It is the personal touch here that changes everything. It prepares you well, so when challenged, you are ready to live up to the test
In an ironic twist of fate, Bollman believes that it was an image he didn't capture on film that essentially impacted his life forever. This particular event inspired him to pursue his ambitions for a career in law, and eventually, become Chief of the Civil Division at the Lee County State's Attorney Office.
Having been commissioned to photograph a wedding in India for a local client, Bollman and his wife were fortunate enough to take some additional time to experience the various Indian cities and countryside.
"By no means were we wealthy in the United States, but in India, we were able to live like royalty. For instance, each day that we were there, we were billed only $2 to have the privilege of riding around in an air conditioned car, and that included the driver's fee, too."
It was while riding in that very car when something caught his eye.
"We were traveling from one city to the next, and then we went through this village. The car turned the corner, and I saw this little girl. She didn't have any clothes on to speak of, but what really got to me was that she was kicking through the garbage. But this wasn't just any garbage. She was rummaging through the worst of the worst. There was hardly anything left. But, you could tell she was looking for food, for anything, just to survive. Then, she turned around. She saw me and she started waving. What was so remarkable was that she was smiling as though she was the happiest person in the world. That's what got to me."
It was that image that burned itself into his mind's eye and changed him forever. He realized that no matter how bad life may seem at certain points, the very fact that we have so many opportunities, liberties, and rights in the United States, that is reason enough to be grateful.
"With those experiences from that trip, I was able to see the luxuries that I many times took for granted just by living in this country. Those rights that I was given at birth, I had no comprehension of how much they effected a person, or even society as a whole."
Now as an Assistant State's Attorney, Bollman puts his law degree to work for the people. His duties include prosecuting criminals and providing counsel to the county board and various departments on many different legal issues.
"When I tell people that I'm a prosecutor, it's interesting to hear their reaction. Many times, they joke around about how mean I must be to people, bringing them to court to pay fines, asking that others be sent to jail. And while a portion of that is true, it's far from the entire role a prosecutor has. A prosecutor is entrusted with a great deal of power and discretion, and must review each and every case, individually. In that role, I take my position very seriously. In fact, a prosecutor has a duty not only to never abuse that power, but his or her ultimate goal is the same one our laws are geared toward, to seek justice and the truth."
Bollman's life took many different avenues before he ended up with his law degree. When he graduated from Walnut High School in 1994, Bollman was undecided about what to do professionally, but, he knew that he loved writing and photography as well as living on the family farm. It was those factors that influenced his decision when choosing a college, and, ultimately, what made him pick Sauk. Although he had scholarship opportunities from other schools, he wanted to stay in the area, help his father with his farm, and become involved within the community.
"Financially, it was more practical for me to stay at home. I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do. Sauk had a good reputation. I wasn't exactly certain what I wanted to do, and, of course, I loved my Mom's cooking, so what could be wrong with that picture?"
Mom's cooking might have been a drawing point to stay close to home, but little did Bollman know at that time that his choice to stay in the community was a wise one. While Sauk gave him the academic background for his writing and photography skills, it also developed ties with the community. And, to Bollman, nothing is more important than community.
"When you get off of Interstate 88, there's a sign that reads ‘Home of Ronald Reagan' and at the bottom ‘Sauk Valley College'. For me, it never fit to just say ‘Sauk Valley College.' It leaves out the most important word, ‘community.' One can't forget the word community -- it fits to say Sauk Valley Community College. For me, Sauk far exceeded my expectations because of that personal touch. You learn that it is not just what you are given in life, but what ‘YOU' are going to give back. That alone is probably the most important part of the education that I received from Sauk and the people there. The college is here for the community, because of the community. Community is the heart of Sauk. I don't know as though you can ever stress that enough."
While at Sauk, Bollman became very involved. He contributed to Sauk's student newspaper, The Voyager, as both a photographer and reporter. He participated in the Honors Program and took honors courses in English. The Student Government also grabbed his attention, and he became student representative and, ultimately, student trustee on the college's Board of Trustees, but that was by accident. At that time, he lost a bid for student government president and was appointed student trustee instead, which he says was an unexpected higher and richer position.
"The opportunity I had to talk with the board members was immeasurable. I was able to see the inside workings of the school, and that made me realize how much people care here, even at the highest level. Many times you hear, ‘it's run just like a business and that's all education is about, making money,' but that wasn't my experience. By being on the board, I saw well-meaning, community-minded individuals who were more than generous with their time, running the college to the best of their ability with the students' interests utmost in their minds."
After graduating from Sauk in 1996 with an Associate in Arts, Bollman transferred to Augustana College on a photography and academic scholarship, majoring in English with a writing emphasis. He soon discovered, though, that not everyone saw his love for his community college in the same light. When Bollman ran into those skeptical of his ability to succeed at this new level, it challenged him even more to live up to his Sauk professors' belief in him.
"I had some of my best grades at Augustana because of my work here at Sauk, Professors (Ed) Beatty and (Noel) Berkey, along with the rest of English department, pushed and challenged me, preparing more than adequately for my transition to a four-year institution. After speaking to some of the native students at Augie and sitting in those classes, I knew that I had been very well prepared. It is the personal touch here that changes everything. It builds not only academic strength, but character. You leave this place with the ability to face challenges head-on."
Bollman graduated from Augustana with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1998. He now jokes that he was not sure what he really thought he would do with the degree at the time. However, the writing skills he acquired served him well. He was awarded a full scholarship to Northern Illinois University's law school because of his academic background and for an essay that he wrote. It's these same writing skills that help him every day as assistant state's attorney.
After graduating from Augustana, Bollman decided to pursue his photography passion even further. In 1998, Bollman opened a storefront studio in downtown Sterling. The business flourished, and after more than four years, Bollman achieved the goals he had set out to accomplish with the business and decided it was time for a new challenge – law school.
"At that point I was able to say, Alright, I am ready to try something else,"
As Bollman reflects on his time at Sauk, He recalls taking a speech class with Debi Hill (assistant professor of speech):
"That particular course helped me in so many different ways. Like many people, I was quite apprehensive to talk in front of a group of people. It's a deathly fear, but Professor Hill's demeanor was so calm that it helped me overcome this phobia. But her class offered me so much more than that. Not only did we talk about current events and how they affected our everyday lives, but I came away with some very practical skills that weren't necessarily academia related. They were life skills that I continue to use to this day."