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JWCC Graduation Speakers Share Their Experience | John Wood Community College

QUINCY — When John Wood Community College honors its graduates on Friday, four students will take a special part in the ceremony, representing different views of the school.

Here are some of their takeaways from the past two years and why they think John Wood was the right place at the right time for them.

Sisters Justine and Zoey Obert of Liberty will deliver the invocation during the ceremony. Both Zoey and Justine have earned their CNA certifications as well as associate degrees in art. They will transfer to St. John’s College of Nursing together in the fall.

“Affordability was one of the biggest deciding factors for me coming here,” Zoey said. “Ever since high school, I’ve heard people talk about the prices of each class and the books and everything, and the help that there is, through scholarships and financial aid.”

“I think people get pushed into a four-year school when they’re not ready,” Justine said. “When you add in the financial savings you get from coming here. I think coming here lets you know what to expect later.

Arturo Melendez joined the army after high school. When he left the service, he took a job in an emergency department in Cedar Rapids and got to see firsthand the work being done by the medical staff. Having a nurse as an aunt also pushed him to make the decision to go down this path.

“My fiancée is from Quincy, her family is here, so that’s what brought me here,” Melendez said. “I had family that went through the program here, and they had success with it, so I thought it would be a good place for me to try to find success too.”

Melendez will complete this part of her training with a nursing assistant certificate before returning in the fall on her way to her associate degree in applied science in nursing. He will deliver the student’s speech at the graduation ceremony.

Friday’s closing address will be delivered by Lauren Werries. Werries was a 2021-22 Presidential Scholar, member of the student government association, and was heavily involved in student life events.

“I’m from Quincy, but I’ve seen students from all over the country and even overseas who learned so much even in just two years before transferring to a bigger school,” Werries said. She will be earning an Associate of Arts degree and moving into the business management program at Concordia University in Wisconsin in the fall.

“It’s a great university, I would like to consider the possibility of coming back and even working here,” she said.

Besides the common thread of saving money by starting at a community college, all four graduates agreed that the school’s small size made the transition to higher education easier for them.

“It’s a smaller community with closer bonds that you make with each other,” Melendez said. “If you’re having trouble in one area and a classmate is doing better, chances are you’ll be friends with them and can ask for help.”

“I think some people are intimidated or told that a community college isn’t a real college,” Justine Obert said. “I think people get pushed into a four-year school when they’re not ready, and then you add in the financial savings you get from coming here. I think coming here lets you know what to expect later.

“I have a friend who came here after starting a four-year school, and she wasn’t used to the way counselors help,” Zoey Obert added. “She said when she started at the other school, the counselors didn’t do much. Here, they want to help you, they ask you about your interests to try to find out what you like. They want to help you find your way to success, and if you love what you do, you’ll likely be more successful.

Melendez said the environment is perfect for students returning to school after an absence, no matter how long.

“I’m 26, which isn’t that old, but everyone in my class is 19, 20, straight out of high school,” he said. “So it can be very daunting for people my age or older to think they’re going to come back to college with a bunch of kids. But you don’t feel that here. My goal is to finish quickly so that I can get to work, and they have the options here to make that happen.

One of the things that Werries says made the experience so enjoyable for her was working with the Student Life program.

“Student life is probably one of the things that stood out to me the most during my time here,” she said. “We host all kinds of events and aim to do things that everyone can enjoy, whatever their interests.

“It’s been really bittersweet to see it all wrapped up for the year at the student life office,” she continued. “But it’s also good, because we see the freshmen of this year and we know how they will continue to grow.”

Justine Obert called on JWCC’s upperclass faculty and students not only for being great instructors, but also for bringing their real-world experience into the classrooms.

“It seems like everyone knows at least one other person in the class early on, especially in our CNA program,” she said. “We were seeing nursing students come in and say ‘hey, is that what you’re studying now? “It’s just a great environment. Even though we don’t offer the nursing program here, we laid the groundwork. It’s a great stepping stone.

“I would say to anyone weighing the options that they absolutely have to go to John Wood first,” Zoey Obert said. “Coming from Liberty, we had 54 students in our class, so by coming here and still having smaller classes, you definitely meet new people, but you still feel connected.”

“I know there are towns around where students drive an hour and a half or more to get to a school like this,” Melendez said. “Here, with the two high schools, these students have the chance to take classes close to home, maybe still live with their parents and just have the chance to walk before having to run.”

“I think the courses I took really helped me succeed even with a transfer,” Werries said. “It has been very helpful to me, not only saving money starting here at John Wood, but also gaining good college experience which prepared me for a four-year school.”

John Wood’s graduation ceremony will be held Friday at the school’s Student Activity Center on the main campus in Quincy. Doors will open for seating at 5 p.m.