When senior Lila Johnson realized she didn’t want to go forward with her plans of being a Spanish major at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, returning to her hometown to attend Carl Sandburg Community College became a financially appealing option.
“I didn’t want to pay as much as Lawrence costs to figure out what I wanted to do. So I went to Sandburg to sort of figure things out,” Johnson said.
Junior Anastasia Ellison also chose Sandburg for the financial upside. Ellison was a recipient of the Galesburg Promise, a program which provides major financial assistance to students from Galesburg public schools to attend Carl Sandburg. The number of years students spent in the school district determine how much aid they’re eligible for.
“I only went to Galesburg district schools for all of high school, and those four years basically granted me almost full tuition,” Ellison said.
Johnson initially intended to return to Lawrence after a year at Sandburg, but ended up staying to complete her associate’s degree there. She explained that Sandburg ended up having more to offer than she initially assumed.
“I expected it be a lot more like high school — it’s a college, with college-level material and college-level classes,” Johnson said. “I was expecting it to not be as challenging as it was.”
Johnson was particularly taken in by Sandburg’s art program, saying that it was through taking ceramics at Sandburg that she ended up committing to pursuing art. This led her to Knox, both for its strong art program, as well as the lower cost of remaining off-board.
Ellison also took ceramics at Carl Sandburg and likewise described it as a highlight of her experience at the school.
“I learned a lot of new techniques and everything,” Ellison said. “My dad’s an art teacher at the high school so I’ve been through art a long time and just learning someone else’s perspective is really cool for that.”
Ellison had expected from the time she began at Sandburg that she would eventually attend Knox. She already had connections to the school through being friends with both students and faculty, such as her former dance coach, CIL Director Tianna Cervantez.
“It’s funny, I went to a lot more Knox events than the Sandburg events when I went to Sandburg,” Ellison said.
Ellison stated that one major shift from Sandburg to Knox was the greater amount of diversity, Sandburg being mostly students from the local area.
“You just have a lot more of a one-way of thinking when you go to Sandburg and then from Knox it’s like a bunch of different ways of doing things,” Ellison said.
Johnson also described Knox as more diverse, but added that the amount of non-traditional students at Sandburg also allowed her to be exposed to different perspectives. She pointed out the number of older students as the reason the homework load is softer at a community college.
“Here it’s a lot heavier, but you’re supposed to be living on campus, school is your priority. Not keeping a roof over your head necessarily,” Johnson said.
In addition to a greater homework workload, the most immediate change Johnson felt once at Knox was the transition to the trimester system.
“At a trimester school if you fall or stumble you have to pick yourself up and keep going almost immediately … Otherwise, the term’s just going to move and you’re going to get totally lost in the class,” Johnson said.
Living off-campus, Johnson has felt disconnected from Knox’s social life. While she hasn’t had time to be heavily involved with Knox’s clubs or activities, she has maintained ties to Galesburg through friends she grew up with that have stayed in town.
“There’s a boundary between …this is Knox, and this is Galesburg. Knox is not necessarily part of the Galesburg community, and so it’s interesting sort of being on both sides of that,” she said.
While she has spent almost all of her life in Galesburg, Johnson does see herself moving on from the community once she graduates, hoping to go to grad school and find somewhere she can utilize her degree in studio arts.
“I like Galesburg, I just don’t really see a whole lot of opportunity here,” Johnson said. “I’d like to go somewhere my degree will actually do some good … I don’t really see a future for employment or any sort of growth here.”
However, Johnson looked back happily at her time at Carl Sandburg, never feeling like coming from there put her behind her peers at Knox. She remains connected with Sandburg through people like her former ceramics professor.
“They have a gallery at Sandburg and they have gallery openings more or less every month and so I try to go to those so I can see what they have going on there and see my old professor,” she said.
Ellison, who is studying Spanish and Business, is not certain about her future — but does suspect she will remain in Galesburg. Aside from the convenience of staying near her family, Ellison expressed that she valued being part of Galesburg.
“Everyone seems to be pretty friendly and open, and people say hi to you just on the street and like that,” she said. “Because it’s a smaller community you get to know people more and more.”