TRiO Achiever: Courtney Johnson

My name is Courtney Johnson and I am a proud Itasca Community College (ICC) graduate of 2012. I am humbled to say that I left ICC with way more than my A.A. degree, but a new perspective on life.

I started my ICC career early as a summer work-study fresh out of high school in the Records and Financial Aid office. At the time I was anticipating it to be a way for me to make money, but I quickly learned that I was truly working at the "Best Place to Start". Everyone in the office and really on campus, became allies and supporters through my two years at Itasca. My work-study experience was one of my first times working in a professional space. I learned about teamwork, group dynamics, and how to have fun in the workplace. With their encouragement I decided to get out of my comfort zone and try studying abroad.

In the spring of 2012 I traveled with who I now consider some of my dearest friends to Denmark on a two month journey of learning and discovery. We made memories I thought were only possible in the movies. I tell everyone I meet that the best thing you can do for yourself is to travel. Our group of 18 engineers and "Gen-Ed's" became a family, with Glen Hodgson as our mighty leader. Our Denmark study abroad group still gets together once a year to reminisce about our travels and share how our experiences at ICC have continued to impact our lives. #Backin2012 is not an uncommon hashtag I see on Facebook among those who I traveled with, as we frequently tell each other of everyday triggers that remind of our time together.

I can’t talk about ICC without mentioning the great opportunity I had as a young person to work with non-traditional students. In high school you were forced to work with your peers on group projects. Those peers who potentially could have known your whole life. Working with non-traditional students gave me a different perspective on life and I was able to gain valuable real-world skills with them. I would not have been able to have these experiences at a four year college.

In the fall of 2012 I transferred to North Dakota State University (NDSU) to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Communication. I had no issues transferring and quickly fit in to the four year college scene. Because of my experiences at ICC, the travel bug had remained alive while at NDSU and I went abroad again to China. I had a blast traveling with this “green” group of student witnessing them grow through their first travel experience.

I graduated in May of 2014 from NDSU. In June of 2014 I was hired through the University of Minnesota Extension as a 4-H Program Coordinator in Crow Wing County. I now live in Brainerd and I am currently working on my Master's Degree in Youth Development Leadership at the University of Minnesota.

Starting college was a new step for my family. I was the first person in my family to attend college and continue to pursue my Bachelors and now Master’s degree. I credit ICC for helping me start my journey of learning. I never expected to leave a community college with the kind of relationships and experiences I did, but that is because ICC is not your A-typical community college. It is the "Best Place to Start", the rest of your life...