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When Jerry Smudde decided to return to college, he had been out of school for several years, working and raising his three children. He had already attended college but found that he wanted to search for a new career path. Lake Land College offered him the right opportunity.

As the semester progressed, the Mattoon resident decided to participate in the student life community. He chose to join TRiO and found it to be one of the best decisions he made while at Lake Land.

“TRiO gave me confidence and a sense of belonging,” Smudde said. “It helped me step outside of the box to go above and beyond to achieve my dreams. But most importantly, TRiO taught me that age doesn’t matter. Determination does.”

And Smudde wasn’t the only TRiO student determined to earn a degree.

Rick Williams had been a hardworking laborer for most of his career. When he got laid off from a well-paying factory job in December of 2009, he knew he needed to find something new to put his energy into.

The Charleston resident enrolled in Lake Land College’s Power Plant Mechanic program and also took extra classes in the area of Wind Technology. His classes were providing him the education he needed to find a successful career. Like Smudde, Williams chose to participate in the TRiO program.

“Signing up for the TRiO program was the best thing I could have done,” he said. “All of it helped me, the workshops, counselors, and all of the support really made a difference.”

Both Smudde and Williams, along with 19 other students, were honored at the TRiO annual Spring Recognition Banquet.

“This ceremony formally recognizes the success of students at Lake Land College that are proud participants in the college’s Student Support Services program,” Marko Mohlenhoff, director TRiO student support services, said.

Thirteen out of the 21 students graduated with a cumulative 3.0 GPA. These students were: Reginald Collins, Mattoon; Bessie Davis, Charleston; Norma Habing, Effingham; Samanthia Hall, Casey; Amber Hood, Shelbyville; Megan Johnson, Lakewood; Samantha Tilford, Windsor; Suzanne Walker, Windsor; Devan Washburn, Casey; Calvin York, Windsor; Smudde and Williams.

Williams, along with Angela Gordon, Casey; Linda Wemple, Tower Hill; Keith Bodeker, Altamont; and Marilyn Menser, Casey all received TRiO Grant Scholarships.

“I think this ceremony sends a clear message about how powerful and effective the federal Education Department’s TRiO programs are in positively impacting the nation at the level of our local communities,” Mohlenhoff said.

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