Kenzie Rushing, right, receives her associate's degree during the May 8 Rend Lake College commencement ceremony. She was presented her degree by her mother, RLC Director of Financial Aid Cheri Rushing. (Click for printable photo)
INA, Ill. (May 26, 2021) — One week before she graduated from Pinckneyville High School, Kenzie Rushing walked across the Rend Lake College commencement stage and was handed her Associate in Science degree. Years of hard work are over - another goal complete. A new journey has started.
“It was definitely worth it,” Rushing said of all the extra work she had to put in to realize something few students accomplish.
As soon as she could, Rushing started taking dual credit courses through RLC and Pinckneyville High School her junior year. An award-winning athlete, Rushing's basketball career was cut short by injury. Losing a senior season would cause many student-athletes to lose focus, especially in the midst of COVID-19 challenges. Instead, Rushing saw an opportunity.
“I’ve always been very driven when it comes to school. I always played sports too,” she said. “That always kept me very busy. But then I tore my ACL in July before my senior year. My junior year I took dual credit course from my high school for Rend Lake. And then after I wasn’t going to be able to play basketball my senior year, I decided I could go ahead and take extra Rend Lake College classes to get a little bit ahead. I then found out I was only a few classes away from my associate degree.”
Rushing said the treatment she received after her injuries inspired her to go into the medical field.
“The whole experience made me think I would be really good at helping people the same way they were helping me,” she said. “It was tough, and after going through that, I will be able to relate to the patients even more.”
Rushing graduated as the Valedictorian of her class and was listed on the high honor roll all four years of high school. She won several other academic and athletic honors, including All-State, All-Conference, and All-South in track and basketball. She was named on the IHSA All-State Academic Team and became an Illinois State Scholar.
Her mother, Cheri Rushing, recalled seeing how driven Kenzie was at a very young age. Kenzie has cared about her schoolwork when she was in preschool at Rend Lake College Foundation Children's Center and that drive followed throughout grade school and high school.
When Cheri handed her daughter her diploma during RLC’s commencement ceremony, she said she was overcome with different emotions.
“Before I did it I had to fight back the tears,” she said. “[I felt] a sense of pride and happiness in her accomplishments because I know how hard she worked, the self-discipline and dedication it took to accomplish receiving her diploma from RLC and keeping up grades in HS. Many times, things look easy on the surface, but it takes work to get results in whatever you do.”
Kenzie graduated from Pinckneyville High School on May 16. She will finish a few classes this summer before she attends Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Afterward she will enroll in medical school to pursue her dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon.
She encourages anyone to enroll in dual credit and dual enrollment courses as a head start to their academic journey.
“I would highly, highly recommend,” Rushing said. “I think it is a great opportunity that the college offers. I know there are a lot of schools in the area that offer it as well. If anyone is thinking of taking it, I would recommend it, especially the dual credit classes because you are getting both high school and college. Regardless if you get your associate degree or not, most likely they will transfer. It is just a great way for you to get ahead in your schooling.”
Local students and families have saved more than $17 million over the 20 years dual credit has been a program at RLC. To learn more about it, head online to rlc.edu/dualcredit.