“I can” leads to state-level appointment

It’s one thing to be told it’s never too late to chase your dreams and something else entirely to see someone actually doing it, barriers and all.

That’s what you get when you meet Megan Linzy, a Scott Community College graduate and Office Coordinator for Eastern Iowa Community Colleges’ (EICC) West Davenport Center. Like many adult students who come to EICC, Linzy faced her fair share of obstacles in getting her education. Most include the life circumstances you find yourself in as an adult…jobs, children, caring for family. Others Linzy had been battling for decades.

“As a student in elementary school I suffered a lot of learning disabilities, and school was very difficult for me,” Linzy said. “I quit at 16 because I thought I could make more money working in a restaurant.”

Over the years, Linzy worked her way up to restaurant manager but struggled to make ends meet. Then at 36, she was faced with a decision.

“I ended up being diagnosed with a permanent disability and it made me have to rethink the career I’d spent my whole life working in,” she said. “All of the sudden I had to make different choices on what I wanted to do with my life and without an education that was kind of difficult.”

Linzy had tried many times to complete her high school diploma, but to no avail. As an adult, she discovered she has a profound case of dyslexia and dyscalculia, creating a significant barrier to her learning ability. In addition, Linzy suffers from diagnosed short-term memory loss. Despite these challenges and her many failed attempts, in early 2013 she enrolled in the college’s high school equivalency program anyway.

“I realized I would just need to become a life-long learner,” she said. “It was an ‘aha moment’ for me.”

The lightbulb was on and burning brightly. Before she knew it, Linzy was walking proudly across the stage at graduation with a newfound passion: adult education.

“I realized I truly wanted to be a teacher for adults like myself, so many of those students are so smart,” Linzy said. “They come in and I’m just like ‘wow, what are you waiting for?’”

Taking her own advice to heart, Linzy immediately enrolled at Scott Community College and began a four and a half year journey to earn her Associate’s Degree. During that time, she started working part-time helping adult students like herself at EICC’s West Davenport Center and, of course, experienced her fair share of life events. The same year she entered college, her mother was diagnosed with cancer and she became her caretaker. It would have been easy to give up, but her mother’s diagnosis only motivated her more.

“I was her first child to go to college and even attempt to get a diploma in my family, so she wanted me to focus on that. I graduated with my Associate’s Degree in May 2017 and she passed away in March of 2018, so she got to see me walk across the stage. That was probably the greatest part of all of it,” Linzy said.

As it often does, life got even busier those last two semesters with her oldest son expecting his first child and her second son expecting triplets, adding grandmothering to her already full plate.

“It was a little bit interesting,” she said with a smile. “It was a lot of work, but it’s the kind of thing many of our adult students here at EICC have to overcome.”

It’s this enthusiasm and work ethic that’s earned Linzy the honor of becoming one of the state of Iowa’s first Coalition on Adult Education (COABE) Ambassadors. As an ambassador, she’s tasked with sharing her experiences statewide and connecting with local organizations and political leaders to demonstrate the power of adult education through storytelling.

It’s a role Linzy is well prepared for. In 2017, she was nominated COABE’s national outstanding student of the year, receiving a $10,000 scholarship and giving a speech in front of 2,000 people. With this new state-level appointment she’ll have the opportunity to reach even more people, showing how adult education can change lives.

“It’s scary, but exciting,” Linzy said of the appointment. “Talking in front of people is not easy for me. Some days, when I open those new doors and walk through them I can feel the anxiety build but I’ve learned to push my fears away because I know something greater is on the other side. I just have to be brave.”

It’s this message of bravery she hopes resonates with adults who could greatly benefit from expanding their education but may be unsure of where to start. Having struggled for years, Linzy relied on her strong work ethic as well as a wide array of support services she discovered at EICC. From the encouragement of her teachers to assistance from disability services to scholarships from the college’s foundation to guidance from TRIO student support services, she learned there are people who can help you in your journey.

“It was really great having those resources,” she said. “I learned how to focus on my strengths.” Now working full-time with adult students as an Office Coordinator at EICC’s West Davenport Center, a role she just started this January, Linzy has come full circle. She’s back where her journey began, this time as the mentor and guide she once relied upon. As if that isn’t enough to demonstrate the power of education, she’s starting the final year of her Bachelor’s Degree in Adult Education and representing adult students as a COABE Ambassador, with her greatest hope being she will inspire others to go after their dreams no matter what obstacles they may face.

“Right now in this world, we need more cans,” she said. “Small goals lead to big goals.”

Adult Education Classes at EICC

Eastern Iowa Community Colleges provide a number of programs for adults to brush up on reading, math, writing and English. These programs include Adult Basic Education, High School Equivalency and English Language Acquisition (ELA). Classes are offered at Bettendorf, Columbus Junction, Clinton, Davenport, Maquoketa, Muscatine, and West Liberty, as well as online via Zoom.

Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes develop reading, writing, speaking and math skills. Programming is designed to help anyone 17 years of age or older, who is not enrolled in high school, to take the steps necessary toward passing the High School Equivalency Test.

To learn more, visit eicc.edu/adulted