By Angela Mennecke
After dropping out of high school due to a traumatic childhood that included drug addicted parents, poverty, homelessness and abuse, College of DuPage graduate Molly Langlotz thought her life was over.
“People told me I was worthless and I might as well give up on my future since I dropped out of high school,” Langlotz emotionally addressed nearly 600 of her fellow graduates at College of DuPage’s 51st Commencement Ceremony May 18. “Those words cut me like shattered glass. I had big time failed before I had even started my life as an adult. But it turns out that failure is the best thing that can happen to anyone. When you’re at the bottom, you can only go up, and that is exactly what I did.”
Langlotz (Woodridge) and Anna Gorman (Westmont), the 2018 Outstanding Graduates, inspired their peers, family and friends with their remarks during the annual event. Click here for photos.
For Langlotz, she enrolled in the GED program at COD, working tirelessly to prove to herself that she was worthy of success. She earned straight A’s her first semester and continued that success, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and as a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
As Langlotz described her past, her fellow graduates jumped to their feet and cheered her on, causing a ripple effect. Before long, the entire crowd was giving Langlotz a lengthy standing ovation.
“If I could have you take away one thing from my speech, it would be to not be afraid to fail,” Langlotz said. “It is never too late to start over. The past does not dictate your future. I have learned from my years here at College of DuPage, that the only person who has the ability to tell your story, is you, and that makes your truth powerful.” Click here to view Langlotz’s entire speech.
Gorman echoed Langlotz’s sentiments about College of DuPage being a special community. She shared a story about a woman who disapproved of her attending a community college.
“I think back to that women who criticized this college, and I compare myself to my friends that went to four-year institutions, and I ask myself, honestly, did I make the right choice?” Gorman reflected. “Of course I did! College of DuPage is more than a school; it is a community. I found myself here, and this experience is precious to me.
“COD is a place for lost souls, curious minds and true seekers of knowledge. You are some of the most deserving and hardworking students I have ever had the honor of knowing. When you walk today, I want you to remember who we are and remember that you have accomplished something wonderful, and whatever your next step may be, take it with pride. My experiences here have taught me that we are a College for the diverse, for the diligent and for the determined.” Click here to view Gorman’s entire speech.
On a night focused on student success, keynote speaker and COD Foundation Board member Dr. Christopher Burke credited graduates’ hard work and perseverance.
“You have persisted and overcome obstacles and challenges to be able to walk across this stage knowing more than when you started, and not just from textbooks and lectures. You’ve also learned from the experiences you have had here, the people you have met and the faculty that have guided challenges you overcame,” he said.
Burke is the founder and president of Christopher B. Burke Engineering Ltd. which, for the past 30 years, has provided full-service regional consulting, engineering and surveying services. He has been a member of the College of DuPage Foundation Board since 2013 and currently sits on the Executive and Corporate Advisory Committee.
Burke also encouraged graduates to think big, be engaged citizens and work to improve their communities.
“Start thinking about your impact,” he said. “Now is the time because each day is an opportunity to persist, shape your legacy and improve the community and world.”
College of DuPage President Dr. Ann Rondeau recognized the individual journeys that brought the graduates together.
“One of the many reasons I enjoy being a community college president is meeting the wide variety of students who come to us and hearing the many stories they tell,” she said. “Every student places their trust in us that we offer something to better themselves. In return, we provide the richness we have in learning, teaching and our lives as an entire community. This is core to who we are and our covenant with you – a commitment to a community of learners. You believed in us and we, in turn, provided you with everything you needed to reach this point. This is just the beginning. Keep dreaming about what is possible and keep moving forward on your individual journeys.”
Deanne Mazzochi, Chairman of the College’s Board of Trustees, thanked the graduates for choosing College of DuPage as they move forward.
“Something happened to all of you when you decided to put COD on your path: You expanded your knowledge and your potential beyond where you thought you could go,” she said.
College of DuPage is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Serving approximately 26,000 students each term, College of DuPage is the largest public community college in the state of Illinois. The College grants nine associate degrees and offers more than 170 career and technical certificates in over 50 areas of study.
Caption: College of DuPage President Dr. Ann Rondeau addresses nearly 600 graduates during the 51st annual Commencement. (Photo by Press Photography Network/Special to College of DuPage)