April 2021 Volume 4, Issue 6
On April 19, the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS), Dr. Jill Biden, toured Sauk Valley Community College (SVCC), talked with staff and students, and gave a speech.
Dr. Lori Cortez, Dean of Institutional Advancement, was shocked and in disbelief when she first got the email from the White House. She even thought “it was a belated April Fool's Day joke, since Sauk employees love to go all out for April Fool's.”
However, this was no joke and she soon realized it was very real. Dr. Cortez “was honored and proud for the opportunity to highlight SVCC students and programs.”
Chris Pilling, Executive Director of the Sauk Valley College Foundation, was also astounded to learn the FLOTUS would be visiting SVCC. “I was ecstatic when I heard that Dr. Biden and Cardona [U.S. Secretary of Education] would be shining the bright light of the White House on SVCC and our region.”
Pilling and Dr. Cortez had an important job in preparing for the arrival of Dr. Biden. They, along with an “amazing planning team,” worked with the White House to decide which SVCC programs to highlight.
The pair also “helped coordinate logistics and communications between the White House, college staff and our [Sauk Valley College] Foundation.”
Chris Pilling says, “I was fortunate to escort the tour guests and saw first-hand the amazing job students and faculty did in representing the college.”
A group, which included FLOTUS Jill Biden, Secretary Miguel Cardona, Gov. J.B. Pritzker, and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos, toured SVCC’s multicraft area. They learned about programs such as “welding, electrotronics, HVAC, and internship opportunities.”
They also visited the Nursing and RAD Tech areas to learn “specifically about the simulation lab, a sophisticated, state-of-the-art health care training area used to enhance the clinical education of our students.”
During this time, the group and Dr. Biden got “to meet with several students and faculty in our welding, multicraft, and nursing programs.” Dr. Cortez says, “She also had a special moment when she gave a high five to an adult educator through the plexiglass.”
One SVCC student that got to meet the First Lady was Abril Vazquez-Tapia. She was excited to get this opportunity but Abril also says, “I was honestly nervous throughout the entire process.”
Abril “was honored to be able to introduce” Dr. Biden before FLOTUS gave her speech. She also got the chance to speak with FLOTUS afterwards. “While talking with the First Lady she made me see that no matter how big or small you set yourself to be that it is truly an accomplishment.
Abril continues, “No matter if I went to a university or community college I can achieve my dreams either way and that all it takes is potential and motivation.”
Dr. Biden’s Speechcovered her history as a community college professor, the importance of community colleges, and earned tuition programs like SVCC’s Impact Program.
For Chris Pilling this visit means that “Despite our size, Sauk is a leader in education, as evidenced by the positive attention we continue to receive from our national leaders.”
Abril Vazquez-Tapia believes this visit shows “That community college can truly provide great opportunities and services just as much as a university.”
Dr. Cortez says, “My biggest take away from the visit is that others finally see what I've been saying all along, Sauk Valley Community College is innovative, accessible, and exceptional.”