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Hawk Imani Sanchez finds her wings at Heartland

August 23, 2019

For some students, Heartland becomes so much more than a place to take classes. For Imani Sanchez, Heartland became a place that would offer lifelong peer and mentoring relationships, a chance to give back to the community, career preparation and success, and overall fulfillment in her purpose.

On Finding Her Way to Heartland 

Originally from Elk Grove Village, Imani Sanchez found her way to Bloomington-Normal to study theater education at ISU. With a love for the spotlight, Imani sang, danced, acted, and performed her way through high school, and had hopes of blending that passion with another: kids.  

“I really like children, and I always felt I had a knack for leadership. I thought education would be the best way to exhibit that, but then once I got into it, I knew this wasn’t for me.”    

Feeling disappointed and lacking direction, Imani spent the next year back home working full time, saving up money, and dreaming about what she wanted to do next. But with her best friend and boyfriend still at ISU, she decided to return to the area. Soon after, Imani enrolled at Heartland.

Landing on a degree in Professional Administration & Business Technology, it didn’t take long for Imani to feel like she made the right choice. 

“Once I got into the program, I really liked the environment. I loved the campus. I loved the small class feel.”

Little did Imani know, her love for the program was only the beginning.

On Some Life-Changing Extra Credit 

Having been so involved in high school and at ISU, she realized she needed to fill that extracurricular void and get involved at the college. That’s when one of Imani’s business professors, Linda Lambert, introduced her to Phi Beta Lambda (PBL), a nationally-based organization that provides professional development and networking opportunities for future business leaders of America.

Imani may have attended the first meeting for the purpose of getting extra credit, but she immediately found herself drawn to PBL and all it could offer her. Reflecting back, Imani is so grateful for all the opportunities—personal and professional—that PBL offered her.

On "Suiting Up" for Student Success 

Upon getting involved in PBL, Imani was put in charge of spear-heading one of their major initiatives—the Suit Up Closet campaign. Located in the library, the Suit Up closet is a place where anyone (inside the college or out) can donate business casual and business professional clothing. Heartland students can visit the closet at any time to choose an outfit in preparation for an interview or job. The mission is to give away free professional clothing to those who might otherwise not have the ability to afford it. Under Imani’s leadership, the closet is expanding to include scrubs or athletic-type clothing for those professions that require a uniform outside of the typical office look.

“I know that this resource is helping people. People have told me ‘I got a new job!’ or ‘I got the interview!’ Other people are gaining success, achieving their goals, and getting to where they want to be because of the closet. That sense of satisfaction that I’m involved in helping someone find success feels so good for me.”

Imani looks forward to another year running the closet, hoping to spread the word to students and continue serving the Heartland community in a unique way. 

On Seeing Hard Work Pay Off 

Due to her involvement in the success of the Suit Up closet, Imani was nominated for the “For a Better Tomorrow’s Why I See You” (YICU) service award, celebrating 33 local, young students and their positive contributions to the community. Imani will attend the award banquet in September and if she wins, YICU will donate her $250 prize award to the Immigration Project, an organization that has positively affected those searching to gain citizenship status. 

Amongst various training opportunities, marketing campaigns, and community service projects, PBL also participates in two competitions per year—state and national. Imani had the incredible opportunity to combine her love for performance, experience in retail, and program of study, taking away a 1st place victory at the state leadership conference in Client Services. She then went on to compete in San Antonio, TX at the national level with two other Heartland PBL members, taking home 2nd place in the same category!

“PBL takes you out of your comfort zone. You’re not just going to say ‘hi.’ Everybody has to do business or involve themselves in business in some way or another. I’m being trained to work with other people and getting the skills I need to work in my field.”

And just because she wasn’t busy enough, Imani has gotten involved in other areas across campus outside of PBL. Last semester, she worked as a student Marketing Spokesperson, administering interviews, attending events, and taking over social media platforms. Imani currently puts her degree to good use working in the Executive Office and getting a front row seat to administration and life in the workforce.

On Thoughts for Other Hawks 

Of course, Imani wants to encourage other Hawks to get involved, whether it be in PBL or something else. There is so much to get involved in on campus and for Imani, finding her niche here has made all the difference.

To incoming students, Imani says, “Whatever ‘it’ is, do your best and go for it. Put yourself out there. It’s not about being popular, it’s about finding fulfillment.”

And to current Heartland Hawks, Imani reminds, “There’s always time to get involved. But otherwise, change it up. Don’t get stuck in your ways. Take a different path to class. Stop and look at the billboards. Take time to sit on the quad.”

On Leaving the Coop

Imani is grateful to Heartland and PBL for providing her with a supportive community and opportunities to set her up for a great future. “Heartland has given me more confidence in myself and confidence in my abilities. I’m so ready. I have all the necessary items to get me started successfully.”

Imani will proudly walk the stage in May 2020 as a graduate of Heartland Community College. And after spending over 20 years in the Midwest, she hopes to spread her wings and fly somewhere…well, warmer.

For now, you can find Imani camped out in the library, studying hard or manning the Suit Up closet!

Written by: Steve Fast