Student’s Journey Led by Certainty

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Non-traditional student overcomes fears, discovers she’s a leader
Dena Brill waves at Graduation

Dena Brill ’14 waves to friends during the 2014 commencement.

Nearly two years ago, Dena Brill ’14 was an apprehensive first-time college student with a successful GED test in one hand and a whole lot of uncertainty in the other.

Being an out-of-work, long-haul truck driver without a high school education didn’t lead to many job offers when she became injured. After taking the GED test at Clark College and easily passing, she signed up for college preparatory courses through a program called Integrated Basic Education & Skills Training (I-BEST). I-BEST combines basic education, college-level courses and extra support to help students work toward associate or vocational degrees.

In June during Clark’s commencement ceremony, Brill, 53, firmly shook President Robert K. Knight’s hand when he handed her a diploma. She walked away proudly, thinking “I’m not afraid anymore.”

Brill has not only succeeded at Clark, she blossomed. She served as the president for the Associated Students of Clark College (ASCC), received the peer-selected Penguin Award for outstanding leadership and has spoken to numerous student and civic groups including the Clark College Board of Trustees, state legislators and student clubs.

“I was afraid to speak at first, but I’m not afraid anymore,” she said, citing Clark’s faculty and staff for helping her discover her strengths in public speaking and leadership.

She credits employees from the many departments on campus, including registration, eligibility, financial aid, the bookstore, Clark College Foundation and others, who work to improve student learning and success.

“Many people here have helped me write and edit such things as scholarship letters. It was hard for me to write kind things about myself. But while at Clark, I learned skills in leadership, punctuality, respecting others and myself and many other life skills,” she said.

Brill recalls several occasions in which she came away from a conversation with a faculty or staff member feeling motivated. “They give you the confidence in yourself and your ability.”

The educational experience has even improved her once-estranged relationship with her father.

“He’s watched me grow and he is much more supportive today,” Brill said adding, “I now have conversations with my dad. It used to be he was right all the time. Now I’m right too.”

Brill hasn’t ruled out furthering her education. But for now, she’s busy looking for a job with a dream of working as a motivational speaker.

Byron Pitts and Dena Brill

Dena Brill ’14 poses with 2014 commencement speaker and international journalist, Byron Pitts.

“Clark College has opened horizons for me left and right. Being overwhelmed by possibilities isn’t such bad problem to have,” she said with a smile.

Watch a video of Dena Brill thanking scholarship donors

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