As he sits down at the head of the conference room table at the JJC Student United Way meeting, club president Kevin Huckfeldt decisively takes the lead by launching into a discussion of the club’s next activities, which will include a service project for the elderly.
Huckfeldt, of Joliet, is in his first year as the club’s president, and it’s not the only extracurricular activity the ambitious 20-year-old is involved in. Besides taking 13 credit hours this semester at JJC and maintaining a 3.23 GPA, he is also a student government representative-at-large, a position that requires him to work with college administration and help organize special events, such as the college’s recent meet-and-greet with local political candidates running for office. He also spoke to prospective students and their families at several JJC Connect events this summer.
“My time here at JJC has allowed me to grow,” he said. “I started out shy and reserved, but I really wanted to get involved. I’m busier than I’ve ever been, but also in the best place I’ve ever been thanks to JJC.”
However, what might be even more amazing than Huckfeldt’s story of success in college is the story of his life prior to JJC. Throughout childhood and into his teenage years, Huckfeldt was placed in several foster homes and was also moved around among different schools. In addition, he has a learning disability which placed him in special education classes from kindergarten through high school. He now lives with his aunt and uncle, who provided him with a good home and encouraged him in his education.
When Huckfeldt decided he would pursue college, he found a new challenge awaiting him.
“It was challenging coming to JJC, because classes were hard and I felt like I hadn’t been prepared very well in my previous schools,” he said. “But I took summer classes and started taking advantage of all the support services that were available, such as Career Services, Academic Skills, Project Achieve and StAR. They helped me get where I needed to be academically, and gave me confidence. Any challenges that exist, I learned to overcome.”
To say that Huckfeldt has beaten the odds is an understatement: experts estimate that less than three percent of foster children go to college after they “age out” of the system.
But despite the odds, Huckfeldt has flourished at JJC, and he credits the variety of support services offered and caring, devoted staff and faculty members for that.
He names a number of people as supporters and encouragers who inspired him and were integral to his success: Pam Dilday and Amy Sims from Office of Student Activities, Marilyn Berrill from Project Achieve, Jean Gould from StAR, Laura Egner from the Math Department, and Margot Underwood from the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department. He says though, that these are just a few of the people who helped him along his journey at JJC, and that there are many more.
Now Huckfeldt is focusing on his next educational goal, which is to attend Aurora University in 2013 to major in social work.
“I like the field of social work – I want to work some day at a community college, because I like how much support I got at JJC, and I want to give that to other students who need it,” he says.