Always Prioritize Progress

Carolyn Rathke

McHenry County College alum Carolyn Rathke credits an MCC scholarship as the catalyst for her academic goals.

"The support I received from that scholarship allowed me to take political science courses at MCC, which then enabled me to continue studying politics and international relations at Lake Forest College," Rathke said.

The Cary-Grove High School graduate said she originally chose MCC as a money-saving option.

"I received generous scholarships to four-year universities, but it still could not compare to the financial benefit of attending community college," she said. "Attending university can truly be a financial burden, and you need to make decisions that are best for your future as a whole. The benefits you receive from higher education ultimately come down to how hard you work and what you decide you want to get out of it."

Rathke encourages other high school graduates to consider continuing their education at a community college.

"Don't let any stigmas deter your decision. There is no real "pathway" to success, as society may lead you to believe. If you really want to feel successful, challenge yourself to be a continuous learner, be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses, and always prioritize progress."

When reflecting on her time at MCC, Rathke fondly remembers taking a Comparative Government course with instructor Ribhi Salhi.

"This class really deepened my critical thinking skills and ability to participate in meaningful discussions,” she said. “I gained a better understanding of our own country by exploring the various systems that are in place around the world."

While studying at MCC, Rathke worked at the local YMCA, was involved in the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society, and participated in the Costa Rica study abroad program.

"Studying abroad was a wonderful experience for a laundry list of reasons. I have always loved to travel, but there is something uniquely special about getting to live with a Costa Rican native who does not speak any English—and whom I had never met before. I learned that if you allow yourself to feel discomfort, you will learn, grow, and reap an endless amount of rewards both personally and professionally."

After graduating from MCC in 2018, Rathke transferred to Lake Forest College.

"The only reason I found out about Lake Forest College—and was able to afford it—was because of the advertising I saw around MCC highlighting the Phi Theta Kappa scholarship that McHenry County College students could receive at Lake Forest."

Rathke graduated Cum Laude from Lake Forest College in Spring of 2020 and joined Teach For America, a nonprofit organization focused on ending educational inequity. She now lives in Phoenix, AZ where she works as an 8th grade teacher.

"I hope to stay in the field of education and use my degree and upcoming teaching experience to get into the education policy realm. I want to ensure we are creating systems that give all children access to quality education."

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