Kish names winner of Paul Simon Student Essay Contest

MALTA – Madeline Henson has been selected as Kishwaukee College’s winner of the 2021 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest where she described “How Kishwaukee College Changed My Life.” Henson’s entry was forwarded to the Illinois Community College Trustees Association for entry in the annual statewide competition.

Kishwaukee College – along with community colleges across the country – is celebrating Community College Awareness Month in April. Henson’s essay reaffirms the impact the community college experience can have on an individual and their educational journey. In addition to being entered into the statewide competition, Henson received a $500 Kish scholarship and was recognized at the April 13 Board of Trustees meeting.

In her essay, Henson describes how her Kish experience allowed her to travel internationally while still saving money.

“Kishwaukee College has changed my life for the better, and in quite an unusual way. Kishwaukee has made it possible for me to travel to 13 countries, start my dream business, and save thousands of dollars before the age of 22,” Henson wrote in her essay. “Our society puts so much pressure on going straight from high school into a four-year degree program, where we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to guess at what we want. Thanks to Kishwaukee College, I was able to take a different route and live out my dream!”

Henson is a graduate of Sycamore High School where she first benefited from Kish’s Dual Credit program. Having already completed online coursework at Arizona State University before attending Kish, Henson expects to graduate from ASU in the fall with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. Combining her marketing background with her interest in marine conservation, Henson is in the process of starting a business in Edgartown, Massachusetts, on Martha’s Vineyard where she and her business partner will grow oysters.

“Growing up in Illinois, I had barely heard of an oyster, but we essentially grow shellfish that filter pollutants out of the water and then sell them,” Henson said. “Our vision for the future is to combine sustainable food production with eco-tourism and invite visitors out to the farm to enjoy fresh oysters and learn about the ocean.”

Kish’s flexible course offerings have allowed Henson to pursue her education while traveling the world. To read Henson’s essay in its entirety, visit