Attending College of DuPage was a last-minute decision for Amy Rubio, but it ended up saving her.
“I did not have the best time in high school due to mental health issues,” she said. “There was a point where I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to graduate, much less attend college. I ended up graduating a semester early, but shortly after that, my mental health deteriorated more than ever before. Once I got through the worst of it, my brother convinced me to start taking some classes at COD so that I could stay productive.”
Rubio did not have any goals when she enrolled at COD. Still struggling with anxiety and depression, she focused on school day by day.
“I had forgotten my love for learning and lost the motivation to succeed, but I was able to slowly get that back,” she said. “During my first semester, I started to remember how fun it was to do well in school. By the second semester, I realized that I wanted more and could not settle.
“I made it my goal to get into a great university, and so I reached out to a counselor who then directed me to the Honors Program director at COD, Professor Lisa Higgins. She helped me in so many ways, and I was able to make myself a distinguishable applicant. It also became obvious to me that I needed to take some honors classes because I was missing out on this whole other experience at COD.”
Due to her work in the Honors Program, Rubio presented at the Honors Council of the Illinois Region annual symposium. She was determined not to let her social anxiety interfere with a great opportunity.
“My partner and I shared a feminist perspective on Aristophanes’ play ‘Lysistrata.’ This experience just made me appreciate literature even more. It felt empowering to discuss such a bold topic and connecting it to the world we live in.”
While at COD, she also realized that she could see a future as a writer.
“I have always recognized that English was one of my best subjects. I didn’t give it much attention until my second semester at COD, which is when I took English Composition,” she said. “I felt motivated to continue pursuing this when professors acknowledged my writing abilities.”
Because of her efforts, Rubio won the Carter Carroll Excellence in History Award for best history paper and had a narrative essay chosen for inclusion in Volume 18 of ESSAI, the annual publication featuring academic writing by COD students across all curriculum.
Having earned her Associate in Arts degree, Rubio transferred to Johns Hopkins University, where she is majoring in English. Unfortunately, she suffered a severe depressive episode and took a medical leave of absence. The good news is she will return in the fall.
“I know I want to write and be able to express my creativity. I want to affect others with my words,” she said. “I don’t have the rest of my life mapped out. I’ve learned to take everything one step at a time and do what feels right to me in the moment.”
As for COD, Rubio believes in reaching out to those who are hesitant about attending college, whether they do not like school or are struggling with their mental health and don’t think they can handle it.
“It’s easy for someone to turn away all responsibilities and just give up. What’s difficult is deciding to take control of your own life and challenging yourself in a new environment, even when you have no current goals,” she said. “COD is the perfect place to figure that out. You don’t just learn academic stuff, you learn about yourself. College is the time to focus on yourself and find out what you really want and, most importantly, go for what you want.
“My life changed drastically in the two years that I attended COD. I never imagined in a million years that I’d find something that motivated me enough to keep going.”