When Chanbopha Loera came to the U.S. for the first time, she was hardly able to speak or write a word in English. When she later returned, armed with a high school diploma from Cambodia, she enrolled in an ESL class at College of DuPage.
“This ESL class greatly improved my speaking and writing skills, but I know I needed more,” she said. “My husband strongly encouraged me to get a GED because this certificate would be recognized by any U.S. employer and college. In 2011, I took the placement test and was enrolled first in pre-GED (ABE) and then the GED preparation course the following semester. This road was not easy and more than once I planned to quit, but my family strongly encouraged me to finish it.”
Loera passed the GED and decided to continue her education by enrolling in accounting classes. After earning both the Clerical Accounting Certificate and Accounting Certificate, she decided to pursue an associate’s degree in Accounting.
To reach her goals, Loera received several scholarships from the COD Foundation: the GED Jump Start, GED Certificate, Keiser Accounting, Marszalek Memorial and Foundation Textbook. These scholarships lifted a financial burden, especially when she was working second shift and taking care of her family.
“After I passed the GED, I had tried my first accounting class. Though challenging and I often was asking for extra help, I received a ‘B’ and my first four college credit hours! I was more motivated and confident than ever that my college goals would be realized,” she said. “I thank the Foundation for all of its encouragement and help as I continued pursuing my education.”
COD impacted Loera’s life in another significant way after she attended the 2015 Career Fair co-sponsored by the College.
“I met the Vice President of Human Resources of West Suburban Bank and Trust. She liked my resume and called me for an interview on the Wednesday after the fair, and I got an offer on Friday,” she said. “None of this would have happened without the Career Services faculty members, who helped me build and revise my resume and cover letter.”
Loera accepted the position and then moved to the DuPage Regional Office of Education, where she was the accounts receivable/payable/inventory bookkeeper in the accounting department.
“My dream of working in an accounting department came true, showing that education and hard work does pay off,” she said.
Six years after she began taking credit classes, Loera finally earned her associate degree and graduated with honors. She has now finished a bachelor’s degree in business administration, concentrating in accounting and finance, by taking advantage of COD’s 3+1 program with Benedictine University.
Currently she is completing her MBA at Northern Illinois University and even returned to COD for a management course. She then plans to begin a second master’s degree in school business management/certified state CSBO (Chief School Business Official) at NIU in order to become a director of school finance.
Loera is now a district accountant/grants manager at East Aurora School District 131, assisting in finance, accounting and operation for budget and expenditure control, internal control, compliances, procedures, and processes for multimillions in state and federal grants operations.
“I am very excited to be ready for the next step of my career while enjoying helping others make a significant impact on the students’ education,” she said. “By working on school finance, I will also have some credit hours for my CSBO endorsement certificate, which I am sure will be an incredible journey. My dream is coming true, and I believe that education, hard work, persistence and sacrifice is leading me to a big dream.”
Loera thanks her husband and son for providing the support to pursue her college education and College of DuPage for helping her achieve her goals. In particular, she praises the knowledgeable professors, the Office of Student Financial Aid, the Learning Commons and the Library.
“College of DuPage has wonderful programs starting with ABE, ESL, HSE and then many majors of study, for example the Accounting 3+1 program,” she said. “The classes are inexpensive and available in the morning and also the evening. With my improved English skills and my GED in hand, I opened more doors in my new country than I could have ever imagined.
“Since I have received my GED, I have visited GED Preparation classes, given speeches during GED graduations, and created a GED testimonial that is shown many times throughout the year, encouraging students to continue their studies here at COD. In each of these cases, I describe my experiences of learning English, achieving my GED and beginning my college career. I have spoken to hundreds of COD students who are in the situation I was not long ago.
“COD helped me find my path and everything I wished for. I hope others students gain a wide perspective and see the great opportunity of education that COD has to offer in many significant ways. My advice to them is to not give up, ask for help and apply for scholarships. I believe the only person who can limit your future and all you want to be is you.”