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Marseilles mother pens award winning essay

ICCTA President Jon Looney presents IVCC’s Nasrina Bellel the organization’s annual Paul Simon Essay Award – PHOTO IVCC

OGLESBY – Illinois Valley Community College’s Nasrina Bellel of Marseilles was honored Thursday night for winning the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Paul Simon Student Essay Contest and read her “compelling story of hope restored” to the board.
Bellel, a single mother of five and small business owner, had read her essay at the college’s May 16 virtual commencement. She said she was at a low point in her life when she applied to IVCC in 2019.
“The life I had worked dutifully on for years was fractured. I felt hopeless. I was unsure how much I would be able to accomplish with a high school diploma issued 14 years ago, limited employment history, and a struggling small business.
“I was terrified at the notion of starting over, yet I knew moving forward was the only way back to the real me – the person with hopes and dreams beyond the title of wife or mother,” she said.
“Acceptance into IVCC did just that. It reignited a spark in me that I hadn’t felt in years. Everybody I’ve met, from the instructors and advisors, to the security guard who directed me to bookstore, have been kind, caring, and helpful.
“Becoming a student at IVCC has changed my life immeasurably in a mere matter of months. It has restored my self-worth and placed me on a path lined with attainable goals to help shape my future and ensure my success.
“I’ve never felt more driven or confident in my own ability to create a better life for my children and myself,” Bellel said.
Board chair Jane Goetz said Bellel is the first IVCC student to earn the statewide Simon award but not the first to have her life transformed by the college.
“Nasrina, your essay is representative of the experience of so many of our students,” Goetz said. “You came to IVCC in search of hope, direction and a promising future. You received all three from our talented and supportive faculty and staff. Thank you for sharing your beautifully moving and inspirational story.”
ICCTA President Jon Looney awarded Bellel a certificate and $500 check. He was accompanied by ICCTA Director of Finance Stephanie Spann and Director of Communication Kim Villanueva.
Looney said Bellel’s essay was a “story of hope restored,” adding, “You are the reason why colleges like IVCC exist.”

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