When Jessica Fuentes first visited College of DuPage, she walked into the Student Services Center atrium and saw something different from the other schools she was considering.
“There was an energy there that no other school that I had visited seemed to have,” she said. “There were lots of students all together talking in several groups, teachers and students together laughing, and everyone just looked happy to be there. Although I was not from the same county, COD was an easy choice for me.”
She initially wanted to join the Air Force after high school but discovered she had epilepsy. After taking one year off from school, Fuentes was happy that she was going to college, especially one that provided so much support and a willingness to answer all of her questions.
“COD was always helping me learn more about myself and what I truly wanted, not only through academics but also through different Living Leadership Program trainings and other activities and events,” she said. “I changed so much over my time at COD, and I owe it to all the people who were always willing and ready to encourage and support me.
“One of those people was Mary Wood. She was my Speech teacher, and she did such an amazing job of making everyone feel comfortable in a class that can be so nerve-wrecking. She made us understand that we were all nervous and she led different activities that helped me open up and create long-lasting friendships. She was always super-willing to help and extremely caring, and when my epilepsy was not at its greatest, she was always extremely understanding. That class opened me up to so many opportunities that I never could have seen myself doing in the past.”
Everyone at COD helped me not only with my own happiness but also my quality of life at school, and I thank COD for all it has done for me.
After taking Wood’s class, Fuentes got more involved at COD, becoming an orientation leader and an events producer for Alter Ego Productions. Her goal is to use these experiences and her education to focus on psychology and work with children.
“I want to help children and young adults learn how to deal with different situations in their lives,” she said. “I want to help them learn how to deal with their depression and anxiety and get through different traumas so that they can become healthy, happy adults who love themselves. I want to travel the world helping those in need who can’t always afford it. Overall, I just want them to be happy.”
She currently works as a peer support for Aspire Health Partners in its Youth Positively Empowered program, helping at-risk youth and teaching HIV/AIDS prevention.
“It’s something I absolutely love and thanks to some of the courses I took at COD, I am excelling in it and working hard to make a change.”
Fuentes does not regret her choice of COD. She advises others to get involved and push outside of their comfort zones in order to grow.
“Think of how almost everyone at one point felt just as nervous and scared as you,” she said. “But it should feel that way because you’ve never done it before. Just like we all overcame the nervousness of starting our past schools, we also get past this. Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help. Being open and honest will get you farther than you think.
“Living with my epilepsy has been a back-and-forth battle. I have been in and out of school over the years because of not being able to balance my health, school and full-time work. I have had times where I can’t wake up and days where I can’t get out of bed. Although I had my low times, not once did anyone at COD ever make me feel like I couldn’t succeed. Everyone at COD helped me not only with my own happiness but also my quality of life at school, and I thank COD for all it has done for me.”