Editor’s Note: This was written and submitted by Tyson Jenkins, a member at Elgin Community College in Illinois, as a letter to PTK President and CEO Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner. It is reprinted here with his permission and has been edited for clarity.
Phi Theta Kappa has changed my life.
Back in 2017, when I first started at Elgin Community College, I hated that I was attending community college when most of my friends had left for four-year universities. In high school, community college was seen as a joke, and parents and guidance counselors perpetuated that belief.
With very few friends attending with me and no understanding of what community college could offer, I was fully prepared to hate the next two years. I was entirely wrong in that belief.
Not long into the semester, I received an email from the Honors Program Director at the college who also served as an advisor for the Rho Kappa Chapter. He was putting a call out for students to take a free, one-credit course. They were piloting a new way to structure an Honors in Action Project as an actual college class, therefore opening the project planning and implementation to members and non-members that normally would never have access to that opportunity.
A free class with no general plan offered by a person I had never heard of seemed pretty sketchy at the time, but I decided to join anyway.
The class was co-taught by the 2017-2018 Honors in Action Officer and the Honors Program Director, and they had decided to focus on Theme 6: Natural and Engineered. Nature and engineering are my two passions, so it was a perfect fit.
When the Honors in Action Officer opened up the opportunity for members of the class to step up in a higher leadership position and become her chair, I was the first to apply. After that, I worked directly with the officer to guide the class in completing the project and, eventually, writing the Hallmark Awards submission.
It wasn’t until the 2018 Centennial Catalyst Celebration that I realized how incredible Phi Theta Kappa really is. I remember walking into the first general session in complete awe, fully amazed by the idea that every attendee in that room was a community college student just like me.
We won a Distinguished Honors in Action Award, and getting the opportunity to walk on stage in front of thousands of people to receive the award from former International President Amanda Karpinski fully solidified my dedication to become a future officer.
I was elected as the 2018-2019 Honors in Action Officer, and my chapter received Top 100, Distinguished Honors in Action, Distinguished Theme, and Distinguished Chapter awards this past weekend. I received a Distinguished Officer Award, and getting to walk across that stage along with the other amazing officers was the greatest moment of my life.
Next year I will be transferring to Roosevelt University in Chicago with $14,000 in scholarships per year that I would never have been able to receive had it not been for Phi Theta Kappa.
I don’t know what my life would be like had I not taken a chance and joined a “sketchy” class, but I do know it would be nothing like it is today. Phi Theta Kappa has allowed me to meet incredible people from all over the world, taught me how to succeed in anything the future throws at me, and given me a family that I will always have.