Aerin Emillee Miller had been working in Chicago’s service industry for over a decade before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. That’s when she decided to go back to school to make a career change.

Aerin was apprehensive because it had been 16 years since she was last in the classroom, but she rose to the challenge. She worked full-time while pursuing her associate degree in science. As a lover of wildlife and avid bird watcher, it proved to be the perfect area of study for her.

“[City Colleges] restored my faith in my own abilities, and it reopened the doors for futures that I didn’t think were accessible anymore,” Aerin said.

Having graduated from Harold Washington as valedictorian, Aerin hopes to pursue her bachelor’s degree in biology and eventually earn a master’s degree in environmental ecology.