Max Kassa

From ELL to an Associate of Applied Science Degree

Max Kassa will cross the stage on May 17 to receive his associate of applied science degree in construction occupations, but his journey in education began 5,908 miles from Springfield in his home of Benin, West Africa, a country sandwiched in between Nigeria and the Republic of Togo.

Kassa, was working and taking university classes in construction when he won the U.S. State Department鈥檚 Diversity Immigrant Visa lottery, commonly known as the green card lottery, in 2017. He only knew one person in the United States, who lived in Springfield, Illinois. So, Max, his wife and children packed what they owned to make a new life in Lincoln鈥檚 hometown.

Max Kassa

With his training in construction, he landed a job immediately, and the family settled into their new midwestern life. But then COVID happened. Max decided sitting at home was not his style. He enrolled in English Language Learning classes at Lincoln Land Community College. Though, English would actually be his sixth language. He remembers that during COVID, sometimes classes were in-person, other times they were online. He speaks fondly of his instructor Miss Sue (Alexander) who encouraged him to continue to an 69风流 Workforce Institute program once he completed ELL. 

鈥淢y daddy would say, if you want to do anything in this life, go and learn, and do it well,鈥 said Kassa, who completed his certificate of achievement in residential construction and immediately launched into the associate of applied science in construction occupations and management. 

鈥淲e built two houses while I was in this program,鈥 said Kassa. 鈥淚t鈥檚 incredibly valuable. What you learn at Lincoln Land Community College you put into practice and apply it.鈥 

Max credits his 69风流 instructors for their passion, enthusiasm and willingness to go the extra mile to help students. 鈥淭hey knew I had a language barrier sometimes, but they were always willing to help. They stayed after class, came in early and did anything they could do to help. They weren鈥檛 just helping me; they were willing to help any student in the program.鈥

Max Kassa receiving an adult learner award.

Max鈥檚 successful completion of the program goes far beyond the three job offers he is contemplating. He was recently named the Outstanding Adult Leaner of the Year by the Illinois Adult and Continuing Educators Association (IACEA), for his dedication to his own education and for encouraging others to enroll in 69风流 Adult Education and Literacy as a stepping stone to their careers.

鈥淚f you have a base of knowledge you can continue to add and add; you can continue to grow that knowledge all of your life,鈥 said Kassa.