Tri-C Sends Student to the Head of the Class
October 29, 2014
Suzy Levi-Whelan has this to say about Cuyahoga Community College: “Even if you are not sure why you are going, go.”
Truer words . . .
Whelan began attending Tri-C in January 2011 to study nursing. It made sense since she was working as a nurse aid at Menorah Park Center for Senior Living in Beachwood.
“A lot of the girls there were going to school, and my sister was going to Tri-C,” Whelan, 47, said. “That’s when I kind of started looking at going to back to school.”
She found more than an education at Tri-C, though. Her experience at the College was transformative.
When Whelan was in 11th grade, her mother became ill and Whelan had to drop out of high school to care for her. The aspiring songwriter took some classes in broadcasting and ran a DJ company, but she said she “never got to have that college experience.”
With a little anxiety about going back to school, she decided Tri-C was the right fit because it was the most affordable of the options she considered and because she knew people who had experienced great success at the College.
Everything seemed pretty straightforward. However, it was not long before she was walking a different path. Whelan is one class away from graduating with an associate degree not in nursing, but in education.
“I started working as a special education leader and I fell in love with teaching. As much as I love science, I don’t have the mind for it — but I learned that at Tri-C,” she said.
In addition to finding a field she loves, Whelan made a lot of connections at the College. One of her professors recommended her to handle accounts payable for the city of Richmond Heights, which she has done while in school. (Whelan said she was “fantastically busy.” She works two jobs while taking two courses each semester. Along with her husband and two children, she also recently moved to Wickliffe. She just had surgery, too.)
She counts instructors Mary Ward (English), Miesha Headen (math), Angela Mensha (speech) and Christopher Kinsella (history) as friends, mentors and inspirations.
“[Kinsella] was a history teacher and he made it so interesting that when class was over I was depressed,” Whelan said. “I love being a student. You learn so much. I learned to hone my writing. I love writing . . . The learning process is amazing to me.”
After graduating, Whelan plans to attend John Carroll University, where she earned a scholarship. After securing her bachelor’s degree, she plans to finish a master’s degree and would like to eventually teach at the college level.
Whelan said attending Tri-C helped her feel like she had taken ownership of her life.
“If I could, I would go out there and tell anyone to go to school. It’s never too late . . . The opportunities that opened up to me, it’s just amazing.”