Practice Makes Perfect

Lifelong Villa Park resident Samantha Dando is a second-generation gearhead. Her dad owns a 1970 Dodge Challenger and has been working on it since Samantha was young. She loved helping him.

The car bug implanted, Dando, 20, set her educational sights on automotive or mechanical engineering. She applied to and was accepted by 15 Midwest schools.

“I chose COD for many reasons: opportunities, cost, convenience,” said Dando. “The affordability cannot be beat. College is so expensive. I’m responsible for most of that, and my goal is to graduate with as little debt as possible. My return on investment is much higher at COD because the education I’m earning is a fraction of the cost of any other school I was considering.”

Dando said COD’s facilities, equipment and programs are proving valuable, too.

“In addition to earning my engineering degree, I’ve been taking automotive classes,” said Dando. “I love how versatile COD is. We have new tools and up-to-date machines in the automotive department and we have the equipment required to complete our engineering labs. There’s also math assistance and library group-study rooms—all vital to being a successful engineering student.”

A member of the Engineering Club and the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, Dando the gearhead also works at Dressbarn in Elmhurst and has even modeled store merchandise.

As for citizens who help make her education possible, Dando said, “Thank you for showing me that education is important and worth supporting. Thank you for providing me with opportunities and experiences that will last a lifetime.”

Margaret Glenzinski

Margaret Glenzinski knew her way around the kitchen long before she enrolled in the COD Culinary and Hospitality program. For years, she cooked for the family and even paying guests.

“My sister and I had an opportunity to own a restaurant. We did it for two years and were both novices in the field. We just knew how to cook—we thought we did—and it was a good run,” said the former early childhood teacher-turned-restaurateur whose first professional cooking job, at the Lathrop House in Forest Park, whet her appetite for more.

Although she took a few years off to start a family, Glenzinski returned to the kitchen, this time as a part-time Culinary student. The mother of three began at COD in 2010 with one evening class each semester.

“I didn’t really know much about the program, but I thought I should start something. It was close, it was manageable, it made sense for me,” she said. When her youngest started school, Glenzinski shifted to day classes and found many doors open to her when the program moved from the Student Resource Center to its current location, the new Culinary & Hospitality Center, also home to Waterleaf, a professionally run fine-dining restaurant.

“I just think it’s an amazing facility. The fact that you have all of this equipment and all these opportunities to learn, to do different techniques of cooking and experience it firsthand, it’s amazing,” said Glenzinski, recalling her first stint in the kitchen as a student volunteer for the Visiting Chef series. “I feel very lucky that I’m here.”

Earlier this year, Glenzinski completed a three-month student internship at Waterleaf, working alongside Chef Nadia Tilkian. She set up for lunch and brunch three days a week, prepping the line and implementing through the meal. She hoped the hands-on learning experience would add finesse and efficiency to her cooking.

 “If the sous chef was making sausage, he’d show me everything he knew about sausage and I would work with him. Or we’d make a raft for consommé. Or Nadia would say, ‘OK, why don’t we fillet a fish today.’ Those were things I was able to do by myself,” said Glenzinski, who was invited to join the Waterleaf team as a line cook in March.

“One thing that Chef Nadia instills is trust in her employees. She’ll show you how to do it, she’ll talk to you about it, and then she lets you go, which I think is really interesting because it gives you that challenge to put yourself out there and really succeed,” said Glenzinski. “I didn’t imagine myself working in a fine-dining restaurant. I’d go out to eat, look at restaurants and see it’s usually all men, and I’d think I couldn’t do that. College of DuPage has really given me the opportunity to know
that it’s possible.”


Photos of Samantha Dando (at top) and Margaret Glenzinski by Tony Armour Photography/special to College of DuPage.


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