Guest column: Gap year? Keep moving forward in your education

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A new academic year is upon us. Traditionally, around this time of the year, many college students begin preparing for a year ahead that is full of excitement, challenges, newfound relationships, new professors who will transform their lives, and the many thoughts of how they will continue advancing their efforts to make a difference in the world.

Should this year be any different?

While it is inescapable that 2020 has brought about challenges that impact the world, now is the time to persist and continue an education that only can transform one’s own life, but also many others.

Some are calling this upcoming academic year, “gap year,” a time to a break from college. Why would that be? With education more accessible than ever and the ability to connect with anyone across the globe through technology, this is simply unnecessary.

One thing we have come to know at SVCC is that there is no slowing down the Sauk Valley. When the tough gets going, the Sauk Valley gets going. Our many hardworking citizens are tough, resilient, and built to advance ourselves and the community.

As part of this, the community is counting on us to complete our education so that we can continue to advance the Sauk Valley. Now, this new economy will require many new skilled workers from all walks of life, but let’s make the most of it and once again help each other persist.

Not only does completion of a degree transform the student’s life and oftentimes their family, but it also provides an invaluable service that shapes others' lives.

Take a look around and you will notice the many nurses, radiologic technologists, welders, accountants, police officers, multicraft technicians, teachers, agricultural professionals, and many more.

Every day these individuals come to work and every day they make an impact on lives in the Sauk Valley. These are high-demand professions with professionals who think critically every day.

Their need will continue for perhaps forever, so it is imperative that our students continue their education and complete their degrees on time. Even in a crisis, lifelong learning can be just the philosophy to overcome it.

So, how can SVCC help students to stay on track and take this year in stride? One need to look no further than the plethora of scholarships offered by the Sauk Valley College Foundation. In fact, every student who applied for a summer scholarship, received a scholarship.

The fall scholarship opportunities could look the same as the summer. The personal touch of SVCC academic advisor that virtually meet with students, parents, and families in their own living rooms, gives families the opportunity to be more involved in their student’s education.

This fall, students will have the opportunity to bring their loved ones to class with them, as they livestream innovative lectures from home. Older siblings will inspire their younger siblings by showing them what it is really like to sit in a college lecture. Sauk students who are parents and grandparents will be able to learn alongside their children and grandchildren by performing science lab homework from their kitchen table using innovative science kits.

Our new normal includes expanding access to higher education throughout the Sauk Valley and into the living rooms, home offices, and kitchens of our local families.

The Sauk Valley is no stranger to disruption. We have endured and thrived before, why would the events of 2020 be any different?

Now is the time to embrace education and so we can propel ourselves forward to tackle the challenges of 2021, 2030, and 2040 and beyond.

Lori Cortez is Sauk's dean of institutional advancement, and Jon Mandrell is its vice president of academics and student services.