Michelle Jones-Raiz won the Paul Simon, "How Community College Changed My Life" essay contest.

Michelle Jones-Raiz won the Paul Simon, “How Community College Changed My Life” essay contest.

Moraine Valley’s Michelle E Jones-Raiz was honored as the Moraine Valley winner of the 2015 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest for her essay on “How Community College Has Changed My Life.” Jones-Raiz won a $500 scholarship for her work. The Oak Forest resident’s essay highlights how she went from a divorced mother of two, to supporting her family through the education she received at Moraine Valley.

How community college has changed my life? That question is an answer inside an answer. I am not going to pull you through the story of my life or how much pain and tragedy I had to endure the last 10 years of my life. But I will tell you the opportunities that I have created for myself with the help of community college and all who help keep it up and running.

I was 23 and a divorced mother of two children with only a couple retail jobs under my belt by this time. I had no real skill set in place beside having a great work ethic and being prompt, which by the way employer’s didn’t bat an eye to since most people say that to get a job. Upon receiving my G.E.D., I enrolled at MVCC (Moraine Valley Community College). I had to start, of course, at the bottom with some general education classes while still working. The daycare program for my kids was wonderful. I was able to have someone watch them while I continued through college, so I was able to I make my way into the B.N.A. (Basic Nursing Assistant) course. I finished the course and started working within a couple of months. Although it was overnight, it was a job that was doable. I was able to provide better for my family and also found a side job caregiving for a disabled child a few hours during the week. I took further education classes which worked around my schedule. There usually is always an online, morning, weekend or evening class to suite your own needs. From working my side job, I met a teacher who did and would recommend me to her superintendent and principal if I was interested. Currently I am in my second year as a health aide for an elementary school grades k-6. The kids are the highlight of my day, even though most are sick, it didn’t matter, I loved my job.

I still work both jobs at this point, which equals about 70 hours a week. I was asked to help with summer school with my district the very first year I started and was asked to return the next year. I still attend classes part time to further myself in my career to hopefully soon finish, so I can work one job and still make enough to provide for my family now and for their future.

Many enroll in community college because they are made to or because it is a lot less expensive, but I enrolled because I wanted to. I wanted to change my life for myself and for my children. They had everything you need to succeed. All that you need to bring is dedication, hard work, and the ability to see what you want to become in life and do it.