Non-traditional Lake Land College student returns to school for better future - Lake Land College, Mattoon Illinois


Non-traditional Lake Land College student returns to school for better future

August 18, 2014

Ryan Camp of Kansas, Ill. enrolled at Lake Land College looking for a career change. With aspirations of a new career as an electrician or working in the renewable energy field, Camp has taken courses in areas such as renewable energy management, residential wiring and programmable logic controllers.  However, as a non-traditional student, Camp was a bit apprehensive about coming back to school. 

“I knew I was going to be a lot older than the other students which made me nervous at first,” Camp said.

However, his concerns did not stop him from pursuing his dream of receiving an education that would lead him to the career he wanted. 

Earlier in life after leaving the Air Force, Camp received his commercial driver’s license and pursued a job in truck driving for 15 years.  But, the work took a toll on him and he found it was difficult to find time for his family with his traveling schedule. After seeing a brochure on Lake Land’s Highway Construction Careers Training Program, Camp started thinking about a career change.  He applied and was accepted to the program and began working at various job sites in the highway construction field.

But, the manual labor involved with this job was hard on his body and Camp knew he had more to offer as far as skills, experience and knowledge. So, Camp applied to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in hopes of becoming a residential electrician. In order to prove he was an asset to the workforce, Camp knew he had to get a degree which led him to enroll in the Electronics Systems Specialist Program at Lake Land. 

Along with the convenient location of the college, the quality of instructors is part of what drew Camp to Lake Land College in the first place. During the course of his academic journey, Camp said he has been motivated by the staff and faculty at Lake Land College.  He sings high praises of those he has worked closely with like Tim VanDyke, Technology Division chair; Cindy Shupe, Highway Construction Career Training Program coordinator; Michael Beavers, electronics engineering technology instructor; Joseph Tillman, renewable energy instructor; and Marko Mohlenhoff, director of TRiO Student Support Services. 

“The instructors really are well versed and informed in their areas of expertise,” said Camp. “Joseph Tillman is a really good one.  I had the opportunity to take a couple classes with him and he really cares about his students.  He makes class fun but he also wants you to learn and retain the information.”

For Camp, the variety of student services and supports available at Lake Land has been a large part of his success at the college. Meeting with his advisor in TRiO Student Support Services once a month really helped him stay on track and motivated. According to Camp, meeting with TRiO allowed him to set his goals and see the bigger picture. Furthermore by meeting with his academic advisor, Camp created an academic map for success that provided him the option to transfer to a four-year university if he chooses to further his education beyond Lake Land College.  

Services like free tutoring at the Tutoring Center and the Financial Aid Office also helped Camp succeed at Lake Land. In fact, while struggling with a class, Camp reached out to the Tutoring Center, which provided him with a tutor who was able to help him better master the class materials. Because of the help he received, Camp received a B in the class and was happy with that outcome.  

For Camp, coming back to school full-time meant not bringing home a pay check. But by receiving a Pell Grant and financial support from the Perkins Program, a tuition waiver, a handful of scholarships and renting his textbooks, a free service at Lake Land, some of Camp’s financial worries were relieved.

“Going back to school takes a lot of sacrifice.  It’s a lot of hard work.  It’s a lot of late nights of studying.  It’s a lot of self-control.  But you get that sense of accomplishment once you’re walking across the stage and they’re saying your name,” Camp said.  

While the faculty and staff have been a big help when it comes to his academic success at Lake Land, Camp’s biggest supporters and motivators, however, are his family members.  In fact, his wife helped him create an efficient class schedule, complete with study breaks during the day, so he could minimize his take-home work. His wife’s grandparents assisted the family financially throughout Camp’s educational journey. 

“If I had to maintain employment while going to school, I don’t think I would have done as well,” he said. “I am eternally grateful for the help of my wife’s grandparents. Their assistance allowed me to fully focus on my academics.”

 Camp said that his main motivator has been the idea of providing a good life for his family.  

“Going home every day and seeing my family knowing how much I missed them and missed being involved in their lives made me go back to school and say I’m not doing this for myself but also for my family so I can be home and have a job where I’m making a decent salary instead of just scraping by or working two or three jobs at minimum wage,” said Camp.

Upon graduation from Lake Land, Camp searched for employment for nearly nine weeks until he was hired as an electrician at Nordco Equipment Services in Arcola, Ill. 

“I am so happy to be here with Nordco,” explained Camp. “This is a great company to work for – they treat their employees great – and I get to do a job I love.”

During his time at Lake Land, Camp became a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the Renewable Energy Club and the Electronics Club. Camp was a nominee for Non-Traditional Student of the Year for 2013-2014 and won the 2013-2014 Outstanding Student of Technology Award. He graduated Magna Cum Laude. 

To learn more about returning to school as a non-transitional student, visit or call Jessica Daugherty, director for community and adult student outreach at (217) 234-5429 or 

Cutline: Lake Land College alumnus, Ryan Camp, landed his dream job as an electrician with Nordco Equipment Services in Arcola, Ill. upon completion of an associate degree in electronics systems. 


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