Student Spotlight: Omar Escamilla
As a senior in high school, Omar Escamilla’s only desire was to move out and go to college.
While he was looking forward to the experience at a four-year school, he felt pressured to pick a major so he wouldn’t enter as “undecided” and waste both time and money. He also was worried about the cost of tuition and board, even with scholarships.
But when he attended a college fair at College of DuPage, Escamilla was surprised by how big and modern the campus was.
“I honestly had a negative perception of the College. After getting accepted to Loyola and starting the process of signing for loans and picking out a room and board package, the option of going to COD was always in the back of my mind,” he said. “During that time of feeling anxious about the whole college process, I decided to revisit COD and talk to current students about their experience. I was surprised to hear about everything COD had to offer and the quality of the education. I then realized that COD was the right place to begin my college experience.”
From the start, Escamilla began taking advantage of opportunities beyond the classroom. In fact, before starting at COD, he learned about the College’s Living Leadership Program and attended a Leadership Retreat at George Williams College the summer before his first semester. This allowed him to meet a variety of student leaders and faculty while giving him assurance that he selected the right school.
During his time at COD, Escamilla was involved with the Student Leadership Council, Campus Crusade for Christ, Latino Ethic Awareness Association and the Philosophy Club. He also was the Vice President of Phi Theta Kappa and served as the Student Trustee on the school’s Board of Trustees.
“Being a part of clubs on campus gave me the opportunity to meet many extraordinary people who kept me grounded and motivated me to succeed,” he said. “I built friendships that helped me grow in a positive direction.”
In 2015, Escamilla received the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, the largest private scholarship for two-year and community college transfer students. He was one of approximately 85 students nationwide to receive the scholarship, which consists of $40,000 annually to cover educational expenses during the final two or three years when the recipient completes a bachelor’s degree.
“This scholarship is giving me the opportunity to pursue my education fully without the financial burden,” Escamilla said. “It will also allow me to spend more time giving back to the community.”
Escamilla also was named a Fulbright Summer Institute participant and attended the Scotland Summer Institute, a five-week cultural and academic program at the University of Dundee in Dundee and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.
After earning his Associate in Arts degree and graduating with high honors, Escamilla transferred to DePaul University to study organizational communication. He also wants to volunteer at local schools.
“Because my passion is education, I want to work with the Chicago public schools and become a mentor for high school students from low-income families where education may not be stressed,” he said. “I want to be an inspiration for these students. In high school, even though I was an honors student, I just got by. I thought the teachers perceived that I was in these classes because I was lucky, and I began to think that I could only just get by. Also, being a minority, some people believed that I didn’t care about school, that my parents were forcing me to be there.
“Too often we allow labels to be put on us, and I hope my story will help other students realize that they have the power to redefine themselves. It can be very liberating to know that no matter where you come from, you can have a positive impact on someone’s life.”
During the summer of 2016, Escamilla worked as a communications and advocacy intern with the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication and a double minor on Education Studies and Intercultural Communication, Escamilla plans to enroll in a graduate program and is looking at a master’s in Education Policy Studies at George Washington University. His goal is to work at a college or university in student affairs, where he can create a welcoming environment, work with students and help engage them with the campus community.
Although he selected College of DuPage at the last minute, Escamilla knows he made the right decision.
“There are no words to express how grateful I am to College of DuPage and to everyone who works here,” he said. “Some people think of a community college as just an extension of high school, that it doesn’t produce a high quality education and that it’s only for people who are lost. I’m here to say none of this is true, and I decided I wasn’t going to be labeled. When it comes to education, it ultimately is what you do with it that counts.
“I have so much gratitude and appreciation for the people who have helped me in my community college experience. The professors, administrators, advisors and staff – I believe they all have the common goal of getting students to succeed and be the best they can be. They allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, and I learned strengths that I didn’t know I had before.”
College of DuPage
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2017 College of DuPage