August 11, 2014

Logan Media Services

Amy Butler, a Carbondale resident and freshman at John A. Logan College, took the top prize in the 2014 Paul Simon Student Essay Contest co-sponsored by the Illinois Community College System Foundation and the Illinois Community College Trustees Association.

Butler’s essay, “Redemption and Hope,” was chosen from among 18 statewide finalists for best exemplifying the contest’s theme: “How My Community College Has Changed My Life.” 

“I was a high honor student in high school before I dropped out my senior year when I had a baby,” Butler said.  “I was out of school for many years, and I really only returned to school out of desperation, but it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened.  John A. Logan provided hope when I was at a very low point in my life and has given me many opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Butler said she now has the courage to follow her dreams. 

'Since I've been back in school, I've done well in my classes, earning a perfect 4.0 GPA so far.  That has given me confidence in my abilities again,” she said.  “I am now pursuing a degree in social work.  I have a lot of life experiences that I think will be useful in helping other people.  I know it will be a challenge, but if I continue to work hard and take advantage of the resources the college offers, I will achieve my goals.” 

Adrienne Barkley Giffin, director of student activities and cultural events at JALC, coordinates the essay contest at the college.  She said all current full- and part-time community college students in Illinois were eligible to participate, but each community college could submit only one essay for the competition. 

“We have a panel of judges who read all of the submissions, and they found Amy’s story very inspiring,” Giffin said.  “She has a lot of determination, and her essay was nicely crafted and well-written.  The fact that she won at the state level speaks to the quality of her writing.”

Butler credits the English faculty at Logan for aiding her writing.

“My English professor, Kathleen Carl, was excellent, and I feel like she helped me become a better writer,” Butler said.  “The instructors who tutor English at the Writing Center, especially Matt Garrison, Brian Edwards, and Michelle Vargas have also been really helpful.”

Butler was recognized for her win at the ICCTA's awards luncheon in Springfield earlier this summer.  She was presented with a certificate of achievement and a $500 scholarship.  Her winning essay is posted on ICCTA's Web site at  The essay contest is named for the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon, a longtime supporter of the Illinois community college system.