Heidi Quiggle - SIUe
About four years ago, I moved from Southern California to live with my family in Godfrey while I worked towards a college education. After I disclose to people that I have recently moved here from Southern California, I am often asked, "Why did you move here?" It seems that Midwest residents have this glorified image of California, unaware of the over population, over pollution, and over pricing that comes with the palm trees, beaches, and sunny days. I always feel obligated to express my growing love for the Metro-East area. Yes, initially I moved here due to the sole convenience of having family locally, willing to support me while I go to college. Yet, I am glad it has brought me here because my appreciation and love for the Metro-East area is growing greater every day.
Little things like experiencing the bustling St. Clair Square, going to the Grafton Winery for an outing with friends, or taking scenic drives wherever possible, I love the diverse activities that can be found in the Metro-East area. However, I think that out of all the things I love about Metro-East area, the beautiful landscapes and scenery tops it all. Regardless of what season it is, you are bound to find gorgeous views. Whether you are hiking at Pere Marquette, visiting National Parks like Horseshoe Lake, biking along the Alton river road, or exploring the diverse trails in Edwardsville, the views are endless. My love for photography is able to thrive in this picturesque and scenic area. It comes as no surprise that when people ask me why I left California, I explain to them that I don't plan on going back.
Throughout the four years that I have lived in the Metro-East area of Southern Illinois, I have had the opportunity to work with social service agencies during my education, so that I can assist in ensuring and improving the welfare of Metro-East residents. I have worked with head start to teach children about emotional intelligence, I have worked within the Madison County detention center teaching juvenile delinquents about the power of compassion meditation, I was an intern at Behavioral Health Alternative, providing services to adults with mental illness, and I have worked as an outreach worker for Children's Home and Aid youth services, providing crisis intervention to families in need. All of these experiences have allowed me to support continuous improvement for communities in the Metro-East. Currently, I am working alongside SIUE professors and DCFS workers in the Permanency Enhancement Project to identify barriers to permanency for foster children throughout Southern Illinois. This project helps Southern Illinois counties ensure that children within their foster care systems have equal opportunities to a loving, caring, and permanent home environment. In the past four years, I have been honored to have had these experiences that were so rich with opportunities to grow as a future social worker, but most importantly to give back to the community, helping others grow into their full potential.
Kaitlyn Dixon - Lindenwood University Belleville
When I graduated high school, I moved 1,806 miles to the Metro-East area to attend Lindenwood University-Belleville. I was partly scared (mostly nervous) because I had no idea what I would do here, who I would meet, and what was in store for a West Coast girl like me. Luckily, I learned quickly that I had found a home here, one that I could grow with as I went through my college experience. I love the Metro-East area for a lot of reasons, but there are two that top the list every time someone asks about my home. First of all, this community embraces newcomers without a second thought. Between my university, local businesses, and community groups, I never once felt like I wasn’t welcome from the moment I arrived. Going into local establishments like Main Street Café, Family Video, the Edge, and even just the Quik Trip across the street is just a chance to see friendly faces who are always genuinely glad to see you. Secondly, the opportunities for people throughout the area are endless. Local elementary, junior high, and high schools partner up all the time, allowing college students the chance to go and teach the community’s youth about everything from the importance to staying active, to the benefits of reading. In addition, businesses and organizations all over the Metro-East offer incredible internships, so that students get the job experience they desperately need to succeed, all while earning college credit, not to mention serving their own community. When I first came here and experienced everything the Metro-East had to offer, I immediately wanted to get involved in it all. I joined my campus’ student government, which, among helping our own students, provides safe, community-friendly events for the area, such as speaker series and concerts, while also promoting university activities, such as art fairs, theater performances, and major-specific showcases. In addition, we also engage in local volunteer opportunities. We work with Habitat for Humanity, the Humane Society, and organize and participate in city-wide trash pick-ups. We want to expand even more this coming year, by allowing more students local volunteer opportunities, and getting more involved with the community. Outside of student government, my university’s cheer and dance programs go out into the Metro-East area all the time. We put on clinics to offer collegiate-level training to high school students, put many local businesses advertisements in our yearly calendar, teach little kids’ camps, and speak at elementary, junior high, and high schools around the area. We also participate in large community events, like the Halloween walk along Main Street. These are just a few of the incredible things that I am granted the chance to do. I am so grateful for these opportunities, and the only reason I am so lucky is because I am surrounded by such a great community within the Metro-East. Moving here was a huge step for me, but I have never felt so at home. The Metro-East is somewhere I am proud to stay.