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Charge to graduates: Be kind and happy with what you have

May 16, 2016

“You are not all that unique. With more than seven billion people in the world, there are nearly 7,000 who are just like you. Take comfort knowing that not everything you do will be exceptional. This way, you’ll have greater appreciation for the moments that are.”

That’s the message HCC’s Board of Trustees Chairperson Gregg Chadwick told the class of 2016 at graduation on Saturday, May 14.

Average is A-ok

Chadwick was referencing a TEDx Talk by Jeroen van Baar, Average is Awesome. In his presentation, van Baar argues that we live in a society where people are constantly vying for the top spot and when we don’t reach it, we find ourselves in a constant state of disappointment. From jobs to relationships, he says not every aspect of our lives needs to be “awesome.” Instead, we should take back the right to be average and be happy with what we have.

Chadwick also noted that when it comes to education, Heartland sets the bar high. “Our expectations come from good intentions,” he said. “We want your lives to be better than ours and we want you to be happy.”

Seeking a Better Life

A better life is exactly what graduate Susan Ricketts set out to do. Her educational journey started in 1999. For personal reasons, she had to take a long break from school and started up again in 2013. At graduation, she received her associate degree in business.

“It took a long time. I was working, taking care of my kids and going to school. I’m proud I’ve finally finished.”

Ricketts says she couldn’t have earned her degree without the support of Heartland faculty and staff. After returning to school, she took some of her first classes at the campus in Pontiac. That’s where she met Linda Lambert, associate director of the Business Technology Learning Center and advisor to Heartland’s business honor society, Phi Beta Lambda.

“She was so excited and passionate about everything,” said Ricketts. “It rubbed off and really encouraged me.”

Having a full work, school and family load is no easy feat, but whenever Ricketts had her doubts about finishing school, she credits Lambert for providing the necessary motivation to finish.

Heartland Support Key to Success

Support was a common theme at the 24th annual commencement. Student speaker Laura Phillips compared Heartland to Frodo and the fellowship from Lord of the Rings. “Just as Frodo would not have made it without the fellowship, we too would not have come this far without the people and resources of Heartland.”

For speakers and distinguished alumni award winners Justin and Adam Bellas, Heartland was the launching pad that helped give them a successful landscaping business. The Bellas brothers started Bloomington-based Bellas Landscaping in 2003 while attending Heartland Community College. They credit several Heartland faculty for supporting them and allowing their business to thrive in the early years.

Reflecting on their time as students, Adam said they’ve always felt a sense of community at HCC. “Early on in the business, we had to rely on classmates and friends to help us get a job done. That’s what a community does, we help one another. And as a community college, Heartland has helped thousands.”

He went on to say, “Go out and be good community members. Enjoy what you do, be kind and live well.”

About 2016 Graduation

Approximately 175 students took part in the ceremony held at the Fitness and Recreation Center on Heartland's Normal campus. Prior to commencement, 29 nurses from HCC's nursing program were pinned. Following the ceremony, graduates and their families enjoyed cake and punch in the Astroth Community Education Center.

Media Coverage

Pantagraph: Heartland graduates 'close a chapter'


Visit Heartland's flickr page to view photos.

Photographer: Audrey Stickrod

Written by: Becky Gropp