On Tuesday, January 3, prospective and returning students of South Suburban College’s Paralegal Program gathered together during an informational open house at the Oak Forest Center Law Library.
South Suburban’s Paralegal Program is offered as both an Associate of Science (AAS) degree and as a certificate (PLA.CERT) for those who have already earned some sort of higher education degree. The program is the only one in the south suburbs of Chicagoland to be ABA approved, meaning every course is thoroughly examined and approved by the American Bar Association.
The program is taught fully online, and most of the class is completed through synchronous class time. Although classmates rarely meet in person, the small cohort-style environment still enables classmates to get to know each other and feel connected through the web.
Prospective Student Christian Moody comes from a marketing background but was interested to learn about enrolling in the paralegal program. Although the online format seemed to suit her needs better, she was skeptical about whether or not the online experience would create the same kind of community that happens in a physical classroom.
After hearing from some alumni during the Q&A section of the evening, however, Moody felt more confident in the online classroom environment.
“It's been a long time since I’ve been in school, but everyone seemed very confident about their studies. It also helped to feel like they were part of a community. I think it was really important to me, especially after having come out of COVID-19, to see how much unity can come from an online program. I think a close community enriches the overall experience, so it made me feel a lot more confident after hearing from some people today,” Moody said.
Many current students and alumni attended the event to network and answer any questions that prospective students may have about the program. The alumni in attendance offered career advice, words of encouragement, and helped answer questions about the course itself.
“Even with the technology that’s available now, I still love to touch physical pages. But you adjust quickly to the online format,” Current Student Alexandria Griffin said. “It's almost a limitation that we put on ourselves like, ‘Oh my gosh, I'm not going to be able to talk to the teacher,’ but in reality, the teachers are so accessible. When they are lecturing during the course, it's never a problem to say, ‘Hey, I have a question’ or ‘Can you explain that a little bit better? I don't understand it.’ You can get a lot out of it through the program and your classmates.”
SSC’s paralegal program gives students plenty of opportunities to gain work experience while working through the program and encourages students to look for jobs in the paralegal field as soon as they begin classes. In some cases, these jobs can qualify as internship experience, and the hours at work can go towards program completion requirements. It also offers internships through the state attorney’s office – an opportunity exclusive to students in SSC’s program.
The experiences offered through SSC are crafted to set students up for success, and 89% of graduates since August 2021 were able to secure a job in the field within six months of graduation.
“Seeing my students succeed is the most rewarding part. Hearing about the four-year colleges that they've transferred to after this and the incredible jobs they've gotten with the government or a law firm, and hearing how it’s providing for their families or themselves and enjoying that is by far and away the most rewarding part,” Paralegal Program Coordinator Becky Walters said.
Alumna Julie Palomar completed the program in December 2022 and has already secured a job at Northwestern University. Palomar’s story, like many others, served as an inspiration for the current and prospective students in attendance.
SSC’s paralegal program has been a launching pad for not only the legal field but for many other fields that may benefit from hiring someone with a paralegal background. In Palomar’s case, her paralegal and intellectual property experience helped her land a dream career despite it not being directly related to the legal profession.
“I just accepted a position at Northwestern University as a docketing and compliance administrator. Having the IP background and experience helped me get the interview, but my education here at SSC helped me land the job,” said Palomar.
Spring 2023 registration is now open, and classes begin January 17. For more information about South Suburban College, visithttps://www.ssc.edu/.