RACC's chapter of Phi Theta Kappa has been encouraging RACC students to commit to earning their associate degree before leaving. Over the past couple years, members of PTK have asked students to sign a Commit to Complete banner to signify their intent.
For Chantell Nichols the project is very personal.
Chantell had started at RACC right after graduating from Reading High School 10 years ago. But issues forced her to withdraw, with a low GPA, resulting in academic probation.
Chantell gave up on the idea of college and went to work at the Palmer's factory, but she started to have physical difficulties from the job and made the decision to return to school. Family and friends supported her choice, and she paid out-of-pocket for her first class and her books with the intent of lifting her probation status.
She turned her Fs into As and is now just weeks away from completing her degree in secondary education, with the intent of pursuing a bachelor's degree at a Philadelphia area school.
"My biggest fear was that my personal circumstances would prevent me from being academically successful again," said Chantell. "I remember sitting in my classes unable to concentrate because I was so worried about not being able to pay my rent. There were times when I fought back tears as I took exams because I was so hungry and I had no idea when I would have my next meal. It is so heartbreaking when the solution to a personal problem is not as simple as solving an equation or taking good notes."
As a non-traditional student, Chantell was nervous to return to school, but credits Linda Dapcic, the Student Facilitator in RACC's Student Affairs area, for helping her to persevere. Last February, she was inducted into RACC's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. She also tutors fellow students in algebra as an employee of the Tutoring Center.
"Being a part of Phi Theta Kappa is a dream come true," she said. "In the beginning, it felt impossible and now it is my reality. It gives me hope that all my hard work will not go unnoticed."
"Commit to Complete means so much to me because I want to help others overcome the same circumstances that I have been through," she said. "I would not be where I am today if I didn't have people in my life who believe in me and are willing to help me so I could focus on my schoolwork. I want to be the reminder to others that there is hope. You can accomplish your goal, so never give up."
Another Commit to Complete event is happening on April 16 and 17 in the Berks Hall cafeteria from 10 am. to 6 p.m. There will be a bake sale on both days, as well as the banner signing, graduation cap and gowns available for pictures, and thank-you notes available to be given to faculty, staff, and fellow classmates for keeping students motivated on their educational journeys.