When Melissa began pursuing her paralegal education in our program, she was nontraditional aged, first generation college student, raising three children, while bartending at night. Her enthusiasm for learning was apparent from the very first day of our Introduction to Paralegal Studies course, and she immediately became involved in our student club, and in short order became its president.
While she completed her ABA approved AAS degree in Paralegal Studies, she helped launch a scholarship for paralegal students, coordinated a book drive resulting in the donation of literally a truckload of paperback books to the library for inmates at our local jail, and became a student ambassador for the college. Melissa tirelessly contributed her time and energy to our larger school community, she was an officer for the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and the First Generation College Student Club.
Melissa also won the NFPA’s national scholarship award during her last year in our program. This was an exceptional opportunity as the award included a full sponsorship to attend the NFPA’s national conference in Alaska that year. There, she immersed herself in the paralegal association network. After graduating our program in 2012, she began her paralegal career, and then began pursuing the ABA approved BA degree at Roosevelt University in Chicago, currently in progress. Melissa Jurik attended not one - but TWO - ABA approved paralegal education programs!
The Illinois Paralegal Association (IPA) is the current beneficiary of Melissa’s professional energy, having joined the IPA board a few years ago. I am proud to say that Melissa is now serving as the president of the Illinois Paralegal Association. Her leadership is impressive as she has helped the IPA pivot their programing into virtual spaces during the pandemic. The Illinois Paralegal Association has not missed a beat, thanks in large part to Melissa’s relentless enthusiasm for the paralegal community.
Melissa has consistently been a champion of paralegal education. She has lead the Illinois Paralegal Association’s development of a paralegal student scholarship award and regularly returns to College Lake County to motivate and mentor our current students. Melissa has certainly made her mark as a leader in the paralegal profession and is successfully employed as a paralegal in a Chicago based litigation firm.
I will always remember something she said to me while she was my student about the reason she came to College of Lake County and began pursuing a college degree. She said she didn’t want her children to think she was satisfied with working in a bar. She wanted to show her children that getting an education is a path toward a meaningful career, and that with some effort, everything is possible.
-Submitted by Gayle Miller, Program Director, Paralegal Program, College of Lake County