INA – The recent STARS banquet was nothing short of magic as program officials recognized 33 graduates, including STARS Student of the Year Lillian Rodriguez of Ina and George Cybulski Memorial Scholarship Award winner Jeramy Easley of Mt. Vernon.
The 11th Annual banquet for the Student Transfer and Retention Support program featured magician Chris Egelston and his Success Magic Program.
STARS is a TRIO grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The program first started providing academic, graduation and transfer services to RLC students in 1997. It served 160 RLC students this year and is currently in the second year of a four-year grant cycle, having previously completed two grant cycles since its inception.
STARS Director Ed Ruffino; along with STARS Counselors Glenn Box and Denny Myers, and RLC Learning Enhancement Center Assistants Amy Cook and Travis Hood; recognized the achievements of STARS students over the past year.
“As those of us who have completed a college degree know, achievement in academics doesn’t just happen,” Ruffino said. “It takes hard work, determination, and sacrifice.”
Rodriguez is a transfer student from a community college in northern Illinois. After taking time off from school, she relocated to Southern Illinois, enrolled at RLC and joined the STARS program.With its support and that of her mother, a former STARS student, Rodriguez maintains her focus and continues to pursue her dream of one day becoming a teacher. She manages to be successful in the classroom, active in the STARS program and willing to help other students when asked – all while holding down a job at the Marion Target. Nearing completion of her associate degree, Rodriguez plans to transfer to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and will forever be remembered by the STARS staff, according to Ruffino.
“The STARS program has expectations of its students,” he said. “The Student of the Year is someone who has exceeded those expectations.”
Easley is another example and, because of that, he was given the award in memory of former STARS student George Cybulski.
Cybulski was an inspirational student who went back to school at the age of 81 and received, not only the STARS Student of the Year Award, but the Student of the Year Award at the Illinois Adult Education Conference and was later inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society. Cybulski died in 2004 before he could realize his dream of earning a college degree. Each year, the RLC STARS program hands out the award to honor Cybulski’s commitment.
Two STARS students, Faith Matzker of Benton and Tiffany Thompson of Mt. Vernon, received special recognition for maintaining a perfect, 4.0 GPA at RLC. Those honored at the banquet for compiling a 3.0 - 3.9 GPA at RLC are Shayna Bowlin of Christopher, Gary Ferguson of Mt. Vernon, Kevin Gray of Christopher, Sandra Reyling of Dahlgren, Lillian Rodriguez, Olen Rodriguez of Benton and previously of Los Angeles, Alyssa Soler of Mt. Vernon, Lisa Stritzel of Coello, Felecia Taylor of Mt. Vernon, Derek Wintermann of Ashley, Joelene Aslinger of Pinckneyville, Charity Benegas of Mt. Vernon, Pamela Bird of Mt. Vernon, Stephanie Chambers of Mt. Vernon, Carman Gray of Christopher, Kendra Kelly of Pinckneyville, James Pense of Orient, Elisha Webber of McLeansboro and Terry White of Valier. Additional students recognized at the banquet are Gloriastine Johnson of Mt. Vernon, Carol Motter of Benton and Nikura Walls of Colp.