By Caitlin Eckvahl, ECMC Foundation
This feature is part of a three-part series. Read the full series here.
Rebecca, who has had several twists and turns in her postsecondary education, is looking for a fulfilling career that encapsulates her many interests. Recently, she traveled across the country with Roadtrip Nation to find career inspiration and guidance. We spoke to her to learn more:
Rebecca Rodack, 21, is preparing for her second road trip of the summer with her parents and eight siblings before the school year starts up again. She just returned from a twenty-three day cross-country adventure with two students in a big green RV in search of a career path.
Rodack is also excited to begin–for the second time–classes at a four-year university this fall. Over the past few years, the educational path of the ambitious student has taken some unique turns: three years ago, Rodack was diagnosed with Crohn's disease and was forced to temporarily halt her studies to undergo a surgical operation.
Many students dealing with traumatic events and setbacks could become discouraged and, as a result, discontinue their studies—but not Rodack. Despite her illness, she has been determined to continue earning her degree. However, her options were limited during her recovery phase. This is when her mother devised a brilliant solution: why not take classes at the local community college?
Rodack was hesitant at first, but once she started her classes at the Community College of Alleghany County, she says she was glad to be back in school and even discovered some new career interests while taking a religious studies course. "Community college gave me a second chance to pursue my career and educational goals."
Now that her educational goals are back on track, Rodack has been pondering possible career paths. Rodack has always been passionate about learning, but with so many passions, it was hard for her to imagine a career that encapsulates all of her interests: writing, religion, language, culture and history.
Looking for answers, she turned to Roadtrip Nation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping young people find career and life fulfillment by placing them on themed roadtrips geared to uncovering their career goals. Funded and fueled by ECMC Foundation, Roadtrip Nation's Community College Roadtrip was launched to help prospective, current and recently graduated community college students gain exposure to how community colleges can help students pursue their dreams.
Among interviewed industry leaders was Jay Rayford, co-founder of Social Sushi in Detroit. Rayford, who began his career in engineering, left his job to pursue his dream of opening a sustainable sushi restaurant in his neighborhood. Inspired by his unwavering optimism, she says Rayford is "the most positive person I've been around in my entire life." Through the sushi-restaurant entrepreneur, she "learned to be more optimistic. If you have a mission, don't let others influence the way you feel about something."
By the end of the road trip, Rodack received the dose of motivation she needed to continue her education and career pursuits. "I was generally frustrated with having dreams and goals and not feeling like I was doing anything about them. I talk myself out of a lot of things. I had a lot of doubts, but I realized I like writing and I should be doing that."
From the industry leaders she learned to appreciate the many educational pathways she had taken. "There is no cookie cutter option – it's what you make of it. You have to carve your own future, and this road trip taught me to take advantage of my own path."
Rodack successfully transferred from her local community college and will be continuing her education at the University of Pittsburgh this fall. Currently, she is a third-year student double-majoring in communications and religious studies, with a minor in linguistics. She is still unsure about her career aspirations, but she is confident that her future is in writing.