JJC Alumni Spotlight: Julian Collins

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JJC Alumni: Julian Collins

When Julian Collins was a senior in high school, he wasn’t sure if college was right for him.

“The first couple of years of high school were particularly challenging for me. At the time, I was living in Chicago and was between houses. I actually went to three different high schools,” Collins said. “I worked until I raised my GPA from a 1.48 to a 4.25. The school district didn’t seem so impressed.”

Even though Collins worked hard to overcome his struggles in high school and eventually did receive his diploma, the school district did not let him participate in the graduation ceremony.

Eight years later, Collins’ educational experience is a much different story. The JJC grad is now on his way to completing a master’s degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the country: the University of California at Berkeley – with much credit due to his hometown community college.

“I was really nervous about going to college. The high school ordeal was a huge blow to my academic confidence. I was made to feel that I wasn’t college material,” Collins said. “Apprehensive and skeptical as ever, I enrolled at Joliet Junior College. JJC was definitely the right choice for me. JJC lifted me from a place of hesitance and uncertainty and gave me the confidence to excel far beyond my own expectations.”

Collins began taking classes part-time at JJC in 2006, even though he wasn’t sure where his path was going to lead. He changed his major several times.

And although his classes definitely weren’t easy, he kept at it until he graduated in 2010 – with honors. JJC not only gave him his associate degree, but also ambition, confidence, professionalism and lifelong learning skills he still uses today.

After graduating from JJC, Collins attended the University of Illinois at Chicago where he obtained his bachelor’s degree in urban and public affairs.

Now at the University of California at Berkley, Collins plans to graduate with a Masters of City Planning in the fall of 2015.

His next goal is to work with socially abandoned and politically neglected communities as a city and regional planner on both a national and international scale. He wants to help reestablish a sense of diversity and diplomacy in these areas, and create a healthy, sustainable lifestyle for residents.

Part of the reason he’s so passionate about this subject is because of where he grew up.

“I grew up in a low-income community. And I never quite understood why ‘that side’ of town was so much different. Then, one day the city started building in our side of town,” Collins explained. “I would like to be able to go into communities, just like the one I grew up in, and assess the issues to see what can be done to make it better.”

Collins obtained many of his problem-solving skills when he was a student at JJC. When he was having difficulties in his classes, or needed help achieving a goal, he used several resources at JJC. One of the most helpful places on campus for Collins was the Career Services Center.

There, he mastered his resume and learned interviewing skills that helped land him an internship with the City of Joliet’s Department of Planning and Zoning, as well as a student job with JJC’s IT Department. The Career Services Center became more than just a resource to Collins. He also made great friends with the staff. 

“There was so much for me at the Career Services Center,” Collins said. “They offered a lot more than just career services. I received counseling, mentorship, tutoring, a listening ear, you name it.”

In addition to utilizing the Career Services Center and other resources, such as tutoring, Collins participated in student activities. He was the treasurer of the Black Student Union, a representative of Student Council, a member of Brother2Brother, and a member of the Phi Theta Kappa National Honors Society.

Collins said these clubs helped keep his academics in line because he was surrounded by other students who all had the same goal of completing their degree.

Collins advises JJC students to keep moving forward with their degree, especially if they are struggling.

“It may seem difficult, but don’t give up on yourself. Hold on and stay with it. No matter how pointless or hopeless it may seem,” Collins said. “Take advantage of your resources. A lot of students don’t realize how vital tutoring, the Career Services Center, and services like that can be to their ultimate success. Get out and build relationships, form those networks and utilize the resources and opportunities made available to you. In the end, it’s going to pay off. Don’t give up on yourself. See it through.”

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Joliet Junior College
1215 Houbolt Road, Joliet, IL 60431-8938
Phone: (815) 729-9020