Northwestern College Student Commencement Speaker: Raj Patel!
[Bridgeview/Chicago-Jefferson Park/Naperville/Rosemont, IL] Northwestern College conferred certificates and associate degrees to 303 students at the College’s 108th Commencement Ceremony held at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place in Chicago. But two particular graduates stood out among the crowd of students at this year’s ceremony: Raj Patel of Chicago’s Lakeview Neighborhood (formerly of Carol Stream) and Debra McKelvin of Chicago’s Jefferson Park Neighborhood. The two served as this year’s 2012 student speakers.
Focusing on Raj Patel, 23, Raj’s parents came to the US from India in 1982. His father was a self-employed entrepreneur, soon owning and operating Kaleidoscope Ice Cream in Buffalo Grove; his mother worked at the Addison Post Office, where she still works today. Two years later, they had their first child, a daughter, and four years later they had Raj. Despite hard-working parents, Raj and his sister grew up being active in their local church and participating in the local park district programs. Raj played soccer for 12 years and competed in high school volleyball for 4 years. However school was always their first priority.
Raj graduated from Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream and immediately registered at UIC in the fall of 2007 as a Biology Major (Pre-Med). However, UIC just wasn’t a good fit for him. Then he started taking classes at the College of DuPage (COD) where he was wait-listed for their Radiologic Technology Program (Rad Tech). Raj spent two years at COD taking classes while working part-time at TCF Bank in St. Charles and living at home, waiting to get into COD’s Rad Tech program. Then he saw that Northwestern College had a Rad Tech program which had been transferred to the college from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center; he applied, and then started classes in Fall 2010. What he loved most about Northwestern College’s Rad Tech Program was that the instructors were all experienced in the field, having real-world experience that they shared with their students.
When Raj started classes at Northwestern College’s Bridgeview Campus, he was still living at home in Carol Stream as well as working part-time at TCF Bank in St. Charles. The daily commute was thus putting a lot of miles on his car. So he quit TCF to take a job at Northwestern College tutoring students in general education math and science courses for Rad Tech, thus alleviating the western leg of his commute. But during his 5th quarter at Northwestern College, Raj got into an auto accident, totaling his car. There was no public transportation to rely on from Carol Stream to Bridgeview, so he started crashing on the couches of friends who lived in Chicago. The commute was still long from Chicago’s north side to Bridgeview, but he could make it using public transportation. Eventually Raj got an apartment in the Lakeview Neighborhood, but his commute spanned anywhere between 90 minutes to two hours each way. Leaving the house at 5:30am, Raj took the Red Line, the Orange Line and a Pace bus. After school and work he would get home around 10pm and then start on his homework. When he had clinicals to go to, part of his travels on public transportation took him to Illinois Masonic Hospital as well, but he still had homework to do when he got home, and if he was lucky, he could get some sleep. But Raj was committed, and he saw a career as a Radiology Manager at the end, which kept him going.
After two years, Raj finished the Program and graduated on June 15th with a 4.0 grade point average. When he was introduced and walked up to the stage to give his speech, he announced that he had not told his parents he had been selected as one of two student commencement speakers. Thus, he pointed out that the crying Indian man and woman in the audience were in fact his parents! In his speech, Raj advised his classmates that a journey is taken one step at a time, and that they must keep stepping forward. Even in the hardest journey, small steps are important, for they will eventually get you to your goals. He further noted that he was able to make this journey to commencement, and to the dais of the commencement ceremony to give that speech, because of the support of his parents, his sister, his friends, and the faculty and staff of Northwestern College who were there for him. But according to Raj, while everyone has struggles, those struggles are part of the journey, and it is the journey that helps you to succeed.
Now, with his Associate’s Degree in hand, Raj looks forward to working with patients as a Radiologic Technologist, hopefully in a hospital. He also plans to continue his education, for with additional education, he can have more input, and in addition, actually affect the course of care of his patients.
Therefore, Raj’s journey is not over, although his path through Northwestern College has concluded!
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 with campuses in Chicago, Bridgeview, and Naperville. More information can be found at www.northwesterncollege.edu or by calling toll-free (888) 205-2283.