March 14, 2018

CARTERVILLE — It was an incredible feeling for them both.

Kayla Stuthers cried.

Joel Kisekini rejoiced.

Each says it was an answer to prayer.

Stuthers and Kisekini — both students at John A. Logan College — recently learned that they were recipients of the Chancellor’s Transfer Scholarship at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Only six of the elite scholarships were given out. This was the first year for the transfer scholarships.

Each scholarship has a net worth of $29,000. For the next two years, the scholarship will pay for all tuition and fees for Stuthers and Kisekini at SIUC.

“When I learned that I had received the scholarship, I cried,” Stuthers said. “That’s how much the scholarship means to me. I was overwhelmed with emotion and I couldn’t help but cry.”

Stuthers explained that the “weight of paying for a four-year degree was lifted.” Stuthers is a native of Carterville and graduate of Carterville High School.

For Kisekini, that financial weight was also lifted. Kisekini came to John A. Logan College from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. He was concerned that when transferring to a university, he would have to take out a student loan.

“I didn’t like the idea of getting a loan,” Kisekini said. “I prayed to God for scholarship opportunities both day and night. Then, for the first time, this transfer scholarship opened up. More than 300 students from many areas were competing for it. My daily prayers were answered. God is faithful and he is great to fulfill his promises.”

Kisekini rejoiced when the news came.

Stuthers began her undergraduate career at John A. Logan College as a nursing major. She is currently a patient care technician in the Intensive Care Unit at the Memorial Hospital of Carbondale.

Stuthers started as a full-time student at JALC in the fall of 2015. In the spring of 2016, she was taking her first courses for the College’s part-time LPN program, while taking enough generals to be considered a full-time student.

Then, in the fall of 2016, she took microbiology with biology instructor Jo Forer, who encouraged her to apply for the Southern Illinois Bridges Program. This program allows community college students from John A. Logan to participate in undergraduate research at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

“Over the course of an eight-week research institute, I found that I have a passion for science and research,” Stuthers said. “Thanks to this program and to many teachers at John A. Logan, I have realized my potential and have gained a new confidence in myself. After I finished the LPN program, I decided to delve into the world of science and change my major.”

College instructors Stuthers pointed out included Cheryl Thomas, Forer, Donna Ford, and Robert McKenzie. “Not only are these instructors great at teaching, but they are passionate about making sure that students get the most from their classrooms,” Stuthers said.

Kisekini received his high school diploma in math and physics in 2011 from the Institut Ngwanza. He also mastered three languages: French, Lingala, and Kikongo. He struggled, however, to speak and write English when he first arrived at John A. Logan College in the spring of 2016 when he enrolled as a part-time student and started taking English classes.

“My tutor and English teachers were kind and willing to help me,” Kisekini said. “I also want to recognize my calculus and chemistry teachers who taught so that everyone could understand the material.”

He became a full-time student in the fall of 2016 and will graduate this spring with an associate degree in science.

“I took my first calculus class with (associate professor of mathematics) Joseph Dethrow,” Kisekini said. “He made the class more fun and I liked it. I performed well in all my classes and my calculus teachers recommended me to tutor math and physics at the College. I felt that would help me bring my English proficiency skills to match the level of math and physics intellect. I love math and love to help people who struggle with it.”

Kisekini plans to be a civil engineer, like his father, something he has hoped to achieve since going to work with his father once when he was six years old.

“One day, he took me to work and I liked it. I liked the way he worked, thought and brought solutions to problems faced with road constructions,” Kisekini said. “People respected him, and I wanted to be like him. I asked him what I could do in order to be like him. My dad told me to go to school, to work hard and the most important was to fully trust in the Lord. Since that day, I said that I will become a civil engineer. I am transferring to SIUC and am planning to get a bachelor’s and master’s degree in civil engineering.”

Dr. Ron House, president of John A. Logan College, commended the students for their scholarship awards.

“Earning the Chancellor's scholarship is a major academic accomplishment,” House said. “I’m proud for these students and I am proud of our academic team at the College who helped pave the way for their success.”