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Photo of Justina Kukla

Occupation: Tax assistant

Degree or certificate program at CLC: A.A.in business, 2014.

Transfer school, degree and year: Northeastern Illinois University; planning to earn a B.S. in finance in 2016.

Hometown: McHenry, Ill.

High school: McHenry Community High School, 2010.

High school clubs and activities: Spanish Honor Society, drama club Thespian, National Honor Society, student council and volleyball.

Interests and hobbies: Travel, enjoying the outdoors and spending time with my family and husband.

Justina Kukla

In my current work as a tax assistant, I love that my boss has been a mentor who has empowered me. He always comments on how well I carry myself and complete my work. For that, I give credit to CLC, for the foundation the college helped me build and for the accounting skills that I learned and still use today.

I originally thought that you had to go to a big-name school to make it big. But after attending CLC, I realized that a lot of your success depends on what you put into it. If you have passion to succeed, you can do anything! You also have to be willing reach out and ask for help and not be afraid to open up. If you work hard to achieve your dreams, you will see doors open for you. These were great principles that I felt I learned in a small classroom at CLC—lessons that I think others can miss at a big university. I’ve told others that they will one day work next to individuals from all walks of life, not just big-name schools. CLC is a great launching pad for the future. Use the resources available to you and make the most of it.

It’s hard to name just one favorite class at CLC, but one of my favorite classes—where it all started—was Introduction to Business taught by Cheryl Machnich. Not only was she incredibly knowledgeable about business and economics, she really shared with us her real-world managerial experience. She had high expectations of her students, but it helped prepare us for the future. The business world is very competitive, and she taught us to be on top of our game. She really helped solidify my decision to go into business and to continue pursuing my path.

I remember all of my business and accounting professors vividly. They were all great and influential in their own way. Anytime I reached out to them, they never hesitated to write me a recommendation letter or give advice. Mary Zenner was great, along with Bob Dodd and Patrick Stegman. They really helped me to love business. Another mentor to me along the way was Dr. Ahmad Audi, a chemistry professor. I was trying to decide on a career path and was interested in learning new languages. He was super helpful and inspiring in sharing his experience and advice. As a result, I started taking classes in Arabic.

Outside of class, I took part in the International Club and the Muslim Student Association, the latter of which I was vice president. In both groups, I learned how to network, openly communicate with people and how to bring togetherness and awareness to campus. I have made lifelong friends and have been able to share and enjoy in the different cultures that made up CLC. Not only did we become great friends, we learned how to come together as one.

Learning in CLC’s diverse classrooms was a great experience because I have a love for languages and different cultures. It was a great way to learn to work together and to see the insight and breadth of knowledge that comes from people of all ages and backgrounds. We live in a diverse world, and we need to learn to collaborate and work with others.

After graduating from high school, I first enrolled at a large, four-year university in the South. But I came home because I needed a more affordable way to achieve my dreams, and CLC offered that to me. CLC allowed me a flexible schedule where I could work and commute to school while reaching my goals.

I was well prepared for my transfer to Northeastern, because my CLC professors all had high expectations of their students. They stressed critical thinking and taught us how to really analyze information, which has been super helpful in my current classes. The courses and activities at CLC gave me a great foundation for my future. My experience taught me the importance of time management, hard work and how to work with different groups of individuals for a common goal. These skills are essential in any workplace today.

If you invest yourself wholly, you will get a lot out of your CLC experience. Don’t be afraid to get involved student clubs and activities; you will meet tons of great people. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors. They are very knowledgeable, have great real-world experience, and are always willing to give help and advice.