Triton student president overcame obstacles to succeed
Shakana "KeKe" Polk credits a caring Triton College staff — and her own determination — for helping her succeed. | Provided
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:54AM
RIVER GROVE — Triton College Student Council President Shakana “KeKe” Polk has learned to manage her time wisely.
There was a time, however, when it wasn’t that hard, because she had more time than she knew what to do with.
After three years of active duty in the U.S. Army, where she was a military police officer, she joined the Army Reserve in 2003, serving until 2010.
But after leaving active duty, finding a full-time job to support herself and her daughter, Shyan, became very difficult even with her experience.
She sought out security guard jobs, but was often told she had too much experience. So she applied for anything else she could find, working sporadically, often at jobs that didn’t pay very well.
“If I applied for your job,” she said, “I know what it pays.”
By 2010, she had gone several months without a job and had no money and no place to live. She had no option but for her and her daughter, who was 8 years old at the time, to live in her car.
“Before I knew it, it would be almost two years,” she said.
She admits pride played a part, but she also knew that getting more training would help her provide for herself and her daughter.
That’s when she decided to go to Triton College.
She said Johnny Urbina, director of student services, and Lorenzo Weber, program assistant in the school’s Student Life Department went beyond the call of duty, taking her under their wings, helping her get into school and find a job.
“When I first came to the school I had been without a job for two years,” she said. “I almost lost hope.”
Weber and Urbina are also advisers to Triton College Student Association, and they urged Polk to get involved. So along with becoming active in more than a dozen student organizations at Triton she ran for association senator and won. Then, last year, she was elected president. She will serve in that post through May.
“I wanted to be a part of it (school activities) in any way I could,” she said. “A lot of them (students) don’t take the time know what the school has to offer.”
She has received her associate degree in criminal justice as well as her paralegal certification. She is currently taking pre-law electives that she plans to transfer to Dominican University, where she will pursue a bachelor’s degree.
She said her journey this far has taught her that a person can accomplish their goals.
“It’s not always going to be lollypops and rainbows,” she said. “A lot of kids are giving up on themselves. I’m a walking example of the story they are coming up to now.”
She said being a parent while attending college, holding a job and being involved in so many activities has required good time-management skills. She’s even found time for a social life.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: A lot of my friends and I do a lot of bowling or karaoke. I’m an avid bowler and a beast at karaoke.
Q: What is your favorite sports team?
A: I’m a diehard Bears fan. I’m also a diehard Baltimore Ravens fan so when they won (the Super Bowl) I was floating on a cloud for weeks.
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: I love seafood and Italian food. I’m a big crab and shrimp fan.
Q: What do you like attending Triton College?
A: The Triton environment and staff is great. They are so willing to go above and beyond and the smaller class sizes.
Q: What would you like to see change at Triton College?
A: Financial aid, it does definitely take a while. It (receiving financial aid) takes more time than it should. The financial aid office is not as advanced as the rest of the school.