Outstanding Lincoln Land grads making a difference

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Catherine Wittler, 20, and Brandon Lewis, 21, have both left their mark on Lincoln Land Community College.

Over the past two years, they’ve excelled academically, become trusted student leaders and volunteered for community events on and off campus. They’ve done so much that when it came time to choose this year’s Outstanding Graduate, committee members found it impossible pick one over the other.

That’s why LLCC will have two outstanding graduates this year at its commencement ceremony at the Prairie Capital Convention Center Friday. Wittler, of Williamsville, and Lewis, a Springfield resident formerly of Joliet, are two of the 307 students taking part in the ceremony. About 1,950 are eligible to participate.

Lynn Whalen, executive director of public relations and marketing at LLCC, said Wittler and Lewis are great student representatives of the college.

“They are the ones you see around campus a lot. They are involved, they work with other students mentoring them. Both are very deserving,” Whalen said. “They look at Lincoln Land as not just a place to come to take a class and then go home. They realized that there are so many opportunities here for a first- and second-year college student to have leadership experiences. At a four-year institution, a student might have to wait for their junior or senior year.”

Wittler’s leadership experiences include being president of the LLCC Honor’s Program student organization, president of the local Phi Theta Kappa honor society and vice president of the Student Government Association. She also volunteers with the Student United Way and other groups.

Earlier this year, as part of the honors program, she helped organize a senior citizen prom at the Villas of Hollybrook, an assisted living center in Chatham. The students put up decorations, served refreshments and even crowned a king and queen.

“It was really fun. It wasn’t just me, there were a lot of people involved,” Wittler said, noting that the seniors were good dancers and even taught the students a few steps.

“A lot of people in my generation don’t know how to dance. They just kind of stand there,” Wittler said. “Dancing with the elderly gentlemen was a lot of fun. They were like, ‘This is how you dance.”

Wittler said the senior prom also taught her a lesson about the importance of appreciating people when they help her.

“It was a simple thing for us to put together. They were so appreciative of what we did for them,” she said.

There were other lessons to be learned during her two years at LLCC. Wittler said when she first came to the campus, she admired some of the student leaders and wished she could be like them.

“I thought it was so cool they were doing that. Then I realized anybody can do that if they try,” she said.

Lewis has also volunteered during his tenure at LLCC. In March 2016, he went to northern Illinois for an alternative spring break through the LLCC Student United Way club. They helped Habitat for Humanity in Huntley, south of Woodstock, by working in a resale facility and at a home-building project.

While Lewis didn’t get to meet the residents of the home, he did see a flier and learned it would be a family of four: a mother, father and their two young children.

“I felt like I helped them get a home,” Lewis said. “It was very emotional because my life wasn’t easy at all. I can definitely relate to someone who has been given something who didn’t have anything at all. That’s why I love doing things like that, because it gives me a chance to give back because I was once in that position.”

Lewis, who remembers visiting food pantries as a child, said his father died when he was young and his mother raised him and his two younger sisters. 

“That’s why I’m so passionate. I’ve been there. To be out of that situation, it makes you want to help. It makes you want to help because somebody helped me,” Lewis said.

At LLCC, Lewis’ activities included serving as student trustee and as business and technologies representative on the Student Government Association, president of the Black Student Union, vice president of the Student United Way and serving on the college’s environmental health and safety team.

Lewis is also part of the Open Door Mentorship, Trio program and was one of the creators of the Computer Science Academy. He served on the Higher Education Student Advisory Committee with state Rep. Sara Wojcicki Jimenez.

Lewis, who is getting an associate’s liberal arts degree from LLCC, said he hasn’t decided what school he will attend next. He plans on majoring in communication.

Wittler is getting an associate’s degree in business. She plans to attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and major in marketing.

–Contact John Reynolds: john.reynolds@sj-r.com, 788-1524, http://twitter.com/JohnReynoldsSJR.

***

Graduation schedule 2017

Today – LLCC, 7:30 p.m., PCCC

Saturday – UIS, 12:30 and 5:30 p.m. PCCC

May 20 – SIU Medical School, noon, Sangamon Auditorium

May 21 – Sacred Heart-Griffin High School, 9:30 a.m., Sangamon Auditorium

May 21 – Pleasant Plains High School, 2 p.m., Sangamon Auditorium

May 21 – Riverton High School, 2 p.m., school gymnasium

May 26 – PORTA High School, 7:30 p.m., gymnasium

May 26 – Auburn High School, 7 p.m., Sangamon Auditorium

May 26 – South Fork (Kincaid) High School, 7 p.m., school gymnasium

May 27 – Athens High School, 10 a.m., school gymnasium

May 27 – North Mac High School, 2 p.m., Sangamon Auditorium

May 28 – Tri-City High School, 2 p.m., TC Sports Center

May 28 – Lutheran High School, 2 p.m. Wyndham (Hilton) Hotel

May 28 – Rochester High School, 2 p.m., Sangamon Auditorium

May 28 – Williamsville High School, 5:30 p.m., Sangamon Auditorium

June 2 – Calvary Academy, 7 p.m. Jefferson Street sanctuary

June 2 – New Berlin High School, 7 p.m., J. V. Kirby Pretzel Dome

June 3 – Lanphier High School, 11 a.m.; Southeast High School, 2 p.m.; Springfield High School, 5 p.m., Glenwood High School, 8 p.m., PCCC

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May 11, 2017 at 08:47AM

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Outstanding Lincoln Land grads making a difference

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