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Konieczka Serves as Student Speaker at Northwestern College’s 109th Commencement!

Jessica Konieczka of Oak Lawn, a graduate of the Northwestern College School of Legal Studies, addressed her fellow graduates as one of two student speakers at this year’s Northwestern College Commencement Ceremony.
Jessica Konieczka of Oak Lawn, a graduate of the Northwestern College School of Legal Studies, addressed her fellow graduates as one of two student speakers at this year’s Northwestern College Commencement Ceremony.

[Bridgeview, Chicago-Jefferson Park & Naperville, IL] This year’s Northwestern College Commencement Ceremony featured two students who provided commencement addresses to their class, including Jessica Konieczka and Kyle Alan Mellinger, both graduates of the College’s Bridgeview Campus. They represented the 312 graduates who were awarded certificates and degrees at the College’s 109th Commencement Ceremony on Friday, June 28 in Chicago. Jessica Konieczka presented a heartfelt address, touching on the roadblocks she overcame and her constant self-doubt as to whether she could return to school and succeed.

Konieczka, 39, of Oak Lawn attended St. Barbara High School in Chicago (which has since closed), but for a host of reasons, she never graduated. Nevertheless, she knew that a high school diploma was something she needed, and in 2006 while working for LaSalle Bank she obtained her GED so that she could be eligible for future promotions. Over the years Konieczka added to her role of daughter, sister and friend by becoming a wife and mother, and along with those roles came a host of responsibilities that kept her running in numerous directions. Moreover, as a young family, they had bills to pay, so when the economy plummeted in 2009 and 2010, like many she and her husband faced job losses and the constant struggle to make ends meet while they sought new employment. Konieczka and her husband were not afraid to try new innovative ways to increase their income, with her husband switching careers after returning to school.

Then in 2011 a friend asked her to go with her to Northwestern College for an open house and maybe to enroll along with her. But self-doubt took over and Konieczka thought she could never balance her responsibilities as wife and mother with the effort it would take to earn a college degree. In the end, Konieczka went to the open house with her friend, but only to support her friend in her decision to return to school. However, while she was at the open house she was asked about her own interests, and it was then that she realized she wanted her children to be proud of her. “I wanted to be able to tell them from first-hand experience why a college education was so important. But most of all, I wanted to be a role model for them.” That started the wheels moving, and Konieczka entered Northwestern College’s Paralegal Program of the School of Legal Studies in May 2011 in hopes of securing a position in a law office.

As happens with many returning students, many roadblocks got into Konieczka’s way, and there were many walls she needed to get over, some walls of which she herself put up. However, she used the energy from her own fear and self-doubt to energize herself. She set a very high goal to achieve – graduating with a 4.0 GPA, no matter what.

Konieczka did what was expected of her – both at home and at school – and she was excelling. This wasn’t easy, for not only was she balancing normal family responsibilities and school, but she had one other significant factor that made things even more challenging for her. In April of 2010 (about a year before she started college) Konieczka’s husband had been diagnosed with a rare congenital disease, and at that time, they had no idea what the road ahead would bring for him, as well as for their family. In just four months her husband went through 9 brain/spine surgeries. She watched helplessly as he suffered and endured enormous pain, with many scary days and nights. At 35 he had to learn how to walk, talk, drive, eat and take care of himself all over again. But according to Konieczka, the way he overcame those obstacles inspires her every day. It was that inspiration which helped to provide her with the courage and stamina she needed to excel in her own personal journey.

On June 28, not only did Konieczka graduate with an Associate in Applied Science Degree from the Northwestern College, but she achieved her goal of a 4.0 grade point average and was asked to address her classmates and share her story at the commencement ceremony. It was an amazing honor, topping off an amazing journey. She concluded her address with a final bit of advice for her classmates. “It’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to take a chance, but use the fear to drive you, not stop you. Set a goal and do whatever it takes to attain it. Be confident, and most of all, believe in yourself.”

Konieczka achieved her goal of becoming a paralegal. Half way through her Program she obtained an externship with Bizzieri Law Offices in Chicago. It was a wonderful fit for them as well as for her, and upon completion of the externship, she was hired there part time; then following her graduation, she was offered a full-time position as a Paralegal. While at Bizzieri, Konieczka continues to learn from her supportive bosses who challenge her daily. They provide her with opportunities to attend court with them to witness the legal process firsthand, and they continue to challenge her to learn new things, making her role there more than just a job, but a continual learning experience.

About Northwestern College: 
Northwestern College (NC) is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, www.ncahlc.org. The college offers focused career-oriented associate degree and certificate programs with flexible schedules and a supportive faculty. Day, evening, weekend, online classes and online programs are available. More information can be found at www.northwesterncollege.edu or by calling toll-free (888) 205-2283.

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