivy Tech Columbus School of Fine Arts and Design helped her stand out among the show’s other production assistants. She was the only one with a degree in environmental interior design, which earned her the trust of the show’s interior designers to effectively and professionally stage a room. 

Dugle landed the job the way many college graduates find their first jobs — by searching online. A resident of Greensburg, Dugle was looking for jobs in the Indianapolis and Cincinnati areas. She kept in touch with her instructors at Ivy Tech, who helped guide her search until she found the production assistant listing on the Indiana Design Center website.

“I sent my resume and everything to the production manager, but he told me the job had been filled,” Dugle recalls. “A month later, he called me back and asked if I was still interested because they needed someone right away.”

The education she received at Ivy Tech prepared her well and provided her a pathway to a fulfilling career opportunity. Before coming to the College, she considered becoming a teacher and was studying education at another university. 

After taking a few education classes and substitute teaching, she felt teaching wasn’t the right fit for her. In her history courses, she was more interested in the historic structures rather than the names and dates of the events that took place.

She also liked doing home improvement and do-it-yourself projects. Whenever there was work to be done around home, such as painting or carpeting, she would help out.

“I always felt kind of handy,” Dugle said. “I thought about doing interior design years ago, but I pushed it aside.”

With a renewed interest in interior design, she researched design schools throughout the state and found that the quality and depth of Ivy Tech’s program aligned well with her. Following her interests in historic buildings, she also took a course in historic preservation, which she aced.

She also liked that Ivy Tech enabled her to take classes and complete the program close to home.
“I feel like I got a full four years in less than two,” Dugle said. “It’s fantastic.”

Her job as a production assistant has wrapped up for now. She expects the episodes that feature rooms she helped stage to air in late May 2017. 

As she searches for her next opportunity, she has the invaluable experience of designing homes for a national television show.


Moly Dykstra

Fine Arts Student

Molly Dykstra, a 42-year-old newly divorced woman, had an extensive amount of responsibilities on her plate, but also an immense passion for art. Even though art was her passion, she ignored her wants and continued the path as she always had. With her abundance of responsibilities, many told her that a career in art wasn’t a “real job.” However, she followed her heart and started her journey toward earning a degree in Fine Arts.

“The instructors at Ivy Tech Community College were an amazing group of working artists who offered me a diverse experience,” said Molly. “They provided me a variety of wisdom without hesitation. This allowed me to explore a wide range of mediums and techniques that lead to a successful art career.”

Of the many well renowned art schools in the Midwest, Molly believes Ivy Tech is one of the best schools that she could’ve chosen. Like many other students that attend Ivy Tech, the low cost of tuition and flexible class times allowed her to continue to support her family while earning her degree.

“Ivy Tech is among the finest of art schools. It allowed me to continue to live and support my family while also pursuing my education.”

While attending Ivy Tech, Molly had the opportunity to have her work shown in various Indianapolis galleries. She received a variety of awards, including several Best in Shows. Molly even went on to earn many IMDb credits while working on the web series Star Trek Continues, and the illustration of the book All About Benjamin that was published in 2016.

“Being a Fine Arts student at Ivy Tech not only taught me techniques in art, but how to live as a professional artist. I have learned so much, from exploring new mediums, speaking to other professionals, as well as showing my work.”

Molly will be graduating with her degree in Fine Arts in May of 2018 semester. She plans to continue to grow in her field, and show her art at many more Indianapolis galleries.

Gustavo FigueroaGustavo Figueroa

Fort Wayne Campus | Visual Communications Student

What are your plans after graduation? Getting a bachelor’s degree in the audio-video and graphic design fields. 

What is your No. 1 career goal? This is a question where I’ve been changing the answer over and over again. I want a career working for a marketing company, taking photographs of events and people and creating layouts for publicity.   

Who has been your biggest cheerleader? My biggest cheerleader has been myself. If this weren’t the case, I would have stopped studying right after high school, or I would have quit college after I failed my first class. My parents have been pretty supportive, too, in everything I’ve been involved with. 

What does “success” mean to you? Success, to me, means living life doing something you love to do. If you enjoy your job, the workplace, the people, and the positive vibes around them, that’s success. But that doesn't mean we should stop once we reach that point. We should always be creating new goals to improve ourselves. 

Preston Franklin

Indianapolis Campus | Information Technology Graduate

After Preston Franklin graduated from Ivy Tech Indianapolis with his Associate of Applied Science from the School of Information in Technology, he proudly displayed it on his wall. It was placed just underneath the picture of his mother, who passed away when he was 10-years-old. 

“This one is for her,” he said. “It’s a long time coming.”
Preston studied information technology support, noting it was the best program to learn the basics of what he wanted to accomplish. 

During his time as a student, he participated in the Collegiate Veterans Association (CVA) and Student Veterans Association (SVA). Each of these groups helps veterans in a variety of ways.

“At school, we have resource fairs and things like that where we try to help veterans get the full benefits of their education so they know what program they can utilize for payments for tuition,” he explained. 

They also work to help veterans break through barriers and acclimate to the civilian lifestyle. 
Preston is a veteran himself and served in the Air Force for eight years, then the Army National Guard for one year. He did two tours overseas. 

He has enjoyed participating in the CVA and SVA to help other veterans overcome obstacles.
“It’s hard being a civilian,” Preston explained. “I’ve been out over 20 years.”

Also while at Ivy Tech, Preston has loved learning new skills in his Information Technology Support program and working with his professors, including Mrs. Christine Bresnahan, or “Mrs. B” as she goes by in his Linux 116 class. 
For others new to Ivy Tech, or considering the college, he recommends getting into study groups as soon as you can to help you succeed. 

“There is help out there if you know where to look,” Preston said. 
After graduating with his degree from the School of  Information Technology, Preston will take a break from school and then pick up his education in the fall. 

“My first passion is medical,” he explained. 

Years prior, he was a nursing student and was even a CPR instructor after Ivy Tech. He hopes to earn his Advanced Cardio Life and Pediatric Cardio Life certifications so he can teach. When he revisits his education in the fall, he may take all medical courses or mix in medical and computer classes simultaneously. 

No matter what, he is proud of the work he has accomplished in his mother’s honor. 

“This is truly for her; she is my hero!”


Louis Gattone Ivy Tech GraduateLouis Gattone

Indianapolis Campus | Cyber Security Graduate

Going back to school as an adult can seem like an unimaginable feat, but it’s a decision that students like Louis Gattone know is well worth it. 

Louis, a married father of two children (ages 11 and 14), decided to go back to school at 35 and get his first degree in Cyber Security and Information Assurance. He knew it would be hard work, especially opting to go to school full time. 

“Ivy Tech provided a great environment to get my education done, while working full time and raising two boys,” he said. 
Louis, who will graduate in December 2017, chose Cyber Security because he knew he would be able to start his new career quickly. He put in many late nights and long hours just to accomplish his goal. 

“I am just so grateful for my wife, who has supported my crazy schedule, so I could achieve my dream of getting my degree,” he said. “This past summer was back breaking as I took an internship with a cyber security company and kept my full-time job as a manager at a warehouse.”

During this time, Louis worked 80 hour weeks, seven days a week for 14 weeks straight to get the experience he needed. 
To keep him motivated, Louis credits one of his professors, Anthony Ford, for his great teaching personality and ability to keep the class engaged. He also was inspired by another professor, Dave Wilson, for the large amount of knowledge he was able to bring to class every day. 

Over the last two years Louis was in school, he has enjoyed spending time with fellow classmate Grant Hodges. Louis explained Grant is inspiration that age is just a number—which rings true for many Ivy Tech students, especially working adults. 

Louis hopes others will consider Ivy Tech for their postsecondary education to avoid some of the mishaps he previously experienced. 

“Do not make the same mistake I did and take out more money than absolutely needed to cover tuition (in the form of loans),” he explained. “Take advantage of the affordable tuition and go into your four-year university debt-free and heading in the right direction.”

He also hopes adults considering a career change, or looking to get a degree, make that leap to achieve their goals.

“If it’s what you want, do what you have to do at any cost to get where you want to be. You will thank yourself in five years from now when you are no longer in a job, but a thriving career.”

Madison and Karen Gellinger

Indianapolis Campus | Nursing

Mother and daughter Karen and Madison Gellinger both decided to come to Ivy Tech to pursue careers in nursing. When asked if Karen influenced her daughter’s decision to come to Ivy Tech, Karen responded, “Absolutely.”

Karen graduated from Ivy Tech in 2006 and now works at Community East Hospital in the Labor and Delivery Unit.

Several years ago, Karen made the decision to come to Ivy Tech when she found out her job as an account manager was being eliminated. She had always been interested in labor and delivery nursing and found that at Ivy Tech she was able to study nursing while staying at home with her children part-time. Karen was very happy with the class size, convenience, and affordability of Ivy Tech.

“It was quick and very affordable (with four children at home) and I was told by many of the clinical units that they preferred Ivy Tech graduates over other schools because we always worked really hard. My Director at Community East Hospital was also an Ivy Tech graduate,” Karen said.

When it came time for Madison to pick a college during her junior year of high school, Karen had some wise advice for her.

Thanks to her mother, Madison knew Ivy Tech would offer her one-on-one instruction that she would not get at a larger university. She also noted Ivy Tech is the most cost efficient route that will put her in her desired field in the least amount of time. Madison is currently enrolled at the Ivy Tech Hamilton County Campus.

“Ivy Tech will help me achieve my goals by giving me an excellent education with many opportunities for growth by allowing me to take my learning and advancement in my own hands.”

Along with Ivy Tech’s affordable tuition, Madison received a scholarship through the Rotary Club in Noblesville and won a drawing for a free class at the opening of the Hamilton County Campus. Similar to her mother, Madison’s favorite thing about Ivy Tech is its flexibility. She has the ability to create her class schedule around her work schedule, while continuing to advance.

Madison plans to graduate with her degree in nursing, just as her mother did. Upon graduation, her goal is to work in an emergency department of a hospital.

She said of her mother, “She was definitely a good example of the fact that Ivy Tech degrees stand out in the working field. Her success with the school made it apparent to me that it was an excellent place to obtain my education.”

Alexandra Green headshot

Alexandra Green

Early Childhood Education

In the summer of 2016, Alexandra Green graduate with her Associate of Science in Early Childhood Education from Ivy Tech. Not only this, but she graduate Cum Laude and while still a student, began her career at the Monroe County YMCA - working with toddler-age children.

Alexandra has now been working with the YMCA for two years, and plans to transfer her associate degree to Indiana Wesleyan University to begin her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education in the spring of 2017. Alexandra entered Ivy Tech with a goal in mind: transferring to Indiana Wesleyan University to earn a bachelor's degree in her desired field.

“It is amazing watching children discover new things,” Green said. “I enjoy helping them learn things for themselves.”

Alexandra decided to enroll at Ivy Tech because of its affordability and online options, and encourages "anyone considering education to try working in the field first." The reasoning? "It will make you more aware of what a career in education will be like."

In April of 2016, Alexandra was one of seventeen childhood teachers awarded the Early Childhood Excellent Educator Award from Monore Smart Start - an award that recognizes educators who are improving education in the community.

Rowena Hawkins Ivy TechRowena Hawkins

Indianapolis Campus | Hospitality Administration Graduate

Rowena Hawkins’ family was shocked when she announced she was going to culinary school. This widow and mother of four never excelled in cooking and laughs about her lack of culinary experience prior to attending Ivy Tech’s Hospitality Administration program. She graduated with a Culinary Arts degree in May 2016.  

“I could not cook eggs, I could not cook rice,” she said, noting how people asked her how she raised her children without cooking. 

Rowena went back to school for herself and her children. Once she began taking classes, she became inspired and fell in love with cooking different recipes. She also loved the support system that her instructors and classmates gave her during her time at Ivy Tech. 

Since graduating from Ivy Tech, Rowena had plenty of job opportunities. “I would say there is no reason to not have a job after Ivy Tech,” she said.   

Rowena loved how the college helps students throughout their academic career. She is happy she chose to go back to school at Ivy Tech.

Kanisha Head

General Studies Student

Kanisha Head’s family was always on the move during her childhood.

“Because of my family situation, we moved a lot, I went to three high schools,” she said. “However, at a young age I was able to accept my fate and was determined to change it. I knew the only way to change it was to do well in school, graduate from high school, and go to college.”

During her senior year, Kanisha learned about the Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP). The program helps high school graduates earn an associate degree in just 11 months and prepares them to transfer to a four-year college to earn their bachelor's degree. She wanted to apply because she recognized a great opportunity.

But Kanisha wasn’t sure about her choice. “At first I was scared because I thought it would be a lot of hard work and fast paced. It is hard work! But it’s a good experience,” she said. “I’m so happy I applied.”

Kanisha is a great believer in hard work. “Do great in high school because that where it starts. You cannot slack during your senior year. That is the worse rumor I’ve ever heard. You should do your hardest work your senior year and it will really pay off,” she advises.

And Ivy Tech will help Kanisha reach her goals. “If you want to transfer, it’s definitely a more affordable route. Ivy Tech is a good stepping stone. It will get you where you want to go.”

While a student at Ivy Tech, Kanisha has taken advantage of opportunities to become involved, including Phi Theta Kappa, the college’s honor society, and the Student Leadership Academy.

Kanisha hopes to get an internship this summer and transfer to University of Indianapolis to study business. She’s happy that Ivy Tech will help her graduate with less debt.

“Ivy Tech is a great school and a great opportunity,” Kanisha said. “It’s changed my whole world and has given me the opportunities I’ve always hoped for.” 

Tiffany Iraheta Huezo

Indianapolis Campus | Business Administration Graduate

Tiffany Iraheta Huezo is the definition of a high achiever.

During her two years at Ivy Tech Community College, Tiffany accomplished more than the average college student. She was involved in three honor societies: the National Society of Leadership and Success, Phi Theta Kappa and American Honors. She also served as a federal work study for the Career Development Office, which helped grow her professionally. Tiffany credits the Career Development Office, her advisor and her professors for helping her get where she is today.

“At the beginning of my first semester, I did not think that I was going to be a member of three honors societies … I can say that I am proud of where I am so far.”

Tiffany will graduate December 2016 cum laude, representing her division as the student speaker.

Next fall, Tiffany plans to transfer her credits to IUPUI to study marketing and international studies. Her dream career is to work for an international company and be a marketing manager. Eventually, once she gains enough experience, she would like to open her own European style club/restaurant.

“I will miss Ivy Tech, it was a great experience because I met amazing people, I had great opportunities in my education path, and career too.”

Julie Hopkins

Wabash Valley Campus | Liberal Arts Graduate

Ivy Tech Student Graduates Rose-Hulman While Traveling to Empower Women

This spring, Julie was a Senior Chemical Engineering Major at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a double major in Biochemistry. She was enrolled in 6 classes at Rose (Advanced Biochemistry, Nanoparticle Drug Delivery, Senior Chemical Engineering Design: Lactic Acid Fermentation, Special Project Research: Chemical Engineering Bioreactor Installation, and Bee Virus Research) and four at Ivy Tech (Lifespan Development, Anatomy and Physiology I, Nutrition, LIBA capstone).

Last fall she was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa at Ivy Tech and, in January, she accepted the position as the Vice President of Scholarship for the chapter. Hopkins participated in a debate for Free Community College at Ivy Tech as part of our honors in action project for 2015, and the “Tomorrow’s Leaders” workshop as part of their college project.

This year at Rose-Hulman, she was awarded the Noel E. Moore Award from her professors and was inducted into Omicron Chi Epsilon (Chemical Engineering Honors Society) just a few weeks ago. She was a front page/opinions sections writer for the school newspaper and an all-conference athlete. In the community she has worked for two years volunteering at Union Hospital in the Cardiology Unit. She is an active participate in MAM or Morning After Ministries based out of Nashville, TN.

In 2009 she left Rose-Hulman to participate in this program and to work to make a difference in other women’s lives. This program seeks to empower women and to work with churches to teach them on how to better deal with their women members seeking help from self-hate, cutting, drug/alcohol abuse, and promiscuity. Additionally, she has traveled as a speaker to empower women recovering from rape/sexual trauma and alcohol addiction.

It was from this work that she changed her life course from engineering to nursing. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Ivy Tech on May 5th and with honors from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology on May 28th. Julie will be attending Goshen College for her BSN, class of 2018.              

Rona James

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Graduate

“I believe setting goals is the start of one’s success! Without setting goals, nothing can be reached.”

In 2013, Rona James set a goal to go to college and come to Ivy Tech. This single mom began this journey excited, fearful and determined.

It wasn’t easy along the way and Rona was faced with many obstacles. She even changed her major three times before she found her purpose in human services. There were several late nights doing homework and studying but Rona persevered. Even with math and biology not being her strong suits, she still managed to be on the Dean’s List.

Rona loved her professors who helped push her to achieve her goal. In her last semester of school, she received the wrong textbooks for a class.

“The situation had totally depleted me until the great Mr. Cooney told me, ‘One day you will be able to look at this as an accomplishment!’” Rona said. “On December 17, 2016, I will!”

During her last two years at Ivy Tech, she was also a Bowen Scholar and was grateful for all the services they provided for her and her family.

Rona will graduate from Ivy Tech in December 2016 with her associate degree in human services. From there, she plans to transfer to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to study social work and obtain her master’s degree in counseling.

“I hope to one day open a facility to help pregnant teenage girls and their babies,” she said.

For other people who would like to make a change in their life, Rona encourages them to work to reach their goals.

“Today I am excited, fearless and determined to pass this baton to you and race to receive yet another one up ahead that waits for me!” she said. “Enjoy your journey, strive to meet your goals and soon you too will be passing your baton to someone else!”

Delores "GG" Eldora Johnson

Indianapolis Campus | Fine Arts Graduate

At 87 years young, Delores Eldora Johnson is proof that you are truly never too old to get your degree.

Delores, or “GG” as she is known around campus, is an inspiration to all who know her.

“You don’t have to call me Miss Johnson, I’m a student just like you are,” she tells her fellow classmates.

GG is graduating May 2017 for the third time from Ivy Tech Community College, with an Associate of Arts degree. She has also earned an Associate of Science degree in Human Services and a Technical Certificate in Early Childhood Education. Additionally, she has two degrees from IUPUI.

What drives GG to be a lifelong learner? As a young girl with seven brothers and sisters, GG was put into foster care after her father left. At the age of 13, GG was told by her adopted mother that she could not go back to school-- that she needed to “grow up” and start working. 
“Every time I get ready to drop out, I hear ‘It’s time to grow up’ and I jump back in school. I’m scared to grow up.”

Throughout GG’s life, she had a tough road. From doing manual labor, to facing discrimination as an African American taxi dispatcher, to surviving throat cancer, she has lived through more than most of her classmates. She is also very open about having struggled with alcoholism for many years, and is now happy to report 30 years of sobriety. 

Determined to get her education, GG earned her GED in 1990 and set her sights on higher education. She fondly remembers the day she was accepted into college.

“Oh my goodness, when they told me I’m a college student! I’m a what? Believe me, that was a day in my life and I cannot forget that day!” 

She earned her first college degree at the age of 74 and has not stopped since. In fact, GG plans to continue her studies after graduating from Ivy Tech for the third time, likely pursuing a degree in philosophy. 

“People tell me they come here because they heard about me. That inspires me to keep going.”

GG is an active volunteer and community member in Indianapolis and literally has binders full of accomplishments. Her volunteer work includes Unicef, American Cancer Society, Wishard volunteers with Ezkenazi Health, and Indy Reads to name a few. She is also a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society at Ivy Tech and is involved with student life. 

GG calls Ivy Tech Community College her second home, and for good reason.

“It is a wonderful, wonderful, community college. At Ivy Tech we are a mutual admiration society.”

Amanda Johnston

Indianapolis Campus | Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology Graduate

“Never let anyone tell you that you can't do something, set your sights on your goals and dreams and just keep pushing through until you get there.” 

After years of dead end jobs and wanting more for her life and family, Amanda decided she wanted to go into machine maintenance. She knew Ivy Tech Community College was the place to help her succeed in this career path.

“Being a woman, in a male dominated field, I knew that it was going to take an education and a lot of hard work.”

She knew having kids and a full-time job was going to present challenges in going back to school. As she explored her options, she discovered that Ivy Tech offered online classes, as well as small classes on campus. Before making the decision to go back to school, Amanda talked to her family and made sure that she would have their support.

“My real motivation was when an older man at my (then current) job told me that I couldn't be a machine mechanic because that was a man's job. I told him to hide and watch.” 

The first couple semesters at Ivy Tech, Amanda took classes online and scheduled her classes on the same day of the week to work around her full-time work schedule. 

Her employer offered tuition reimbursement at 100 percent for A's and 75 percent for B's. This pushed her to work hard for straight A’s, and continually landed her on the Dean’s list at Ivy Tech. 

When her work schedule didn't allow her to take all the classes she needed on the same day, she would pick up welding classes to fill the gaps. While taking classes in welding, she learned about opportunities at a company called Major Tool and Machine.

About a year ago, she took took a big chance and switched jobs. As of December 2016, Amanda works as a machine mechanic at Major Tool and Machine, successfully accomplishing what she set out to achieve.

“My advice is never let anyone tell you that you can't do something; set your sights on your goals and dreams and just keep pushing through until you get there.” 

Amanda will graduate with her associate degree in Advanced Automation and Robotics Technology in December 2016. Eventually Amanda plans to go on to get her bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology or electrical engineering technology but for the time being, she plans to work and spend time with her family. 


Delbia Jones

Indianapolis Campus | Cyber Security Graduate

Indiana needs more women in technology. According to SmartAsset, only 28.5 percent of computer jobs here are held by women. Next year, Indiana will have at least one more woman in the talent pool: Delbia Jones.

Delbia graduates December 2017 with an associate degree in Cyber Security, an area in high-demand in Indiana. 

Technology has always interested Delbia. Prior to coming to Ivy Tech, she had worked for ATT for several years and took some continuing education courses onsite. 

When her son began to struggle with health issues, she sacrificed her job to stay home and take care of him. After four years, her son got better and Delbia’s husband encouraged her to go back to school. 

Though she had some classes under her belt, Delbia knew that she needed to complete a degree to secure a good job. She made the decision to enroll at Ivy Tech Community College. 

Once enrolled in classes, Delbia learned about IvyWorks at Ivy Tech, a program at that offers students wraparound support and professional and career development. Through a partnership with IvyWorks and Indy Women in Tech (IWiT), an organization supporting women in STEM, Delbia was able to get additional support and financial assistance to earn her degree.

“Being able to engage in a program that came at the right time was huge. This program helped me figure out my next steps.”

Delbia said the program presented her with many opportunities, including networking with employers in the industry.

“I really feel like the IWiT program has prepared me to interact and network. This program is a blessing for me. Every female student who is interested in IT should be in this program. If it’s good for me, it’s good for someone else, too.”

After watching Delbia’s transformation at Ivy Tech, her husband also enrolled. 

Delbia and her husband are graduating from Ivy Tech together this fall. On top of being students, they are also adoptive and foster parents. Their son, who is now healthy and happy, is inspired by his parents’ experience.

“He watches us go to Ivy Tech and he is intrigued about going to college now!”

Walter Kansoriwula I Define Success storyWalter Kansoriwula

Columbus Campus | Mechanical Engineering Technology Graduate

As a boy growing up in Ghana, Walter Kansoriwula delighted in taking apart radios and fixing up bicycles. 
He wanted to figure out how things work, and viewing his hobbies was like gazing into a crystal ball that showed his future.

“I always wanted to do engineering as a kid,” Kansoriwula said. “I didn’t know it was called engineering, but I’ve always been someone who likes learning by doing.”

Tinkering with household objects wasn’t Kansoriwula’s only interest. He was an adventurer at heart and wanted to see what the world had to offer. 

That meant leaving his family’s farm and studying overseas in the United States as a foreign exchange student in high school — an experience that left such a positive impression that he came back to the U.S. after high school to pursue higher education at Ivy Tech Community College. 

Kansoriwula wanted to study engineering. Columbus, Indiana, promised a perfect storm of opportunities to chase that dream. He was familiar with the people and the community from his high school exchange program, a Fortune 500 engine company was headquartered in the city, and he had local access to an affordable college education that offered the program he wanted to study and a pathway to a career. 

An adventure for education

But first, he had to leave Ghana. Again. 

Kansoriwula came to the U.S. at the age of 17. A junior in high school, he studied for a year at Columbus East as an exchange student and returned to Ghana to finish his high school education. 
Ghana is located in West Africa with its southern border on the Gulf of Guinea and Atlantic Ocean. The country’s population is estimated at 27 million, but the areas where Kansoriwula was raised and went to school were small with populations around 20,000.

His father farmed crops and livestock, an agricultural way of life that Kansoriwula was expected to continue. Technology was not as ubiquitous as in the United States. 
“We had no computers. Just radios with cassette tapes,” Kansoriwula recalled. “Computers are not an everyday thing an office worker uses.”

Kansoriwula sought something different. His curiosity led him to take advantage of the student exchange program, which gave him a taste of the potential held by earning a college education in the United States. 
When he informed his family that he wanted to return to the U.S., they were shocked and concerned about what would happen to him. 

“It was an adventure for them and for me, too,” Kansoriwula said.

‘Conscientious about his work’

Kansoriwula landed back in Columbus and stayed with a friend’s family. He enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering Technology Program at Ivy Tech Columbus.

He adapted well to college academics, a smooth transition he attributes to the kindly help of Ivy Tech instructors.

His first challenge came when he enrolled in an English composition course. He was hoping to take the class in person on campus to advance his writing skills, but low enrollment in the course forced its cancellation. A section of the course was offered online, but Kansoriwula said he felt a bit unsure about it since it would be his first online course.

He sought out the course instructor, Dr. Jo Ann Hallawell, and discussed his options with her. Hallawell offered to help Kansoriwula in person whenever he needed it.

“He was very conscientious about his work. He really wanted to strengthen his writing skills,” she said. “To see his writing progress through that course was very fulfilling.”

Kansoriwula formed a bond with Hallawell that helped guide his education and provided him with a sounding board throughout his college education and into his career.

As he advanced at Ivy Tech, Kansoriwula found that the College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology Program strongly aligned with his interests. The program provides a hands-on curriculum that enables students to learn about materials, testing, and design. They also learn skills such as synthesizing, improving and implementing mechanical designs and gain a necessary understanding to support engineering processes such as collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data and troubleshooting mechanical systems.

Kansoriwula earned his associate degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology in May 2014 and transferred to Purdue University to pursue his bachelor’s degree. 

“I feel like Ivy Tech really prepared me for Purdue,” Kansoriwula said. “Academically I was challenged, but I felt prepared for that.”

Thriving in his career

In summer 2015, Kansoriwula gained an internship at Cummins Inc. as a Program Readiness Intern. He worked in supply chain management, helping procure parts and ensuring their availability to build prototype engines.
He was attracted to the engine-making company for many reasons. It is a large company based in a city in which he felt connected; its workforce was global and diverse; and it actively emphasized corporate responsibility.

“It wasn’t just a company making money off of society. It is a company contributing back to society,” Kansoriwula said. “And they make engines. I like engines. It’s amazing to see how they work and how they affect our lives in so many ways.”

Kansoriwula completed his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology in 2016 and took a full-time position at Cummins as a test engineer. He now works daily with engines, testing them and collecting data on how they work. 

He’s followed a career path that started at Ivy Tech, continued on at a four-year university and has resulted in a successful career at a major advanced manufacturing employer. Hallawell, who has written letters of recommendation for Kansoriwula to help him along his path to Purdue and Cummins, said Kansoriwula has embraced and taken advantage of every opportunity.

“He is a very humble young man, and he has a heart of gold,” Hallawell said. “He knows he has been given great opportunities, and he has not wasted them. He has thrived.”

As for his family in Ghana, Kansoriwula believes they are pleased with how his adventure has played out.
“I think they are very proud of me,” he said.


Sara Keedy

Indianapolis Campus | Business Administration Graduate

Sara Keedy lost her mother when she was 16 years old. When she graduated from high school, she decided to put her college aspirations on hold. She also had many voices around her telling her she wouldn’t succeed and college wouldn’t help her advance in life. However, years later, Sara ignored what others said and began to pursue her passions. 

While working full-time at Elements Financial Federal Credit Union, Sara wanted to advance in her career. She learned about Ivy Tech through family and decided to take the next step to enroll. She knew by obtaining a degree, she would be able to further advance in her career. 

Working full-time and going to school wasn’t easy, but the Ivy Tech Learning Resource Center helped her through. 

“They are so wonderful with helping you understand and learn,” Sara said. “They are really patient and willing to explain problems in different ways to help anyone learn the material, so they pass their class.”
Sara credits much of her success to this free resource, where she often ran into her classmates. By succeeding, she would be able to get the promotion that she wanted. 

Sara graduated from Ivy Tech in December 2017 with her associate degree in Business Administration. She was accepted to IUPUI, where she is currently working towards her bachelor’s degree. 

She loves that Ivy Tech gave her the confidence and knowledge that she is in control of her own life. 

“What I have learned is we need to hold ourselves accountable for where we go in life. Never give up,” she said. “And it is never too late to head in the right direction. Some of us may be late, but being late on achieving our dreams is better than not at all.”

Mia Kelsaw

Fort Wayne Campus | Human Services Graduate 

"Being at Ivy Tech, I was at the right place" Human services graduate heads local parole district

When Mia Kelsaw speaks, don’t be surprised if she calls you “honey.” She might use it to let you in on a little secret—“I tried karaoke three years ago, I finally did it, honey, and now I can’t stop”—or to let you know you’re dear to her, even if you’ve only met.

The verbal tick is one she uses often, especially in the latter way, in her current position as the parole district supervisor at Fort Wayne Parole District No. 2. Kelsaw is a 1998 Ivy Tech Community College Northeast alumna, a graduate of the Human Services program.

While she had found herself with a gift for working in corporate America, it didn’t drive her. So in August 1996, she enrolled in three classes at Ivy Tech Northeast. It didn’t take her long to realize she should attend full time if she wanted to get the most out of her education.

Kathryn Davis, the program chair for Human Services, says that often, people who are drawn to the human services field have some experience with a related incident. For Kelsaw, that related incident occurred simultaneously with her school work: She was in a serious relationship at the time, she says, with someone who had a substance abuse problem.

“I wrote most of my papers on this person,” she says. “This person was my case study. I got straight A’s. I believe being at Ivy Tech, I think I was at the right place at the right time.”

After graduating with an associate degree, Kelsaw received a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University Wisconsin, which then had a campus at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne. The university accepted all of her Ivy Tech Northeast credits, so three weeks after Ivy Tech, she was back in school, enrolled in an accelerated program. She also has earned a master’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University.

Today, Kelsaw supervises staff across 10 counties in northeast Indiana. While she technically works a 40-hour-a-week job, she is on call 24/7. Because when working in criminal justice, one can never know what might happen. Consider this occurrence from less than a week after Kelsaw returned from a six-week medical leave last year: A parole agent called Kelsaw to say a parolee had threatened his girlfriend’s life. Kelsaw filed for a protective warrant, which is not usually granted for threats. Due to previous instances of violence in the area, Kelsaw received the warrant. She spoke to the woman who had been threatened days later, and the woman had been granted a protective order. Kelsaw made plans to meet the woman at school that morning to get her a copy of the order. 

By 8 a.m., however, the woman was dead. She had been on a bus on her way to school when her boyfriend pulled her off the bus and shot her. “It was one of the worst situations,” Kelsaw says. “It was overwhelming, and I really questioned if I should remain in this business. In 48 hours, this young woman’s dead.

“I can’t stop being helpful to people, but everyone won’t get it. If you positively affect one person, then he or she can positively affect one person.”

In addition to the parolees she works with, she is also the head of her church’s middle school and high school division. She takes the sermon delivered by Bill McGill at Imani Baptist Temple and presents it at a youthful level, McGill says. “We really expect her to be the go-to person for their spiritual and personal development,” says McGill, the temple’s senior pastor.

In addition to McGill, Kelsaw names her 92-year-old grandmother as one of her personal heroes.The two share a love of the blues—Kelsaw’s favorite song to sing at karaoke is Buddy Ace’s “It Don’t Hurt No More”—and they love to dance together. “I put on music, and that’s it,” she says. “When I’m having a bad day, I watch her shake a tail feather, and that’s it. She has an infectious spirit.”

But it’s Kelsaw’s faith that supplies her top hero. “When I get discouraged or criticized, Jesus is who keeps me going,” she says. Any degree of success she has achieved, “Honey, it’s only through the grace of God.”

Kelsey Kern

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Student

Early on in high school, Kelsey Kern struggled. She felt as though she was fighting an uphill battle and was told she would never get her high school diploma or pass math.  

That changed in 2013 when she transferred schools and graduated from Lawrence North High School with a Certificate of Completion. Just 12 credits shy of a Core 40 diploma, Kelsey continued to work towards her goal at Achieve Virtual, an online high school. 

While it took her a few times, she persevered and passed before graduating in December 2014. For the year and a half she was there, she had many teachers who supported her along the way—something she had not been accustomed to. 

“I even received a Daredevil Award from the district for my hard work!” she said. 

Upon graduating from Achieve Virtual, Kelsey’s mom encouraged her to consider Ivy Tech, something she was glad happened.

“Ivy Tech has been a huge blessing and I have nothing but positive experiences.”

Despite math still being somewhat of a struggle, Kelsey works hard to maintain As and Bs in her other classes. 

“I have incredible professors, namely Dr. Zingg, who was my professor for both HUMS 103 and HUMS 206, Mrs. E. and Mr. Attai who were my professors for Math 100 and the second time I attempted Math 136,” she said. “I can’t thank these professors enough for all the support and encouragement they provided.”

In addition to her studies, she enjoys getting updates from the Human Services Club and has attended two of the Odeon Society’s 1 Act Festivals. She also participated in the Commit to Complete campaign in September 2016. 

As of May 2017, she finished an internship through Eskenazi Mental Health in Indianapolis. She was able to shadow support specialists from the Indianapolis Public School system and work with students. 

On schedule to graduate from Ivy Tech in December 2017, Kelsey plans to take her next math class this summer, using IvyPrep to help her, and then will have a full schedule this fall. 

This student, who once felt defeated by all the discouragement in the past, now has plans to transfer to IUPUI to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and then her doctorate in social work. She hopes to work with children. 

“I recommend starting at Ivy Tech because it gives you a chance to develop the self-discipline needed for the rest of the college journey,” Kelsey said. “It helps you explore different majors if you come having no ideas what you want to do with the rest of your life, career-wise.”


Ashley Kidd

Nursing Graduate

There’s no question that Ashley Kidd is one accomplished young woman. As an Ivy Tech Community College graduate, she works as a registered nurse at Hendricks Pediatrics. She also is a skilled dancer and former Indianapolis Colts cheerleader.

Turning her dreams into reality, however, hasn’t been easy. When Ashley started college, she felt a little out of place.

“I went to a big school, and I felt I was a dollar sign,” Ashley says. “I didn’t feel like I got the education I needed to start my nursing career. I felt like I was never going to achieve my goals.”It was a step backwards, but Ashley was undaunted—as you might expect from someone used to getting a crowd of 67,000 football fans fired up. She gave college another chance, enrolling at Ivy Tech Community College.

“I started by taking some prerequisites at Ivy Tech, and it just felt right,” she says. “The faculty looked at me as a student, of course, but they considered my future, as well.”

When Ashley began her studies at Ivy Tech, she was living in a rural area, somewhat distant from any of the College’s campuses. Fortunately, Ivy Tech offered enough online classes that she was able to satisfy many prerequisites from the comfort of her home. After she was accepted into Ivy Tech’s nursing program, she was happy to travel to campus, given what she experienced.

“It was very progressive,” Ashley says. “I felt I was well prepared, not just by learning from a textbook, but with a lot of clinical, hands-on work.”

Ashley completed her nursing degree more quickly than she had expected and started her career shortly thereafter. Once again, she landed somewhere a little unexpected but ended up in exactly the right place—and it’s inspired her to even greater ambitions.

“I never thought I would end up in pediatrics, but I love it, and I can’t see myself anywhere else,” she states. “Now, I’d like to continue my education and get my bachelor’s and one day become nurse practitioner. Thanks to Ivy Tech, I have a lot of opportunities and choices for continuing my education and achieving those goals.”

Ashley plans to continue her BSN and Master’s programs at IUPUI to reach her ultimate goal of becoming a family nurse practitioner.  

Joyce Mabbitt

Design Technology Graduate

At the age of ten, Joyce Mabbitt took a class in which she developed a floor plan for her dream home. While taking this class, she got the opportunity to study building codes, dimensions, and furnishings. Later, she took a computer modeling class in high school that reaffirmed her passion for design. She enjoyed it so much that years later, she pursued a degree in design technology.

Finding a college that meets all your needs as a student can be difficult. Joyce was looking for a program with an affordable tuition, flexible class schedules, and a Lafayette campus.

Ivy Tech offered Joyce that, and so much more.

“Ivy Tech classes are small, so the instructors really get to know you. I always felt they were genuinely committed to my success. I learned critical design and modeling skills from instructors with real life experience in the field,” Joyce said. “Just as importantly, the Ivy Tech faculty taught me how to present and market myself with a top-notch portfolio and professional interviewing tactics.”

Soon after completing the Ivy Tech Design Technology program, Joyce landed an interview with one of Ivy Tech’s program partners, Arconic, a global technology and advanced manufacturing leader. With the preparation that Ivy Tech offered her, she aced the interview, and soon after started her career as an Extrusion Tooling Designer, manufacturing parts that fly on commercial and military aircraft the world over.

“Jonathan Combs, my portfolio course instructor, coached us through an assignment in which we prepared answers to a list of “top ten” interview questions. The next week, I interviewed with Arconic and was asked six of those 10 questions. Answering was a breeze! I can’t thank Ivy Tech enough for the preparation and guidance,” said Joyce.

The decision to go back to school is a difficult one. However, the flexibility and opportunities Ivy Tech offered Joyce made the decision easier for this single mother.

“I am proof that going back to school can change your life for the better. Before my Ivy Tech degree, I was unfulfilled in my job and struggling to pay my bills. Now my job with Arconic offers new challenges every day and financial security for my family.”

Candace Malone

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Graduate

“If you really want to do something, don’t let people discourage you. If it’s real to you, it can be to everyone too.”

With perseverance, anything is possible. Candace Malone is proof that if you put your mind to something, you can do anything.

In 2011, at the age of 41, Candace became familiar with Ivy Tech while preparing for her G.E.D. She loved her experience so much that she knew she wanted to come to Ivy Tech to earn her college degree.

“I loved the fact that Ivy Tech was a school that met the needs of the working adult and offered classes in the evenings. I had some of the best professors ever, that no matter how hard it got for me, they never let me give up on myself.”

At the beginning of her first year at Ivy Tech, she was not sure what she wanted to do. But by the end of the first year, Candace began to see a clear path for her future. With more than 20 years of sobriety, she wanted to pursue a career helping women with substance abuse issues.

Candace’s first step to achieve this goal was to obtain her associate degree in human services. Throughout her time at Ivy Tech, she loved how every course was a stepping stone for her future. Each of her professors always pushed her to do her best and never give up, which is something she says she will carry on with her.

In addition to her studies, Candace joined the National Society of Leadership and Success (NSLS) in 2013 and was inducted into the group in 2014. She had not heard of the group until they reached out to her, which is something they do for students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Being a person who made the Dean’s List several semesters in a row, she was an ideal candidate for this group.

Through the NSLS, she was able to network with other students and professionals. The group helps members build on their resume, make connections and learn ways to enhance their career.

Candace will graduate from Ivy Tech in December 2016. She plans to take a few months off to spend time with her two grandchildren. From there, she will attend Indiana Wesleyan University for a bachelor’s degree in addictions counseling.

Long term, Candace hopes to open a house in Indianapolis for women with substance abuse issues. She will assist them with getting and staying sober, obtaining valuable job and interview skills, sharing parenting tips and providing stable transitional housing.

“I have a lot to offer these women and I just want to give back to the community,” she said. “Just because you make bad choices does not make you a bad person. I just want to share my experience with them so they know without a doubt that they and their children are worthy of all that this world has to offer—and to never forget: ‘excuses are just dressed up lies’.”

Now that Candace is another step closer to her long term goals, she hopes others pursue their dreams too.

“If you really want to do something, don’t let people discourage you,” she said. “Even if it seems silly, if it’s real to you, it can be to everyone too.”

Rebecca Marshall

Fort Wayne Campus | Agriculture Graduate

"Agriculture graduate sets sights on Anheuser-Busch farm"

Rebecca Marshall grew up around horses. Her grandfather has had them since before she was born. She grew up driving draft horses, and she interned last summer on a horse farm. When she was 8 or 9, she started showing them in 4-H, where she was a 10-year member. She still shows draft horses in county fairs and large shows.

Marshall has always known she wanted to study agriculture, so when Ivy Tech Community College Northeast began its Agriculture program in fall 2013, she signed up. She even wonders if she was the very first student to do so.

Marshall was one of seven students enrolled in the program when it kicked off two years ago. Last semester, she finished. In May, she will march during Commencement.

In the meantime, there’s that pesky business of finding a job.

And she found one she wants. Really, really wants. We’re talking dream-job levels of crossing the fingers and preparing a resume as perfect as possible.

She wants to work with the Budweiser Clydesdales.

You know the ones—they pull the sleigh in the holiday commercials and star in all of the Super
Bowl commercials.

Through a job she worked during the summer, Marshall knew someone who might be able to hire her at his company.

“There were no openings, but he mentioned a place that’s always hiring,” Marshall says. “When he said the name, I almost dropped to the floor.”

He said Anheuser-Busch.

Anheuser-Busch - Rebecca Marshall Ivy Tech Story

Photo courtesy: Jonathan Kratzer


“He gave me the contact info for the guy who operates the barns,” she says. “I’m putting my resume together and sending it out. It’s one of those jobs that you never really expect to get, but you have to see whether you’re capable of getting the job.”

If Marshall were to land the job, she might find herself traveling with the draft horses around the country. She might find herself in the breeding barn, working with and training the mares and foals.

What differentiates a draft horse from a riding horse is its size—a draft horse is larger. Also called a work horse, draft horses typically have a mild temperament and are used a lot by the Amish for plowing fields.

“They’re called the gentle giants,” Marshall says.

Kelli Krieder, the College’s agriculture chair, worked with Marshall on her resume and cover letter, helping her figure out how to best represent how her skills can contribute to the Anheuser-Busch farm.

Rebecca Marshall - Ivy Tech Agriculture

“It is kind of a dream. I wouldn’t be shocked if she got an interview,” Kreider says, “but I wouldn’t be shocked if she didn’t, either. She’s definitely qualified. I know they would be more than pleased with her. She’s anyone’s dream for working on a farm. She’s amazing.”

Kreider calls Marshall hard-working, dependable, and trustworthy, the kind of student who goes above and beyond what is expected of her, and one who sets high standards for herself.

“She’s always the first volunteer any time we’re doing any kind of promotional event,” Kreider says. “Fort Wayne Farm Show. Promoting the Agriculture program around the community. If I can have all my students be half of the quality she is, oh man, my job would be the best job ever.”

If working with the draft horses doesn’t work out, Marshall does have a Plan B: Get into sales and marketing, working with equipment sales, seed sales, chemical sales.

Regardless of where she ends up, she’s always known she wanted to work in agriculture. Marshall graduated in 2011 from Central Noble High school in Albion, Ind. She began taking general education classes at Ivy Tech Northeast with the plan to transfer to Purdue University or IPFW to eventually complete a bachelor’s degree.

As she was preparing for her final semester before transfer, she noticed “Agriculture” in a dropdown menu on the Ivy Tech website.

“I clicked on it to see what it was, and they had two or three classes listed,” she says. “I signed up.”

Because she was one of the first, Marshall felt like she got to have a say in some of the program’s curriculum—she and her six peers were able to share ideas on what worked, what didn’t, which tests were too easy or too hard. She got to see the program get more supplies and more space, and she got to see it grow nearly 700 percent: from the original seven to 55 as of fall 2015.

“It was a learning experience for all of us, and it was a good one,” she says. “We ultimately had a lot of fun.”

Shanee MasonShanee Mason

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Graduate

When it comes to overcoming obstacles, Human Services graduate Shanee Mason says they are well worth the fight. 

After being the CEO of S.M. & 3D Changing Directions Inc., Shanee was ready to make a career change and wanted to pave the way for the future generations of her family. Ivy Tech was close to home and a perfect fit. 

Shanee loved the Human Services program, especially participating in the Human Services Club. 

“We did hands-on volunteer work in town and every year we traveled to Chicago to the Hull House and First Mission,” she said. 

While volunteering, Shanee and her fellow students helped to meet the needs of others, fold linens and serve in the kitchen. She was proud that her club was Ivy Tech Indianapolis’ “Club of the Year” in 2017. 
However, her time as a student wasn’t easy. 

In 2016, four people close to Shanee passed away, back to back. Her husband also had a heart attack that year, which made things challenging for the couple and their four small children. To further fuel the fire, the family experienced a flood, leaving them homeless. Upon moving into their new home, they had even more problems just three months into living there. 

“My financial coach at Ivy Tech and their committee came together and helped raise money for our rent to help us give our family a very Merry Christmas,” Shanee explained. “Ivy Tech cares about their students. I found a second family right here at Ivy Tech Community College.”

It was experiences like this that gave Shanee the hope and perseverance to keep up her momentum. 

Shanee participated in a job ready program that helped her with her resume. She also was a part of her campus’ credit program, which helps students repair their credit and get their life back on track. Shanee encourages other students to explore all the different programs Ivy Tech offers for assistance.   

In addition, she credits several of her professors that inspired her to keep up her hard work. These include Scott Roskalit, Dr. Cameron Hicks, Dennis Karsor, Debra Whitley and Maria Parrish. 

Shanee graduated in December 2017 and plans to go on to obtain her bachelor’s degree. She hopes to become a social worker and serve her local community and “spread the love needed to make this world a safe one, in which we live.” 

Stacey May student success storyStacey May

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Graduate

Going back to school as an adult can seem daunting. However, Stacey May did not let that stop her from continuing her education. She is now in a master’s program, and it all started at Ivy Tech.

“Ivy Tech Community College was affordable, and I felt like it was geared towards me. As a non-traditional student, the online, evening, and weekend classes appealed to me,” Stacey said. 

Stacey graduated from Ivy Tech in 2014. After completing her associate degree at Ivy Tech, she went on to further pursue her education and became a graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University with her bachelor’s in Human Services and Social Work.

Stacey is currently pursuing her Accelerated Master’s in Social Work at Indiana Wesleyan University. Upon completion of completing her degree, Stacey plans to work in marriage and family counseling. 

“I loved everything about Ivy Tech! I loved meeting interesting people in my classes, I am still friends will several of them!”

julianna mcdaniel i define success ivy tech community collegeJulianna McDaniel

Indianapolis Campus | Nursing Graduate

Despite having many obstacles thrown her way, Ivy Tech December graduate Julianna McDaniel turned them into opportunities to make a difference instead. 

Before applying to Ivy Tech’s Nursing program, Julianna’s brother passed away in a motor vehicle accident. 

“I always looked up to making him proud, and so losing him made me fear the day I would graduate and not be able to find his face in the crowd,” she said. 

The healing process was long, but she found motivation in her children to watch her succeed at her dream. 

Then during her time as a student, she still continued to meet challenges. 

“My first semester of nursing, I fought for guardianship of my grandparents who were both being severely neglected at the long term care facility they chose to protect them,” she explained.  

Her grandparents passed away, which was when Julianna said she almost lost her faith in the medical system, but decided to use this as her tool to make a difference. 

“I also had a beautiful five-year-old little girl dropped off at my home, and when her father never came back for her, I started to realize the extreme neglect and abuse she endured in his care,” she said. 

Julianna decided to fight for guardianship of the child, and won. She will be able to file for adoption of the girl in just a couple of months. 

“All of these life altering circumstances tried to stand in my way of finishing school,” Juliana said. “I believe it only made me stronger by pushing through and succeeding to get me where I am today!”

To help her be successful, Julianna said Ivy Tech offered her many tools that she took advantage of, such as tutoring, advising, financial aid and great professors. In particular, she credits Randall Sharkley and Kimmie Leonard for helping her throughout her Ivy Tech journey. 

“They both saw something in me I couldn’t even see myself, and lifted me up in times I didn’t think were possible.”
In addition, Julianna was involved in the Student Nurses Association, which she said helped her balance life and school. 
As she worked through her program, she said clinicals were her absolute favorite. She loved every chance she had to practice her skills in real life situations. 

After graduating in December 2017 with her Associate of Science in Nursing, Julianna would like to get into a nursing position in trauma or medical surgery that allows her to continue learning as much as possible. She would also like to obtain her bachelor’s degree within five years. 

For those considering Ivy Tech, she said it was the best decision she has ever made. 

“Don’t allow fear and apprehension to dictate your chances of achieving your dream.”

Along the way, Julianna is thankful to all the people in her life that made her dream possible, including her husband Jay. She also thanks her children Bailey, Keaton, Jaydah and Nevaeh for understanding that she had to sacrifice time and fun opportunities. Julianna said she also is thankful for all of the amazing friendships she made as a student and the professors that believed in her. 

“Thank you for all making this dream possible! I promise to share the love!”

Kelah McKee

Indianapolis Campus | General Studies

Kelah McKee was the definition of what it meant to be involved on campus during her time as a student at Ivy Tech Community College. She attended the Indianapolis campus from 2015 to 2018, started an organization, and was involved in a plethora of on and off-campus activities.

Kelah’s organization, PolishedBricks, is a nonprofit that allows talented African Americans to share their experiences and their stories of triumphs against struggles. The purpose of the organization is to provide a professional skills, positive publicity and networking opportunities for African Americans in the community.

In addition to bringing this organization to Ivy Tech, Kelah was very involved in Student Life. She served as Campus Activities Board president and director of community service, Student Government Association senator and Student Strengths Organization vice president.

She was also involved with Phenomenal Women and Black Students United on campus. She noted that her favorite experience however, was when she served as Miss Ivy for Ivy Tech’s exhibit at the Indiana Black Expo Summer Celebration in 2017. 

Community service is important to Kelah, which is evident in her extracurricular activities. While at Ivy Tech, she fed the homeless through the Father’s Foundation, made blankets for children at Riley Hospital, created Valentine’s Day cards for the Children’s Bureau and helped with the pen pals/mentorship program with Tindley Academy. 

In 2018, Kelah overcame a significant barrier to graduation when her son was born four weeks early. She planned to graduate and then have her son on May 10, but her son was unexpectedly born April 20.

She had to finish her coursework without access to a laptop or Wi-Fi, making it extremely challenging to finish out the semester. Through her dedication and communication with her instructors and program chairs, she was able to finish her coursework and walk at commencement May 4. Her son, named Waalid, is healthy and thriving. 

This experience prompted her to give fellow students the following advice, “You might have a plan, but your course of action may change. Stay ready to adapt and you will succeed.”

After graduating with her associate degree in general studies in 2018, Kelah plans to eventually transfer to IUPUI to earn her bachelor’s degree in communications with a minor in Africana studies.

Kelah currently works for Radio One as a promotions assistant and hopes to eventually work her way up to an on-air personality. 

Esther Mead

Indianapolis Campus | Elementary Education

Esther Mead, founder of a local nonprofit, found inspiration at Ivy Tech to create positive change for children in her community.  

As a single mother of three, Esther wanted to go back to school but also had to support her family. With Ivy Tech Community College’s affordable tuition and online classes, it was possible for her to pursue her degree.

“Ivy Tech has tons of classes at a variety of campuses that makes attending school extremely flexible,” Esther said.  

While attending Ivy Tech, Esther was inspired by a class that she took here, and began a non-profit called Itty Bitty Library. Itty Bitty Library works with children year-round to provide them with access to literature. They often acquire these books and place them in communities that would otherwise not have them.

Esther earned her Associate of Science in Education from Ivy Tech and currently works in the Westfield Washington School District. This job allows her to make a positive impact in the lives of children every day.

“If I didn’t attend Ivy tech, I would not have met my mentor who offered me extraordinary opportunities. I have truly been inspired, encouraged, rewarded, and pushed to do my best because of Ivy Tech.”

For those interested in Ivy Tech, Esther encourages them to get their degree.

“The education you receive here is personal and designed for you. The professors care about you doing well, and want you to succeed!” she said. “Even though there are many campuses and online classes, the community is helpful, open, and not scary! It feels like an expensive private school without the hefty price-tag!”

Esther graduated from Ivy Tech with a 3.75 GPA and made lifelong friends while pursuing her degree. She is planning to pursue her bachelor’s degree at WGU and wants to earn her teaching license in the future.



Jennie Miller

East Chicago Campus | AS, Hospitality Administration Graduate, Baking and Pastry Arts, ‘14

For Jennie Miller, success means “happiness at home and work with a continued desire to grow.”

When she was younger Jennie dropped out of school and left home. After she had her son, Dorian, “I knew I needed to do more than just work,” so Jennie earned her GED and an associate degree in accounting. But cake decorating and baking were really her passions, so when her son was 14, she enrolled in Ivy Tech’s Baking and Pastry Arts program.

Ivy Tech provided the perfect way to balance her checkbook and her time. “I chose Ivy Tech partially for the cost, but mostly because it is the only pastry program in Northwest Indiana,” Jennie said. Being an adult student with a child, taking courses at the schools in Chicago was out of reach time-wise as well as financially for Jennie. Additionally, most of the Chicago programs are not degree programs.

America's Baking and Sweets Show“My education at Ivy Tech opened my eyes to many more aspects of the pastry industry outside of cake. This changed my career path from a desire to own a cake shop, to wanting to produce an array of pastry products. It has also streamlined a path to becoming a sous chef and eventually an executive pastry chef.”

Her academic experience also ignited in Jennie a desire to teach, so she returned to Ivy Tech as an adjunct faculty member, in addition to working as a pastry cook at the Horseshoe Hammond and owning Red Lotus Cake Design.

Jennie Miller

Monica Mosley

Indianapolis Campus | Hospitality Administration Graduate

“Ivy Tech has definitely taught me how to fight on, be brave, and to never give up on accomplishing the smallest challenges.”

After attempting college several times, Monica decided that Ivy Tech was the place where she wanted to achieve her degree. Studying Hospitality Administration, Monica pursued a degree with a concentration in Culinary Arts.

“I honestly picked Ivy Tech because it was local and affordable, and I was ready to make a change. I knew that it was the best option.” Once attending Ivy Tech, Monica felt that each of her professors encouraged her to learn and grow in her field. Her environment and the diversity among her fellow students and instructors also influenced her progress.

Monica graduated in May of 2016. “I came back to school to better myself and to gain in-depth knowledge of what it takes to be in the culinary industry.”

As of fall 2016, Monica is employed as the lab resource supervisor in the Hospitality department at Ivy Tech.

Despite her setbacks from previous college experiences, she is very proud of her success from her journey at Ivy Tech. She plans on returning to earn her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and becoming a culinary instructor in the future. 

ivy tech white house intern emily muellerEmily Mueller

Valpairaiso Campus | Business Administration

When Ivy Tech Valparaiso student Emily Mueller first saw an email about the fall 2017 White House internship program, she was intrigued, especially since she had never had an internship before. 

Then the thoughts began to roll in. 

“Surely I’m not the only one filling this out…” 

“I’m not qualified to do this…” 

Mueller reached out to Ivy Tech Community College’s Career Development right away, as they noted in the email they would assist interested students through the application process. They gave her tips for submitting the application and she even had a conference call with Sue Ellspermann, president of Ivy Tech Community College. 

With the due date quickly approaching, Mueller knew she had to make a decision, but was still feeling unsure. However, three days before the deadline, while on vacation with her family in Tennessee, she made her final decision. She knew she had to apply. 

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?” she thought.  

One month later, Mueller was ecstatic when she received notification she was chosen for the internship. Little did she know this would become a life changing experience—all while she was gearing up for her second semester at Ivy Tech. 
Not only would this be Mueller’s first time traveling to Washington D.C., but it would be her first time living away from her family, too. She knew there would be quite an adjustment having to step away from her part-time job, taking classes in an actual classroom and helping her parents with her younger brother. Regardless, she was beyond excited for this new adventure. 

Mueller eagerly packed her bags and moved to Washington D.C. in August, giving herself a week to get acclimated to the new city. She began her role as a White House intern in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in September, and hit the ground running. 

“I read incoming mail from constituents from all over the country, and mail from other countries too,” Mueller said. “My job was to read through and see what it was about.” 

Prior to receiving mail, each letter is carefully inspected for safety precautions. From there, she and the other correspondence department interns read and categorized them. 

ivy tech white house intern emily mueller“It’s probably one of the best places to be an intern because you can see the opinions and viewpoints of the American people,” Mueller explained. “You see a lot of interesting things, sometimes even shed a tear. Every piece of mail and email is different. You never know what you’re going to get. It could be an 80-year-old lady or a four-year-old kid learning how to write.”

In addition to her internship, Mueller took three online classes to be one step closer to her Business Administration degree from Ivy Tech. It kept her busy as she worked Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., or sometimes later, for her internship. 

“I set aside time over the weekend, after work or even during my lunchbreak to make it a priority,” she said. “It takes having time management skills, for sure.”

This internship was an eye-opening experience for Mueller in more ways than one. It allowed her to experience being on her own where made new friends, networked and volunteered. She is extremely complimentary of her supervisor, who ensured interns had plenty of opportunities to be active and learn during their time in Washington D.C. 

“They made sure we gave back to the community and volunteered,” Mueller explained. “I was in correspondence, but there are 19 different departments and 100 other interns that you don’t see.”

To further assist them during their journey, Mueller and the other interns were able to receive letters of recommendation from supervisors, as well as assistance with their resumes. 

In the small amount of free time she had between her internship and classes, Mueller enjoyed her time in Washington D.C.

Even though it is a large city, she explained it has a small town feel in many ways, which she loves. 

Mueller concluded her internship on December 8, then came back to her home in Valparaiso. She will continue her studies at Ivy Tech in the spring and pick up where she left off as secretary of the Student Government Association on her campus.

She also plans to join the Kappa Beta Delta International Honor Society. 

Mueller anticipates to finish classes for her associate degree in the summer of 2018, then would like to transfer to Valparaiso University for her bachelor’s degree. 

After her bachelor’s, she would love to go back and work in Washington D.C. 

“I love it! I love the people and the connections I’ve made. There are so many opportunities here.” 

Until then, Mueller will enjoy being a student and getting back to her day-to-day, especially at Ivy Tech. She looks forward to being in a physical classroom again. 

Since coming to Ivy Tech, Mueller loves how convenient and flexible the College is. She had previously attended a four-year university and felt it was not a great fit for her, so she decided to try Ivy Tech. She was glad she did and hopes others consider it too. 

“The teachers care and want you to succeed,” she said. “If it wasn’t for my professors, I wouldn’t have even known about this opportunity.” 

Mueller advises all students to have at least one internship while in school. 

“It will help you in more ways than one,” she said. “Not just about your internship, but about yourself. You will network and connect, make lifelong friends and it is experience you’re gaining that you can’t get any other way.” 

When it comes to overall advice, Mueller said to never second guess things, as she once did when trying to decide to apply for the White House internship program. 

“If you want something, then go for it. Don’t even think about it. If you see something and are drawn to it, do everything you can to make it yours. I almost didn’t apply because I didn’t think I had what it took—but I realize that thought was ridiculous and the worst thing is they say no. You can’t think what if, you just have to do it.” 


Amy Mutz

Evansville Campus | Human Services Graduate

Amy Mutz had a very bad year in 2012. She and her husband had decided to retire and close their sign shop in Haubstadt, IN, when three close family members all died during that year. It was a devastating blow, one that rocked her to her core – yet revealed in her a desire to help people. She went to a local Hospice organization and wanted to volunteer.  As she worked there, she realized that this was not something she should be doing without a degree.

Amy had always had a strong fear of school. She didn’t read until she was a freshman in high school, suffering from dyslexia; and had a similar problem with math. So, walking into college to be tested was daunting. However, her desire to help people was greater – and she did it.  As she pursued her desire to earn a degree in Human Services, it also awakened a desire to get a bachelor’s degree in Hospice social work and potentially a doctorate. She did everything she could to be successful in college, including logging nearly 80 hours in the math lab to make it thru her homework. She will graduate with a 3.98 GPA and is in Phi Theta Kappa.

In addition to her story of overcoming obstacles like dyslexia and the math equivalent of that to go back to college in her mid-50s -- she is realizing her dream of going on to get her bachelor's and is now enrolled at USI for next fall.  She also has won a couple really amazing awards.

She was named All Academic USA Team...which put her in the running for the New Century Scholars Program, sponsored by the Coca-Cola Foundation.  She was one of only 1,900 in the nation to win this award.  New Century Scholars are the highest scoring students in each state where Phi Theta Kappa is represented (national honor society, of which she is a member). She just got this award earlier this month.  She received a $2,000 scholarship and certificate.

Jacqueline Navedo

Indianapolis | School of Liberal Arts Graduate

In 2010, Jacqueline Navedo, or “Jackie” as she goes by to her fellow classmates and colleagues at Ivy Tech Indianapolis, never would have thought she would be where she is today. The mother of three had just lost everything in a house fire and in the middle of it all, Jackie was trying to find the best care for her youngest son, a newborn at the time, with special needs. 

The family was living in New York, which Jackie explained had several children with special needs. There were not enough people to provide adequate services, making it difficult for her son’s developmental needs to be met. 
He was born with autism and Hypotonia, which is decreased muscle tone. Jackie knew the older he got, he would need one-on-one care, and researched the best states to move to for help.

Jackie looked at many options, including Ohio. However, her sister lived in Fishers, Indiana—a place she had never been before. She read good things about the area and decided to take a vacation there. After arriving, Jackie immediately fell in love with the state and knew this was where she needed to move her family. 

“I love New York, but here, the people have more open doors to conquer what they want to really be successful in life,” said Jackie. 

It took Jackie eight months to find an apartment and work out the arrangements for her youngest son. She also had another obstacle to overcome when moving to Indiana—she did not know how to drive. In New York, there was no need to drive as she walked everywhere or used public transportation. Yet she made it all work during her move to a new state. Even better, she would have excellent care for her son. 

Her next step after moving to Indiana in 2013 was to go back to school. Jackie registered at her local Ivy Tech but wasn’t able to start in spring 2014 after she could work out transportation. During this time, her youngest son also began to experience seizures, which took a toll on her studies. 

“What do you know about winning if you don’t fail?” she said as she thought back.

Instead of letting it get her down, she kept pursuing her goals. Jackie took advantage of Ivy Tech’s TRIO Student Support Services, which is a federally funded academic and personal development program for students from low-income families, first-generation college students and students with disabilities. She also learned how to drive and got her license. 

As Jackie was meeting new people and utilizing services, one of the people she met was Carla Perinne Perry, who encouraged her to join the Student Government Association (SGA). 

“I said ‘why not!’ and I loved it!” Jackie said. “I got involved as a senator in 2014 and became VP in 2015.” 
Also in 2015, Jackie was inducted into the National Society Leadership and Success and even won an award for her work. She also joined the Student Organization of Latinos (SOL) and later became president. 

Jackie had taken classes in a few of the Ivy Tech locations in central Indiana, including the location near her home in Noblesville. Once becoming vice president of SGA, she set her sights on her next big goal: to bring SGA and more student activities to Ivy Tech’s Noblesville campus. 

During this time, she hit a few other bumps in the road. In 2016, when all was on the up-and-up, Jackie was in a car accident. She was taking three classes at the time and was on her way to her chemistry class. Unfortunately, Jackie had to drop her classes and pick things up again a year later. Also that year, she went through a divorce. 

Each obstacle only motivated Jackie to work harder. She stayed busy and continued to be involved at Ivy Tech. 
When she began taking classes again, Jackie was still working hard as vice president of SGA. She and her senators were determined to reach their goal to bring SGA and a Campus Activities Board (CAB) to Noblesville. It took a lot of work and without even having a budget, they made it happen! Jackie and her team were elated. 

“And now the students are getting involved,” Jackie explained. “I want the students to know what SGA is and why we’re here, what we stand for. Now we help the students on the campus and provide them information."

Jackie is proud that students following in her footsteps will be better connected to their community. 

While working with SGA, Jackie and her classmates went to the Indiana Statehouse twice. She met Vice President Mike Pence when he was governor of Indiana, and also met Eric Holcomb, the state’s current governor. 

During her last year at Ivy Tech, Jackie became a federal work-study for Student Life, assisting the office with administrative work. Her manager and director of Student Life and Development at Ivy Tech Indianapolis, Anna Droste-Glowinski, also assigned her to become a part of the budget committee and to get involved with other groups and activities, including Pass the Torch for Women. 

“Jackie is such an amazing leader for our campus! She stepped up and was our first Vice President of SGA on the Noblesville campus,” Anna said. “She worked tirelessly to engage her fellow students and pave a new path on that campus. She is also a strong leader within Student Life and in working with the Student Organization of Latinos.  We greatly appreciate all of Jackie’s energy and hard work over the years.”

Jackie also spent her last year in school at Ivy Tech participating in the student newspaper and with the Ivy Tech Foundation’s Circle of Ivy. This is a women’s philanthropy circle dedicated to creating resources and raising funds to diminish barriers to higher education for Ivy Tech students. 

All of these achievements were accomplished while she was raising her three children, working a job helping students with autism and special needs and going to school—achieving the Dean’s List three times. 

How did she do it? 

“My three kids,” she said. “It’s hard, but I get up every day. Some days I don’t want to get up but I know they’re watching me and I want to be a good example.”

She wants to make sure the doors are wide open for her children so they can be successful. 

While Jackie has achieved so much through her own perseverance, she credits all of the people around her, including her church and God, for making it happen. She values each and every person that helped her along the way.

“I don’t want titles because I don’t want people to look at me as entitled,” she explained. “I’m here to help the students get to know the staff and how they can serve each other.”

During her time as a student, Jackie took advantage of as many services as she could to help her grow, which she encourages current and future Ivy Tech students to do, too. 

“They will help you. If you need to go to an interview, they will send you to Dress for Success. If you need a resume, Career Development will help you do your resume and get a profile.” 

Jackie also noted how helpful Ivy Tech’s counseling services were for her when she learned about Carla’s passing in 2017, one of the people who helped to encourage her most. 

She explained it was experiences and services such as these that really set Ivy Tech apart. In New York, she attended two large four-year universities and noted how drastically different her experience at Ivy Tech was—for the better.

In addition to the faculty and students, Jackie fondly looks on the relationships she built with administrators at the College, including Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Darrell Cain and Dan Clark, vice chancellor of Ivy Tech Noblesville. Everyone made a difference. She explained each person, from the security guards to janitors, to advisors, all come together to help build a better society—one she’s grateful to be a part of. 

“It has been rough, but everything happens for a reason,” Jackie said. “I take the positive way—because of this accident, it pushed me a year. But I got to make SGA happen in Noblesville. I am really proud of that and really proud of my senators.”

When she earned her leadership award, she looked at her fellow classmates and explained, “This is your award. I was nominated because of you. You are my right and left arm.”

Jackie walked across the stage at commencement on Friday, May 4 for her Associate of Science degree in Liberal Arts. She has been accepted into Western Governors University, where she will attend in the fall of 2018.

Her goal is to pursue an education for children with special needs and earn a bachelor’s and master’s degree to become a certified behavioral specialist. To help her gain experience, she has applied for a position in special education classrooms.  

Jennifer Nessle

Indianapolis Campus | General Studies Graduate

Jennifer Nessle is graduating from Ivy Tech and heading to the Ivy League. She is the ultimate example of being able to do anything you put your mind to.

As a young girl, Jennifer acknowledges being the target of bullying, which led her to self-doubt. After graduating from high school, she moved away for college, but struggled because of circumstances in her life.  

In 2009, she was working five jobs to get by, and admittedly feeling unfulfilled. It was in 2010 that she then made the decision to apply to Ivy Tech.

“My drive was to make something of myself and give myself something to be happy about. I was sick and tired of feeling like I wasn’t worth anything. I wanted to change my life, so I picked myself up by my own bootstraps, dusted myself off and went back to college.” 

During her time at Ivy Tech, Jennifer made it her goal to join Phi Theta Kappa, an Honor Society that her mother had benefited from during her time in college. 

As soon as she met the GPA requirement, Jennifer crashed the first PTK meeting she could and immediately ran for an officer position, which she successfully secured.

“I wanted to see what doors would open for me and I wanted to give myself a brighter future.”

Jennifer attended a spring regional conference for PTK where workshops on leadership training and resume building were offered. Harvard Extension School representatives were also in attendance and were inviting students to consider attending Harvard Extension School, one of the 12 degree-granting institutions at Harvard University, that offers undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees, graduate certificates, and nearly 800 courses. 

After noticing Jennifer at the conference, representatives from the Extension School reached out to her via email and told her she had the potential to be Harvard material. Jennifer jumped at the life changing opportunity that had been offered to her and will be attending her admittance courses during the summer of 2018 on a PTK scholarship.  

“My mother once told me that sometimes in life, you have life changing opportunities that cross your path and they might seem intimidating, but when you face something that intimidates you, it just means that you should do it, because it is only when we face our fears that our fears shrink before us. That is how we make change for our lives. This is no doubt an extremely challenging path, but I shall walk it fearlessly because I am determined to discover who I am, and to build a life worth living. So, I said yes.” 

Jennifer plans to take classes on campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and explore many subject areas that interest her, including quantum physics, science, space, ethics, and intellect. 

“I grew up not confident in my own abilities. When you go to college, you become well-rounded as an individual and you become armed with the sword and shield of logic.  I am humbled to aspire to be sculpted by such an institution as Harvard.”

Jennifer is graduating from Ivy Tech Indianapolis on December 16, 2017 with an associate degree in General Studies. She is the student speaker for her school’s ceremony. 

“My story is about overcoming not only outside obstacles, but self-obstacles. Sometimes, it’s your own way of thinking that you have to break free of, but the moment you free your potential, you can move mountains with your own two hands.”

Weston Nicholson

General Studies Graduate

In the Marine Corps from 2006 to 2010, Weston Nicholson, a native of Cloverdale, Indiana was stationed at MCAGCC Twenty-nine Palms in California. After being deployed twice to Iraq with the Marines and three times to Afghanistan with the Department of Defense, Weston wanted to further pursue his education.

“I wasn’t sure working for the Department of Defense was what I wanted, so I went to pursue my degree,” he said. “Try as I might, I couldn’t decide what the best field of study was to enter, so I decided on General Studies. It was online, so I could work towards a degree while I was deployed in Afghanistan.”

Weston wanted to continue his service while getting his degree, so he was in search of an online school.

Like many Hoosiers, Weston was familiar with Ivy Tech Community College and knew Ivy Tech could give him the option to pursue his degree online.

“When I was considering what college to go to, I needed a college with an online degree program. Ivy Tech gave me that option.”

Soon after completing his degree at Ivy Tech, Weston decided he wanted to further explore his education. He decided to attend the University of Michigan, and not long after applying, he was accepted.

“Education is imperative nowadays, so I knew I wanted to go to college even though I had a fantastic job,” said Weston. “Ivy Tech has helped me push towards my goals, it helped me get into the University of Michigan, which I don’t think I would have otherwise been able to do.”

Weston recommends Ivy Tech to anyone in the military.

“As someone in the military, you get a lot of universities/institutions that have a presence on base. They aren’t always accredited, but Ivy Tech is. I would recommend Ivy Tech Community College because of their reach in the Midwest.”

Weston believes Ivy Tech set him up for success and gave him a sense of what he wanted to do in the future.

“Ivy Tech does justice to those fields that need to be filled in the future.”

Weston graduated from Ivy Tech in 2014, and then went on to receive his bachelor’s at University of Michigan.


Linda Paden

Fort Wayne Campus | Therapeutic Massage Graduate

The Pilates Author - Ivy Tech alumna pens Idiot’s Guide manual

Linda Paden, a 2004 and 2005 graduate of Ivy Tech Community College Northeast, has a clinical doctorate degree and now a book under her belt. Idiot’s Guide: Pilates came out late last year, and her Ivy Tech Northeast associate degrees helped her get to the point she needed to be considered an expert in the field.

In 2001, Paden began having difficulties while dancing en point in ballet, struggling with balance, flexibility, and strength.  Her mother, then a therapeutic massage instructor at Ivy Tech Northeast, used massage to help. “That’s when I was like, ‘Hmm, Mom, there might be something to this.’ She was the one who gave me my first Pilates book,” Paden said.

The next year, Paden started her first classes at Ivy Tech Northeast as a dual credit student. She was a homeschooled high school student, and her mother was a teacher at the College. By 2003, Paden started training to be a Pilates instructor.

At 18, Paden graduated from high school and from the College, with a degree in general studies. She completed her teacher training and began teaching Pilates. “Pilates is really a passion of mine. It’s more than just an exercise regimen: It’s an entire philosophy of movement,” she stated.

Realizing the benefits of massage, Paden continued at Ivy Tech Northeast for another year and graduated with an associate degree in medical assisting with a specialty in therapeutic massage—before massage broke off into its own associate degree. “What I liked about Ivy Tech was I was in a learning environment with people of all ages—young college-age (students), returning adults. I felt that exposure was really good,” Paden said.

After studying at Ivy Tech, Paden received the College’s first Crossroads Scholarship, which provided her with a full-ride to Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies. She received a clinical doctorate at the University of Indianapolis in physical therapy.

By 2011, Paden started working at the National Institute for Fitness in Sport at IUPUI. There, she helped launch a fitness center at a retirement community. The institute knew her expertise from working with Paden. When the book’s publisher asked for author recommendations, the institute’s staff said, “We know your girl.” “The publisher came to me and asked me to send some writing samples. So I did and they asked me to write a book. I had written very big papers for my doctorate, (but) this is my first publication,” Paden says. Her book titled Idiot’s Guide: Pilates came out in 2014.

jermain pierson ivy tech graduateJermain Pierson

Indianapolis Campus | General Studies Graduate

For many students, including December graduate Jermain Pierson, Ivy Tech is the perfect place to find the career path that’s best for them. 

Jermain dropped out of high school in 2010 and went back for his technical honors high school diploma in 2014 at The Excel Center, a tuition-free high school for adults. Two years later he enrolled at Ivy Tech to further his education in General Studies. 

“I chose Ivy Tech not only for the convenience of price and location, but for its versatile hours, class sizes and transferable credits,” he said. 

Jermain loved the General Studies program because it enabled him to take a small step into a field he was curious about. 

Through open discussions in class, Jermain said he was able to become comfortable talking about subjects that would normally be taboo. He also gives credit to one of his instructors, Professor Pike, who pushed him with his work as a poet. 

“She taught me new styles and techniques, as well,” he said. 

After Jermain graduates in December 2017, he plans to pursue a degree in mortuary science. He hopes to one day operate his own chain of crematories. 

For those considering advancing their career and coming to Ivy Tech, he encourages people to work hard.

“Like anything in life, if you’re going to come to Ivy Tech, give it all you have. Don’t hesitate, don’t stop.”

Anna Powell

Indianapolis Campus | Hospitality Administration Graduate

Who knew someone with a background in corporate banking would go on to explore culinary arts, philanthropy and law school? All of these things would not be possible for Anna Powell had she not gotten her start at Ivy Tech Community College. Anna is a 2014 Ivy Tech graduate with an associate degree in Hospitality Administration. It all began when she found out her job was changing during the financial crisis in 2009. Her former employer gave her the choice to move to a location in Ohio or take a severance. Anna chose to stay in her area and take the severance, but after a year knew it wasn’t right for her. After weighing some options she chose to move to Indianapolis from her home in Vicksburg, Michigan.

After her move, Anna became involved with Dress for Success, a group that empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, attire and development tools. During her time there, she attended a speaking session that talked about living your passion. She walked out knowing she had to accomplish her dream of going to culinary school. Anna then took Second Helpings’ 10-week culinary job training program and graduated in July 2011. She immediately started working as a sous chef at a downtown Indianapolis restaurant. Anna loved the job, but wanted even more—which is when she began to look further into culinary school. However, as a first generation student, she hadn’t thought culinary school could be possible, as she didn’t know about student loans or financial aid.

During her search, Anna knew some of the schools would leave her with over $40,000 in debt, which was not feasible for the type of job she would have after graduation. Between that and the opportunities available through Ivy Tech, she knew it was the right fit for her.

While she was in school, Anna appreciated all the help Ivy Tech offered. As a non-traditional student coming back, everything had changed since she had been in high school. Ivy Tech helped her with the transition, writing, tutoring and much more. She spent much of her time volunteering and was the American Culinary Federation student chapter president. Anna was also involved with Ivy Tech’s TRIO Student Support Services Program, which provides support to first-generation, low-income students and disabled students.

In addition, Anna took part in the Hospitality Administration’s annual trip to France. Students are chosen based on a point system that looks at grade point average, volunteer experience and more. She had never been overseas before and said it was a life changing experience for her. Once she got back, she realized the entire world was open to her and she could do anything she wanted.

Since graduating, Anna has become the chef and catering manager for Ivy Tech’s Courses Catering, which serves both internal and external clients. She was hired on as a student and the role progressed. Anna manages a small staff and catering team that prepares everything and handles events from start to finish. Courses Catering can have up to five events in a week so she meets with the staff to arrange them around their work, school and family schedules. She said loves how the students take charge and she can rely on them to help execute flawless events. 

Her favorite part of the job? Pitching menus to clients. “I have a standardized menu that people can choose from but some people want me to create something for them,” she said. “I love making recipes, finding what they love and incorporating it into the event.” When it comes to memorable events, Anna is honored when someone asks them to cater their wedding.

“It is such a huge day in people’s lives and it’s so memorable.”

Clients love how she can be flexible and work with them on their menu. For one of the weddings she catered, the bride originally came to her because she heard she could have anything they wanted. When Anna asked what the couple enjoyed to eat, the bride responded that they really liked pizza. Anna immediately began to think how they could elevate pizza. She worked with her staff and they made delicious upscale pizzas and served them to each table on butler carts.

For those considering going back to school, and for those who want to eventually obtain a bachelor’s degree, Anna recommends those students choose Ivy Tech because of the great transfer opportunities.She also notes the affordability.

“You’re not going to leave with surmounting debt. Even if you came here for a couple years and then went to IUPUI, you would not leave with much debt,” she explained.

Anna’s goals do not stop with her time at Courses Catering. As of fall 2016, she is currently studying philanthropy at IUPUI’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. While she studies, she also has an internship with the Ivy Tech Foundation. Once she graduates, she plans on taking the LSAT and going to law school in 2017. “Ivy Tech opened doors for me,” Anna said. “When I was younger, I would take a job on salary. Now, it’s been the other way around and makes for a more joyful week. I enjoy what I do and I love being here.” 

For more on Anna, check out the article "Indy chef to cook Thanksgiving feast at Standing Rock, " by Indianapolis news station WISH TV from Thanksgiving 2016.

Anna was also a recipient of the 2017 William M. Plater Civic Engagement Medallion. This award honors IUPUI graduates who have excelled in their commitment to the community through activities such as service learning, volunteerism, community and social issue advocacy and more. Learn more

Claire Raway

Indianapolis Campus | General Studies Graduate

“You have such an opportunity here; take advantage of it. Take one thing each day to be grateful for-- it will make your experience so much more enjoyable.” 

Claire Raway came to Ivy Tech Community College as a better path to a four-year school.  

At first, coming to Ivy Tech was culture shock for Claire. As someone from a small, private high school in Minnesota, the idea of college seemed like a lot to take in.

“I was overwhelmed by how many people there were and the idea of having to make new friends. I'm not very social, so it was intimidating. But I definitely learned a lot. And not just in the classroom learning.”

Over time, Claire began to make a smooth transition into Ivy Tech. She learned to work with her classmates and found things to enjoy in her coursework. During her second year, she joined the American Honors program at Ivy Tech, which is a competitive honor society that prepares students to transition to junior and senior-level coursework at four-year colleges.

“I learned that you get out what you put into a class. If you are invested and looking for things that interest you, then you can make any class you take fascinating.”

During her time at Ivy Tech, Claire worked at The Oaks Academy and Talbot's, and was an active participant in her church and in a Christian organization called the People of Praise.

Claire noted she was proud of the papers she wrote while at Ivy Tech, especially those for her art history and history courses, which are subjects she is passionate about.

“I love to explore the world, past and present and these papers allowed me to find something that fascinated me and tap into it.”

She plans to earn her bachelor’s degree in art history, with the ultimate goal of teaching at the high school or college level. In December 2016, Claire is graduating from Ivy Tech and plans to transfer to the Herron School of Art and Design at IUPUI.

Her advice to other students at Ivy Tech is this: “You have such an opportunity here; take advantage of it. Take one thing each day to be grateful for-- it will make your experience so much more enjoyable.” 

Crystal Reed Ivy Tech Health Information Technology

Crystal Reed

Indianapolis Campus | Health Information Technology Graduate

Crystal Reed, a full-time faculty member at Ivy Tech Community College, started out as a student in Health Information Technology, the program for which she now teaches. 

In 2000, as a high school student living on her own, Crystal had to drop out to support herself, working two jobs. She found the drive to get back into education by working on her GED, which she received in 2001. 

Her determination did not end there.

She applied to Ivy Tech in 2002, had a few set-backs due to life challenges, but remained determined to complete a college degree and returned in the fall of 2010, completing general education courses. 

In the summer of 2012 her husband lost his job and they struggled to support their family of four. Her classmates and faculty reached out to help support her family during this time, including buying her children gifts for Christmas. Through these financial struggles, Crystal persisted in her school work.

She applied to the Health Information Technology program in the fall of 2012 and was accepted with a 4.0 GPA in her prerequisite general education courses.

During her time as a student, Crystal volunteered for the Indiana Health Information Management Association, was a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, served as president of the HIM Club and maintained a 4.0 GPA.

In 2013, she earned her Associate of Science degree in Health Information Technology from Ivy Tech and became the first in her immediate family to graduate from college.

She went on to earn her credential as a Registered Health Information Technician. 

Upon graduation, Crystal accepted a coding position from Putnam County Hospital, where she had completed an externship during her time as a student.  

Crystal now works as a full-time faculty member for Ivy Tech in the Health Information Technology program, where she gets to pass along the knowledge and skills to other students. 

“I love giving back to the program that made me the professional that I am today,” she said. 

“I also love helping Health Information Technology students achieve their educational and professional goals.”

Ernesto Rivas

Elkhart County Campus | AS, Liberal Arts Graduate '14 and BS, Workforce Education Development 

“Going back to school really helped me to figure out what I wanted to do and who I was.”

Ernesto Rivas vividly recalls two of the toughest years in his life.

Rivas had high expectations in 2011 after opting to leave the Marines following 12-plus years in the military. However, the harsh reality of an unforgiving job market quickly crashed those aspirations and drastically altered life as he knew it.

“When I got out, I thought I was going to get a federal job with Homeland Security right away,” the 36-year-old said. “I didn’t know the process would take about a year or longer. About four months after I got out, I couldn’t afford to pay my mortgage.”

Rivas bought an RV thinking he could rent out his house to help make ends meet. 

“It was only supposed to be for three months,” Rivas said.  It ended up being two years.

The unfortunate downward spiral continued as Rivas reluctantly had to rely on government assistance to take care of his wife and young daughter while living in an RV on his in-laws’ property in California. It wasn’t until a life-changing meeting with a college advisor that the former Marine learned of the advantages of the GI bill.

A visit to Indiana brought Rivas to the doorsteps of Ivy Tech’s Elkhart County campus, where he would ultimately graduate from with an associate degree in 2014, despite enduring open-heart surgery at the tail end of his final semester. Rivas studied Liberal Arts and has also earned a bachelor’s degree.

“I had no skills,” said Rivas. “All I had were my experiences from the Marines. I could not find a job, but going back to school really helped me to figure out what I wanted to do and who I was.”

He currently serves as a veteran representative for WorkOne.

Tre Robinson

Indianapolis Campus | ​Computer and Networking Technology Graduate

After earning his degree in just 11 months, Tre Robinson landed a rewarding career in the in-demand IT industry.

Tre earned his degree from Ivy Tech’s Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP) in computer and networking technology in 2012. This cohort-based program provides wraparound support to students to help them earn a degree that traditionally takes two years or more in just one year.

“Right out of high school, a traditional four-year school didn’t seem like a realistic goal. Being able to get a degree quickly without debt was a great opportunity and I took it,” Tre said. “I believe the ASAP program gave me more of an advantage over a traditional college experience due to the one-on-one time I got with some of the instructors.”

Immediately after graduating from Ivy Tech, Tre was hired by Interactions LLC in 2012 as an analyst. As the company grew, he continued to take on more responsibility. In February 2016, Tre was promoted to system administrator for the company and is now responsible for managing, supporting and maintaining more than 600 systems.

“Ivy Tech introduced me to the IT field. When I jumped into the ASAP program I was able to see that I really enjoy this and I could do it as a career-- and that’s exactly what happened.” Tre is currently pursuing his bachelor’s degree in software development from Western Governor’s University, where he was able to transfer credits from Ivy Tech toward his degree.

“I want to continue to build up my skills in the IT industry; I need to step it up and learn some more stuff,” he said. “I enjoy troubleshooting; I like being the one to figure out what’s going on and be the one to fix it.”Tre serves as an alumni ambassador for Ivy Tech ASAP, speaking on behalf of the program and how it helped him get where he is today.

“(Ivy Tech) got me where I needed to be and it gave me the confidence to get into the workforce and just do what I’m good at, and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.”

Winter Ruggaber

Indianapolis Campus | Practical Nursing Graduate

The Practical Nursing program at Ivy Tech Community College prepared Winter Ruggaber for a successful career in nursing. 

Winter graduated with a technical certificate in Practical Nursing in December 2017 and served as the student speaker at her graduation ceremony. She went on to pass the NCLEX exam in January and earned her licensed practical nurse (LPN) certification. 

Upon earning the certification, Winter was promoted from an aide at the nursing home where she works to an LPN, increasing her earnings and setting her up for career growth.

She credits the hands-on experience she got in the classroom and clinical setting for preparing her for a career in nursing. 

“The clinical experiences Ivy Tech had for the students really helped me see different hospital settings and different areas of interest. I was able to practice a lot of the skills we did in class out in the real world,” she said. “The curriculum includes so many different tools to prepare you for the NCLEX exam. It was very helpful for me and many other classmates.”

Winter has been accepted to LPN to ASN Transitional Track program at Ivy Tech, which will prepare her to become a registered nurse (RN). 

In addition to the curriculum and program itself, Winter said instructors in the program went above and beyond to help students learn through office hours, study groups and open communication. 

“I continue to go to Ivy Tech for the low priced tuition, but also because of the great teachers I’ve had, how close classmates get and how much everyone helps each other when we go through a program together,” she said. 

After she graduates from the RN program, Winter would like to work in a hospital setting. She has chosen this career path so she can continue to help others, which she finds extremely rewarding. 

“The people you take care of as a nurse aren’t always happy and in good health; they can be at their rock bottom and not wanting to deal with anybody or anything. If you do your job to the best of your ability and show compassion and listen to the things they say and need, and go the extra mile for them, then you may just brighten their spirit and make them smile,” she said. “That is the most rewarding thing for me; helping to heal people in their body, mind, and soul. You won’t always succeed, but every now and then you do, and it is worth it.”

Mari Ryhal

Lawrence Campus | Health Information Technology Graduate

“I had a great experience at Ivy Tech.

Sometimes having experience in a specific job is just not enough to be hired. Mari Ryhal found herself in this situation back in 2009. Laid off from her previous job, Mari was unable to find a position in her field of expertise without having a college degree.

After researching different programs at Ivy Tech, Mari decided to join the Health Information Technology program. Mari appreciated the low cost of Ivy Tech as well as the curriculum that she was taught.

Mari’s time at Ivy Tech ran very smoothly. Her biggest obstacle was navigating through the financial process. Luckily, the Ivy Tech staff was able to assist her with this. “Ivy Tech has knowledgeable staff to help through any process.”

The Ivy Tech staff was Mari’s favorite part of the college. “Registration staff, financial assistance, and the teachers were very informed and helpful. The teaching was geared to prepare students for the workplace.” Her dedicated teachers showed her what skills she would need in a future work environment. She took their advice on how to get her foot in the door where she intended to work.

While at Ivy Tech, Mari participated in an internship experience where she could show what she had learned.

Currently, Mari is an account coordinator at Major Hospital in Shelbyville, Indiana. This is where she held her internship position while attending Ivy Tech. She received three promotions since she started working there full time.

 Her advice for other students’ success is to seek internship opportunities at businesses in which they are interested. In regards to education, she strongly considers attending a college like Ivy Tech to earn affordable credits.

“I feel that Ivy Tech gave me the education as well as the confidence to move into a career. I would recommend Ivy Tech to anyone seeking my advice.”

Daniel Sailor

Warsaw Campus | Machine Tool Technology Graduate

“I came to Ivy Tech because I wanted to have some hands-on experience…"

Daniel Sailor is getting a head start on his success. A full-time high school student, Daniel is also a student in the Machine Tool Technology program at Ivy Tech’s Warsaw campus.

Like many other teens, Daniel’s priorities include excelling in school, participating in extracurriculars and spending time with friends. The 16-year-old does all of that, but he also has made his future career a priority. Interested in computer programming, robotics and mechanical engineering, Daniel already has set his sights on a career in the manufacturing field. And it’s Ivy Tech that is helping him accomplish that goal.

“From talking with engineers in the manufacturing field, some employers are looking for that understanding that comes with hands-on experience," Daniel said. "The classes at Ivy Tech are giving me that.”

Some engineering programs jump right into design without teaching the basics of machining, but it’s those fundamentals that drew Daniel to Ivy Tech.  “Ivy Tech gives me an understanding of the basic processes that are at the heart of mechanical engineering, an area that traditional engineering schools don’t cover," he said. 

The teen has already completed his first college-level course in machining and earned two National Institute of Metalworking Skills certificates. He plans to continue courses in machining and, to no surprise, pursue an engineering degree after high school.

Candice Silvas

Michigan City Campus | AS, Elementary Education Graduate and BS, Liberal Studies Graduate

“After all my education experience, Ivy Tech would still be my first choice!”

Candice Silvas defines success as “knowing you have done the absolute best you can do in your present circumstances.” That’s not only a philosophy for Candice, but also a way of life.

At 16 Candice had her first son, Bryon. For many students, becoming a teen parent might mean dropping out of high school, but that wasn’t the case for Candice. As a new, single mother, she enrolled in an alternative high school where Bryon could go to a day care center on-site. After graduation, Candice married and began working full-time. She and her husband, Ray, welcomed a daughter, Emily, and Candice stepped into the role of step-mom to Ray’s daughter, Kaitlyn. Struggling to support her growing family, Candice realized that a college degree could help her earn a higher wage. “I needed a college that would be cost effective, offer a flexible schedule, and have minimal travel time,” Candice says.

Ivy Tech was the perfect fit. “The course schedules were amazing; they offered a large array of class times…which were perfect for a working parent!” Candice says. Candice credits much of her initial success to Tony Thomas, Associate Director of Advising at the Michigan City campus. Tony helped Candice navigate financial aid, the enrollment process, and her placement exam results. “His passion was extremely evident,” Candice says. “He became my go-to guy for everything.” Tony made such an impression on Candice that she brought friends and family to enroll at Ivy Tech.

After completing her associate degree in Elementary Education, Candice transferred her courses seamlessly to Purdue North Central and earned her bachelor’s degree. She's now working on her MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University. Out of all her college experiences, Candice’s favorite is Ivy Tech. “The coursework is as rigorous as any other college, but the fantastic customer service and the feeling of belonging cannot be replicated anywhere else,” Candice says. “After all my education experience, Ivy Tech would still be my first choice!”

Candice now works for the Salvation Army of Michigan City as the Community Resource Coordinator and Director of Development. She also was recently elected to the Michigan City Common Council.

Courtney Sinclair

Columbus Campus | Fine Arts Graduate

After being accepted into several of her favorite art schools, Courtney Sinclair made the choice to come to Ivy Tech Community College. Deciding what school to choose wasn’t the easiest thing for Courtney, but she knew he didn’t want to go into a large amount debt while attending college. “Staying in Indiana and attending Ivy Tech provided me the ability to dream bigger.”

Courtney attended the Bloomington Campus to complete her pre-requisites, and then continued with the Visual Communications program at the Columbus Campus.

She says her favorite part about attending Ivy Tech Community College was the professors and other staff members. “They made sure we took every opportunity we had- from applying to scholarships, traveling abroad, and putting our work out into the world! They were all extremely helpful, and so experienced.” Courtney believes that they provided her an outstanding support system, one that she will be able to refer back to as her career develops.

While attending Ivy Tech Community College, Courtney was able to talk to other experienced artists in her field. She believes she learned many aspects from Ivy Tech Community College; not only the artistic part of her career, but also how to run her own business.

Courtney now owns her own photography business, and is currently a portrait and wedding photographer in Bloomington, Indiana. Courtney has had continued success as a business owner, and continues to make connections within her local community!

Matt Sondgeroth

Lafayette Campus | Design Technology Graduate

Matt Sondgeroth is a 2003 graduate from the Lafayette campus. He choose Ivy Tech Community College because he wanted an affordable education, the ability to enter the workforce quicker than a typical four year degree would allow and the flexibility to work full-time while also attending courses.

Matt had a passion for drafting and completed his degree in Design Technology. He currently is a Project Manager for a company that provides technology solutions to Home Builders in numerous ways.

When asked how Ivy Tech faculty and courses prepared him for his career, Matt stated “The faculty are working professionals in the courses they are teaching. Their hands on-experience in related fields provided me with additional insight for what I could expect once I started my career.”

Any advice you can pass along to people who are interested in Ivy Tech?

“If you put forth the effort and show some initiative and interest with your courses, you can have a rewarding career with what Ivy Tech has to offer.”

Kyle Steiner

Lafayette Campus | Design Technology Graduate

In 2002, Kyle Steiner embarked on a journey that would soon lead him to a successful career. Struggling on choosing the right degree, he decided to go to Ivy Tech Community College to complete his core classes, then transfer to Purdue University.

“I didn’t know what career path to take. I know many classes from Ivy Tech could transfer to Purdue, so that’s the path I took,” said Kyle. “Once I decided on my career path, I could transfer to Purdue and focus on my major.”

Although Kyle struggled to find a program that he would enjoyed, he remembered he took drafting classes in high school that he thoroughly enjoyed. As soon as he figured out the Ivy Tech offered a Design Technology program, he dove in and started the program.

“Many of the classes that I took were taught by professors who have spent their whole life in the industry. Since these individuals were industry professionals, they provided me a real-world experience that prepared me for the workforce,” Kyle noted. “The small class sizes that are offered at Ivy Tech provided me the one-on-one attention I needed to do well in my classes.”

Kyle graduated from Ivy Tech in 2004 and is now a Project Manager at CG Visions in Lafayette, Indiana.

“If you are the type that learns best in a smaller classroom, Ivy Tech is a great choice.  This provided me regular opportunities to have one-on-one conversations with my professors.”

Steve Stout

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Graduate

Not only was Steve able to earn his degree in human services, become the president of Collegiate Veterans Association, and serve as a veteran in the Marine Corps. He helped found and name the Bear Necessities Food Pantry.

This Ivy Tech graduate was able to do it all.

Having a history of homelessness and addictions pushed Steve to help make a difference in others’ lives. In May 2015, Steve was certified in substance abuse counseling. Stout has always focused on working with those who are homeless and people who are hungry. “I can help homeless people get off the street, but if they are still in the addiction, they will go back to the street. I want to help them overcome their addictions.”

Eventually Steve would like to open a shelter to help homeless people. He wants to be able to provide information to homeless people and help them out of their situation, especially those with substance abuse.

Currently, Steve is pursuing an addictions counseling bachelor’s degree from Indiana Wesleyan University. He had an internship that led to part-time job at the Express Enrollment Center. All of his Ivy Tech credits transferred, and he will graduate in just two more years.

“Ivy Tech has given me the support. All the people here are very supportive of what I do. They give me connections to reach my goals. They have guided me. They have been very supportive in what I’m doing.”

Steve was awarded four different scholarships through becoming involved with school activities. “I tell students to get involved- it opens doors. When I graduated, I got a hug from the chancellor, not a handshake. That, to me, was much more meaningful.” His Ivy Tech education helped Steve to accomplish many of his goals in just a two year period. “My time here has been fantastic and the staff and faculty have been wonderful. I have participated in three panel builds for Habitat for Humanity and during my time here have earned the respect from the chancellor as well as other members of the school.”

Nick Sufana

Valparaiso Campus Criminal Justice Graduate

"...Ivy Tech made it possible for me to afford school..."

Crack! Nick Sufana hit the ball straight up the middle towards the pitching mound where his dad stood. It was the last night of summer before Nick’s freshman year in high school and it was getting dark. Nick, his dad, and his three brothers had gone out to the baseball field near their home to practice batting. A storm was rolling in, and it quickly became too dark to see. Nick’s dad suffered a detached retina and fractured orbital bone when the ball made direct content with his eye. The injuries caused him to undergo a dozen surgeries, incur several thousands of dollars in medical bills, and permanently lose part of his vision. 

To help at home after the accident, Nick worked two jobs. He gave every paycheck to his parents to help alleviate some of the financial burden his family now faced.  When he wasn’t working or going to class, Nick helped care for his three younger brothers.

To continue helping his family after high school, Nick needed a college that was close to home. Living in Chesterton, the Valparaiso campus was just a short 15-minute drive. Nick found that Ivy Tech’s flexible class schedule allowed him to keep working and provide support for his family. Nick also needed classes that easily transferred so he could earn his bachelor’s degree. Ivy Tech’s transferable credits meant that he could save money on his first two years of college, while still working toward a four-year degree.

“Going to Ivy Tech for the first two years made a huge impact on my family’s financial situation,” Nick said. “I had to pay for my own tuition, books, and supplies, so going to Ivy Tech made it possible for me to afford school and help my parents cover bills and groceries. That meant that they didn’t have to work so many jobs and could spend more time at home with us.”

Nick earned his technical certificate and associate degree in Criminal Justice from Ivy Tech in December 2014. 

He transferred to Valparaiso University where he is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in Sports Management with a minor in Business Administration. Nick is also a member of the Valparaiso Police Department Volunteer in Police Services (VIPS) program and was recently selected to complete the Kouts Police Department 40-hour pre-basic training program. Nick’s goals include serving his community as a member of the local police and becoming a U.S. Marshal. 

Major life changes are often unexpected. Despite the responsibility Nick feels for the accident, he knew he could continue to help his family by gaining independence and setting an example for his younger brothers. Ivy Tech helped Nick take the next step toward his career. What will a degree from Ivy Tech do for you?

Satya Sunkavalli

Fort Wayne Campus | Aviation Maintenance Technology Graduate

Reaching New Heights - student trades computers for airplanes to embrace personal passion

Despite schooling, internships, and teaching opportunities to enter the computer science field, Satya Sunkavalli ultimately determined the path she had been following wasn’t the right one to achieve the career heights she truly desired.

Those heights are routinely 20,000 feet or more off the ground.

“Watching birds fly inspired me to think about the nature of flying and the traits of airplanes,” Sunkavalli says. “Being a pilot is very well respected in India, so over time I became interested in becoming one and also in building a small kit airplane.” Ivy Tech Community College Northeast is helping one of those passions take flight through its Aviation Maintenance Technology program, where Sunkavalli is earning an associate degree. 

Sunkavalli came to the U.S. on a student visa in late 2010 with the intent to earn a pilot certification. She enrolled in a flight program at another institution in Indiana before personal obstacles prevented her from completing her studies in a 20-month timeframe, so she transferred to a comparable flight program in Florida with the hope of finishing in a shorter time period. Despite a solid performance on the oral portion of her practical test, she failed the flight portion.

Ivy Tech - Satya Sunkavalli“I was so discouraged and disappointed with myself,” Sunkavalli says. “But there are always challenges in life. You just can’t give up. Doing something a little different after this was a great way to regain my confidence.”

With that renewed spirit, she placed her pilot-training goal on hold and enrolled at Ivy Tech Northeast in early 2013 to study aviation from a mechanical perspective. She has experienced clear skies since the decision.

“I get to learn something new every day,” Sunkavalli says. “Every one of us in the program shares the same aspiration to work on airplanes, learn more about airplanes, and be a part of aviation.”

Aviation Maintenance Technology instructor Brad Stark has taught Sunkavalli in three of his classes to date, with course content ranging from aircraft fuel systems to sheet metal fabrication.

“She has a good grasp on what she’s learning in the moment, she tries hard to apply the principles, and she helps fellow students if they have questions,” Stark says.

Ivy Tech - Satya Sunkavalli

Sunkavalli has made her participation and leadership presence known on campus in other ways. She is the newly elected vice president of the Student Government Association and is a member of the Campus Activities Board and the Multicultural Student Organization. Assistant Director of Diversity Affairs Diana Jackson is among her strongest supporters.

“Can I just say she’s an amazing person?” Jackson says. “Satya has been very aggressive in her studies and is currently carrying a 3.7 GPA. On a personal level, she is very kind, soft spoken, and cares a lot about people.”

Sunkavalli is also engaged in inspiring current and future aviators. She’s an advisor for the Aviation Explorer Post 2035 and the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Youth Program, both based at Smith Field in Fort Wayne. Sunkavalli also takes pride in her association with the local chapter of The Ninety-Nines, an international organization of women pilots founded by 99 licensed women pilots in 1929. Aviation icon Amelia Earhart served as the group’s first president.

Following her anticipated graduation next spring, Sunkavalli says she wants to persist with becoming a certified pilot and also be among the first to apply for work at GE Aviation’s new $100 million, next-generation jet engine assembly facility currently being built in Lafayette, Ind. GE Aviation spokespeople have said most new hires for the top jobs are expected to earn $36 per hour or nearly $75,000 a year.

“Working at a global company like GE would be a great networking opportunity and help me stay on course with aviation and everything I’m looking for in my career,” Sunkavalli says.

And her resilience in the face of an initial setback provides a new spin on what it means to aim high.

Fawaz Tahir

Indianapolis Campus | Accounting Major

There is a stigma about community colleges, however I would argue that the level of education and help at Ivy Tech is equal in many ways.”

It may seem impossible to work full-time, father three children, and work toward finishing a degree, but Fawaz Tahir is currently succeeding in every one of these tasks at Ivy Tech Community College.

Due to his busy lifestyle, it is helpful for Tawaz that Ivy Tech offers many different courses to fit around his schedule. “Ivy Tech is both very flexible and affordable when it comes to allowing me to finish my degree. I have been able to go to classes both on campus and online between the demands of work and home life.”

 Ivy Tech’s affordable tuition has aided Fawaz in remaining free of student loans.

During his time at Ivy Tech, Fawaz is grateful to have attended the Ivy Tech Dual Credit Champion’s Breakfast as a guest panelist. He has also attended several career fairs at Ivy Tech.

As of fall 2016, Fawaz is a store manager for Walgreens. He chose to attend Ivy Tech to expand his skills as an employee.

“Earning a degree is a great stepping stone for anyone looking to differentiate themselves in the working world.”

Gloria Turner Ivy Tech graduateGloria Turner

Indianapolis Campus | Human Services Graduate

Many people put off their education goals because they don’t think they have enough time. Gloria Turner is proof that anyone can make it work.

This mom of two (an 8-year-old and 18-month-old) has mastered the skill of full-time work and school, which is not an easy feat. But that isn’t all. While at Ivy Tech, Gloria was a Student Government Association senator and Vice President of Fellowship for Phi Theta Kappa. She was also Community Service Chair for the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Gloria is also involved in Women in Philanthropy and Project Grow. She is an Ivy Tech Bowen Scholar, 21st Century Scholar and is the 2016 title holder of Miss Indiana Plus. She plans to compete in the national pageant for Miss Plus America in July 2017.

How does she do it?

“I’ve been able to learn time management and juggle all those things,” Gloria explained.

Gloria was a non-traditional college student who graduated from high school at 26. As she was working toward her high school diploma, Gloria wasn’t sure if she could do it. She pushed herself anyway. 

Throughout her journey, many people told her she would not be able to get her degree. She channeled that negativity and wanted to turn it into something positive. Gloria worked hard and finished her diploma in seven months. This was almost a year and a half quicker than expected.

Not only did Gloria graduate in a short amount of time, but she also graduated at the top of her class. This success opened doors for her. She wanted to come to Ivy Tech Community College to continue her studies. “Aside from the prices being affordable, I wanted to come here for the convenience and flexibility,” she said. “I am a predominately online student, but because of the class offerings and rigor of the classes, it’s almost like being in class.”

Gloria knows the same doors will open for other students too if they just try. 

“I have been put in a position to take advantage of several opportunities, networking, meeting different people and leadership opportunities through various clubs,” she said. All her experiences have helped her build confidence for future endeavors. Gloria plans to transfer to a four-year institution and continue her education. This educational accomplishment is huge for Gloria, as she never had any plans to go to college. Now, education has become a large part of her life that she encourages her children to pursue, too.

Gloria's time in various clubs and organizations presented her with several scholarship opportunities. Gloria can use these scholarships to get a bachelor’s degree, debt-free. Once she obtains her bachelor’s degree, Gloria hopes to operate her own non-profit organization. This organization, which she called “ALERT,” stands for “Adult Learners Educated, Restored and Transformed.” She also hopes to work in the human services field as a life coach for an adult high school.

While she works towards her bachelor’s degree, Gloria has accepted a position as Community Chair for NSLS and was awarded their $3000 scholarship. She also earned the National Engaged Leader Award. 

For those who aren’t sure they can achieve their goals, Gloria wants them to know they can. Through meeting other students like her and learning to manage her time well, she knows anyone can do it.  

May 2018 update

Gloria was named one of United Way of Central Indiana's "100 Heroes." UWCI explains these are individuals that were nominated by their community who raised a hand to help others and made a positive impact in the community. Read her bio and watch her video. 

Jose Vasquez

South Bend Campus | Liberal Arts Graduate

Jose was selected to participate in Ivy Tech’s Associate Accelerated Program (ASAP) where he could complete coursework at an advanced pace. He earned his associate degree in Liberal Arts in just one year!

Jose’s passion for learning and helping people led him to explore a career in Medical Assisting at the Elkhart Area Career Center during his senior year at Goshen High School. While there, Jose participated in Ivy Tech’s dual credit program and earned certifications in phlebotomy, electrocardiography, CPR, and first aid.

Those same passions led him to volunteer as a Spanish-English interpreter in his community. Jose earned another certification, this time in interpreting, and discovered his interest in international business.

After graduation, Jose transferred to Trine University where he’s working toward his bachelor’s degree in international business. Could your passion lead you to a great career?

Morgan Williams

Northeast Campus

Try, try again - Alumnus wins New Venture Competition the second time around

Look at Morgan Williams, and it’s hard to miss his ring. It’s huge, and it’s something he wears with pride—you can just tell.

In 2009, when Williams played wide receiver at Trine University, he and his team, which went undefeated, won the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association Conference Championship. The ring commemorates that win, that dedication, that success.

As a high school football player, Williams says, the recruiting process was stressful.“It was all put on my shoulders,” Williams says. “I had to get my own information to colleges. I figured if there was a company that could do that for an athlete that was in my situation, it would give parents and athletes piece of mind.”

Thus, Elite Performance Scouting was born. Last month, Williams presented his business to 50-plus community judges, who voted him the winner of the New Venture Competition at Ivy Tech Community College Northeast. Williams’ prize: $35,000 in capital funds. 2015 marks the second time Williams entered the competition. He lost in 2013. “That’s kind of what made me strive to dig deeper into what it takes to be a business owner and to make EPS what it is today,” he says.

How EPS works

Williams attended high school in Georgia and trained with Blast Training and its owner, Steve Putman, a college and NFL trainer. However, the company did not market athletes to colleges.

“I spent 60 percent of my time playing and the other 40 percent trying to get myself a scholarship,” he says. “My senior year in high school was extremely stressful during recruiting, but I did end up getting offers. I figured if there was a company that could have done that for me, that would have made a world of difference.”

Elite Performance Scouting offers training, recruiting, marketing, and more. Camps and combines serve as evaluation days. High school and college coaches can attend and measure athletes based on timed drills. Elite Performance Scouting will record those times and compile them with highlights from the current season and an athlete’s grades to make a professional portfolio, which the company will send to schools across the country. Williams also manages a database of online player profiles, which college coaches can access for free, at epscouting.com.

One of the first things Williams plans to do with his winnings is purchase new camera equipment to better capture athletes in action. He also plans to reach out to Fort Wayne Community Schools Career Academy at Anthis, where he is on the advisory board of the IT department, to find a student who would like to intern with Elite Performance Scouting.

Eventually, Williams plans to expand Elite Performance Scouting beyond football: He wants to offer his company’s services to athletes in softball, baseball, basketball, and soccer. When the expansion starts, he will use his New Venture funds to help get the word out.

EPS’s success

Thus far, Williams’ greatest success with an athlete is Fort Wayne North Side High School graduate Randon Moore.

“He was the only athlete I had in the summer of 2012,” Williams says. “He had no offers leading into his senior year, and we put together some impressive tapes for him. At the end of his senior year, he had eight offers. He chose to sign with Nebraska–Kearney.”

Today, Williams works with 12 seniors, and he won’t know their futures until National Signing Day on Feb. 3, 2016, which is the last day a high school senior can sign a National Letter of Intent to play college football with an NCAA school. However, colleges have expressed interest in his players; The University of Michigan, University of Illinois, University of Iowa, Miami (Ohio) University, Trine University, and University of Saint Francis have all expressed interest in at least one of Williams’ athletes.

In Williams, athletes will find not just a trainer, but something of a mentor. “I’m in college right now thanks to Morgan because he sent out film and helped me perfect my craft,” says Moore, who is studying sports management at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and plays cornerback. “He showed me how to better myself and be a better person on and off the field. I call him my big brother.”

Emily Weldon-Willis

Indianapolis Campus | Business Administration Graduate

“Always believe in yourself that you can do it. It is never too late to get your degree.”

Ivy Tech graduate Emily Weldon-Willis is proof that it is never too late to get back in school. Ivy Tech graduate Emily made the decision to go back to school at the age of 55 after her children graduated from high school. Her goal was to finish her degree in order to advance in her profession. Obtaining a college degree was necessary for her in order to accomplish that.

Emily felt that Ivy Tech was a perfect fit since it offered many different class times that worked around her full-time job. Flexibility was a crucial aspect of college that Emily was looking for. She favored Ivy Tech because it has a small campus feel and offers both online and in class sessions.

During her time at Ivy Tech Community College, Emily was faced with a few obstacles. Classes that consisted of labs were hardest for her, but she was able to overcome her challenges and achieved an A in all of those classes.

Emily was proud to make the Dean’s List at Ivy Tech. She was also able to join the Kappa Beta Delta Honor Society. Throughout her experience at Ivy Tech, Emily was a member of the America Business Women’s Association.

Moving forward, Emily plans on furthering her education. “I would like to go on for my bachelor’s degree and move up and beyond in my business.” She wants to earn her bachelor’s in finance in order to work in the field of federal payroll or accounting.

As of 2016, Emily works full-time as an administrative assistant for a local office in the government.


Joshua Willman

Fort Wayne Campus Construction Technology Graduate

Going With the Grain - Student excels at construction studies, career goals despite physical challenge

With his hard hat and tool belt in tow, Joshua Willman is on the road by 4 a.m. most mornings. His nearly 15-hour days in ideal weather can take him as far as the Toledo suburbs, where he works in residential construction.

The Fort Wayne native’s demanding routine between work and school isn’t typical for the average Ivy Tech Community College Northeast student, but then again, he isn’t the average student.

Willman was born profoundly deaf to hearing parents. Since childhood, he has worked to develop his proficiency at lip-reading and has worn standard hearing aids to help him gain a sense of sound and practice his voice. His parents opted not to pursue surgically invasive cochlear implants for him. Coincidentally, his upbringing included relationships with two cousins who are also deaf.

Willman developed his occupational interest in construction once he learned members of his extended family work in the field, particularly his uncle. “I used to sit back and watch how he built houses. I became interested in what he was doing and thought I’d like to build my own house someday,” says Willman, through American Sign Language interpreter Kathy Gomez.

Beginning with his junior year, Willman split his academic studies between Snider High School and Anthis Career Center’s Construction Trades program.Through Anthis, Willman gained carpentry skills and helped frame two houses during his first- and second-year course work. His Anthis teachers were also responsible for introducing their students to Ivy Tech Northeast’s Building Construction Management and Construction Technology programs, where students had the opportunity to earn associate degrees and certificates in the skilled trade they enjoyed.

Willman followed the tip and enrolled at the College as a construction technology major during fall semester 2013, and he took an immediate liking to blueprint reading.

“It’s a complex challenge,” Willman says. “You really have to look at something to understand it, how to read it, and then match it up with measurements.” Construction technology instructor Jonathan Keck has been impressed by Willman’s willingness to accept challenges.

“Josh was always enthusiastic and animated in class,” Keck says. “Josh was very focused on the tasks and is willing to put in the effort to accomplish goals.”Willman’s achievements also garnered the attention of Jonas Miller, owner of New Haven, Ind.-based J & M Miller Construction LLC, which specializes in residential construction and repairs. Miller is a family friend who heard about Willman’s experience at Anthis, prompting him to offer Willman a job as a general laborer last May. “He has kept improving his carpentry skills,” Miller says. “He is becoming a great framer and roofer.”

Willman’s job performance continued to ascend and, two months later, Miller promoted Willman to safety inspector once he secured his general industry training certification from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

And Willman has had no reservations about doing what’s necessary to keep his three work crews safe.“I’ll sign, ‘Get your safety glasses on. Get your hat on. Where are your boots? Where are your gloves?’” says Willman, who shares that he also consults safety signs and safety literature when warranted. Co-workers are encouraged to gesture and speak slowly in return. Willman says he prefers to write out complex directions, even if that means conveying the information on two-by-fours used in framing homes.

Shortly after Thanksgiving, Willman received another surprise appointment from Miller—a promotion to succeed him as senior foreman effective immediately, which will mean overseeing as many as 30 crew members in warmer months.

“It’s proven to be a really big responsibility to run the crews, do paperwork, read blueprints, and sign documents on the owner’s behalf,”  Willman says.

But this opportunity is a fitting venture for Willman, who says he wants to become a licensed general contractor and a business owner in 10 to 15 years, thus proving his future is under construction in more ways than one.

Michael Wilson

Indianapolis Campus | Mechanical Engineering Technology Graduate

Michael Wilson was chosen to represent his classmates during President Obama’s visit for many reasons.

During his time at Ivy Tech Community College, Michael Wilson was involved in the Bowen Scholars program, Collegiate 100 and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis. He now studies Mechanical Engineering Technology at IUPUI and has successfully developed mobile apps, one of which is being funded by Purdue University.

When he first came to Ivy Tech, Michael was very shy and kept to himself. In 2014, after losing his mother to heart disease, he began to have a major transformation in his attitude toward school. He applied to the Bowen Scholars Program, where he learned to become a leader. In 2015, Michael represented Ivy Tech as student ambassador and was able to meet President Barack Obama during his visit to campus. Michael got involved in community projects and organizations, including Collegiate 100 and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis. He also had an internship with AeroFab, a division of Tube Processing Corp.

Michael graduated from Ivy Tech with his Associate of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology in 2015. He was hired by Johnson Controls Inc. upon graduation, where he is still employed today. He is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology at IUPUI and plans to graduate in May 2017. Michael also works for IUPUI as a Mechanical Designer for the Campus Facility Services and volunteers with Circle Up Indy and the Bloom Project, Inc.

In 2015 Michael was named one of WFYI's American Graduate Champions. He co-founded the Collegiate 100 at IUPUI and serves as president of the organization. Michael has successfully developed mobile apps and online modules for educational purposes. He recently received a grant from the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology to research and develop an augmented reality app that improves the process and efficiency of engineering practices, which is not beta testing.

“I believe that Ivy Tech is where I really found my way to my passions and ambitions. I was surrounded by people who encouraged me every day, reassuring me that I had the ability to reach the goals I spoke about. I always think about how different my life may have been if I did not come to Ivy Tech. I would have never met the counselors, mentors, and even instructors, all who went the  extra mile just to make sure I had everything I needed to succeed."

Grant Young

General Studies | Franklin Campus

High school graduates are often unsure what they want to pursue for their career, which was the case for Grant Young. He knew he wanted to find something he loved, which drew him to Ivy Tech. As a student pursuing options, Grant felt Ivy Tech was the right choice because of the school’s low tuition rates. 
Grant started taking classes and chose to work toward an associate degree in general studies. This would allow him to find his calling then transfer to a four-year school. 

"It made me well-rouned,” he said about his time at Ivy Tech. “I’m glad I came for general studies, took general classes and learned a lot. I learned techniques, studying tools, etc. It makes you more personable and helps you come out of your shell.”

Grant has no problems coming out of his shell and always keeps busy. In addition to being a full-time student, he also works in catering, referees a variety of sports for the Amateur Athletic Union and has also been doing stand-up comedy. 

Once he graduates from Ivy Tech in December 2016, he plans to keep a busy schedule. 

Grant is set to transfer to Purdue University, where he has been accepted in the school’s Aviation and Transportation Technology program. He would love to be able to continue his education once he graduates from Purdue and become a LifeLine helicopter pilot.  In addition, he plans on minoring in fashion design and would like to start a clothing line for military amputees. 

Born with radial dysplasia, a congenital difference where one of his arms is shorter than the other, Grant spent the early years of his at Riley Hospital. In total, he had nine surgeries. 

“That’s why I’m minoring in fashion, because the clothing idea is great,” he said, adding his line will include athletic and winter gear. 
Grant remembered how excited he was when he had a custom fit tuxedo for his senior prom that fit his arms. He didn’t have to keep pulling the sleeve up and noted it’s the small things that make such a difference in a person’s life. 

For students unsure about college, Grant recommends people think about it and consider how affordable Ivy Tech is. 
“It helps you transition to a bigger school if you want to, but you don’t have to. You can get an associate,” he said. “You can open up other doors that you wouldn’t have otherwise. It gives you options.” 

Ivy Tech also helped Grant grow and network. He said he noticed how so many students have begun their college years shy and over the years so many have come out of their shell. As an outgoing person, he tries to help other people develop too. 

Today, Grant loves walking up and down the hallways of the Franklin campus and saying hi to everyone. From students to faculty, he is familiar with them all. He jokes about coming back years down the road and sitting in on an old class. 


Colin Zimmer

Fort Wayne Campus Automotive Technology Graduate

Alumnus accelerates his career through Tesla Motors 

A lifelong interest in fast cars and the culture that embraces them has helped Colin Zimmer shift his career into high gear.

The Ivy Tech Community College Northeast graduate is an automotive technician with Tesla Motors, the California-based automaker that designs and builds 100 percent electric cars. These cars have a driving range longer than 270 miles per charge and feature “instant torque, incredible power, and zero emissions,” according to the company’s website.

A Fort Wayne native, Zimmer says his road to employment with Tesla was the result of a detour suggested by an aunt who lives in Las Vegas. She asked him his opinion on the relatively new automaker, based on his automotive knowledge, and whether its cars were legitimately hot or mere hype.

“During the talk, I remember asking her, ‘Do I want to test drive a $130,000 car with your name signed on the release? Of course I do,’” Zimmer says. She concluded the discussion by extending an invitation for her nephew to join her in Las Vegas to visit an area Tesla dealer. On-site, Zimmer learned about the all-electric technology and even toured the facility. He says his experience was transformative.

“I remember walking through that service center and being astounded by how clean it was, how happy everyone was, how simple the cars are, in theory,” he says. “That was that. I asked, ‘When is there going to be an opening, and what do I have to do?’”

Within a few weeks an entry-level service assistant position became available. Zimmer went through three months of interviews to secure the position. Just shy of a year later—and following additional interviews—he was promoted to an automotive technician role. He was initially based in Las Vegas, commuting regularly to Salt Lake City to provide diagnostic services for Tesla owners in the region. In spring 2015, Tesla opened a service center in Salt Lake City. Zimmer relocated to this service center and has seen his growth opportunities expand, from training new hires to ensuring that operations meet Tesla’s protocol to traveling to Europe for special campaigns.

“I can potentially see myself being with Tesla as a lifelong career,” Zimmer says. “Obviously, there are many different positions I could hold within the company, but foremost, I believe in what we're doing."