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McHenry County College and the Friends of MCC Foundation Announce Education to Empowerment Scholarship Recipients for Fall 2019

[Thursday, August 1, 2019]

Six McHenry County College (MCC) female students have been named recipients of the prestigious Education to Empowerment award, a unique scholarship and mentoring opportunity for women, offered by the Friends of MCC Foundation. The mission of Education to Empowerment is to empower women to reach their fullest potential and achieve economic independence through education, mentoring, and financial support.

The 2019 recipients are: Emily Johnson of Marengo, Audre Knecht of McHenry, Alexa Slack of Bull Valley, Citlaly Velasco of Woodstock, Erin Wallin of McHenry, and Katarzyna “Kasia” Zajac of Algonquin.

Nancy Wenzel, co-chair of the Education to Empowerment Executive Committee said, “We are so excited about the strides made in the past year. Through the generosity of our current members and our expanding member base, we have increased the annual scholarship award from $8,000 to $10,000. It gives us great pride to support our scholarship recipients, particularly through increased funding of their college education.” 

The recipients and their career plans are:

  • Emily Johnson lives in Marengo and graduated from Marengo High School. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and participates in Psi Beta, MCC's Psychology Club. She is also the President of the Social Science Club. Through her involvement at MCC, Emily has gained new friends, close connections, and a sense of belonging. After completing her associate’s degree at MCC, Emily plans to transfer either to University of Iowa or University of Missouri to pursue a Bachelor in Psychology degree. Emily has a special interest in the veteran population and trauma therapy. She is exploring her future career options, as her passions include both criminal psychology and mental health counseling. Either path will compliment her strong passion for helping others. Emily enjoys spending time with her blended family, including a single mom, eight siblings, and many nieces and nephews.
  • Audre Knecht resides in McHenry and graduated from McHenry Community High School West with the Illinois State Seal of Biliteracy. Audre is very involved at MCC. She is a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, participates on the MCC Forensics Team, and works part-time in the Advising and Transfer Center. Audre is also a member of MCC L.I.O.N.S.  (Leaders Impacting Our New Students). She intends to obtain an associate’s degree from MCC and transfer to Illinois State University, majoring in Psychology. Audre credits her current success to perseverance, taking chances, and establishing meaningful connections. She hopes these life skills will support her desire to pursue a Ph.D. and work as a professor. In her free time, Audre enjoys playing guitar and writing music.
  • Alexa Slack lives in Bull Valley and graduated from McHenry Community High School West, at which time she earned the Key Club International Medal for completing 50+ hours of community service. Today, Alexa spends significant time in the classroom as she pursues her desire to become an elementary school teacher. She attends classes at MCC and also teaches preschool at KinderCare. Alexa wants to transfer to Roosevelt University after obtaining an Associate in Arts for Elementary Education at MCC. She plans to commute to Roosevelt so that she can continue to spend time with her family while going to school. Alexa’s ultimate goal is to become a successful teacher, positively influencing children in a third-grade classroom.
  • Citlaly Velasco resides in Woodstock and graduated from Woodstock North High School. She is a member of Latinos Unidos and participated in MCC’s 2019 Latino Empowerment Conference. Citlaly enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program in high school and currently works as a CNA at The Fountains in Crystal Lake. She balances caring for her siblings, her college experience, and a full-time job. After obtaining an Associate in Arts – Nursing Pre-Licensure from MCC, Citlaly would like to transfer to a university and obtain a BSN. She dreams of completing her clinical rotations at Mayo Clinic and hopes to specialize in either neonatal care or obstetrics. Citlaly has chosen to pursue nursing because it combines her love of science and her passion for helping others.
  • Erin Wallin resides in McHenry and graduated from McHenry Community High School West.  She will be the first person in her immediate family to receive a college degree. Erin is a provisional member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and participates in MCC’s Environmental Club. She wants to graduate with the silver cord award and obtain an Associate in Arts degree. Erin was originally exploring a teaching career, but she uncovered her true passion when taking a biology class at MCC. Erin now plans to transfer to Northern Illinois University to join their Nutrition, Dietetics, and Wellness program and become a Registered Dietitian. After experiencing an adolescent illness, Erin is poised to use her career to advocate for others. She is interested in working with patients that have chronic illnesses, but is also considering the field of sports nutrition. Erin enjoys volunteering at Helping Paws, reading, baking, and cooking.
  • Katarzyna Zajac, known as “Kasia” by those close to her, lives in Algonquin and graduated from Huntley High School. Kasia attended Emilia Plater Polish School for twelve years and reads, writes, and speaks fluent Polish. She currently works part-time at Michaels. As she pursues her Associate in Arts degree, Kasia is excited about the opportunity to consider different career options. She intends to transfer to an in-state school after her sophomore year at MCC. In her free time, Kasia enjoys biking, being outdoors, and listening to music. Through Education to Empowerment, Kasia is empowered to continue learning and to pursue her dream of a four-year education, stating that, "the Education to Empowerment scholarship will allow me to focus more on what I want to do, and not just what I have to do."

All six scholarship recipients met the pre-selection qualifications of full-time student with sophomore status, a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.25, and a completed application including essay responses outlining personal, professional, and educational goals. Each recipient will transfer to a four-year college or university in Fall 2020 and will continue to receive both mentoring and financial support from the scholarship program during their first year at that institution.

The Education to Empowerment Committee hosts several events per year that are sponsored by local businesses. The 2019 Scholarship Program and Reception took place on Wednesday, July 31 at the Gardens of Woodstock. Members and guests welcomed and honored the six new scholarship recipients during the program. This year’s Gold Sponsors include Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital; Associated Electrical Contractors, LLC; First Midwest Bank; and Northwest Herald Women of Distinction. Silver Sponsors are 365 Equipment & Supply; Aurora University; Cardinal Health; Mercyhealth; Northwestern Medicine; and Service League of Crystal Lake. Bronze Sponsors include Dorion-Gray Retirement Planning; Hammortree Financial Services; Insight Financial Partners, LLC; Miller Verchota, Inc.; Prairie Community Bank; and Working World, Inc.

For more information about Education to Empowerment or other scholarships, contact the Friends of MCC Foundation Office at (815) 479-7529.

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