CHAMPAIGN — It’s obvious how much Nour Kibech is looking forward to Thursday night’s commencement services at Parkland College.
“I could start crying now” thinking about it, said Kibech, who grew up in Algeria after spending the first five months of her life in Colorado. “I’ve been dreaming of my cap and gown. I’m so proud of myself.”
Kibech said she received straight As while working toward an associate degree in the dental-hygiene program.
The 35-year-old, who returned to this country in 2009, had to work especially hard to earn her degree. It took her two years to take her “requirement” classes to be ready for her college studies because she did not receive her primary education in the United States. And then another two years to earn her Parkland degree.
“The transition from the European system to our system was difficult,” Kibech said. “Once, I tried to go to community college in Virginia. I didn’t know how to get hold of a counselor or an adviser, so I gave up.”
She said it was not easy to leave her family back in Algeria.
“I’d never traveled on my own without my dad and mom even 3 miles away,” she said.
Her father immigrated to the U.S. in 2015, with the rest of her family following him three years later.
Peg Boyce, director of Parkland’s dental-hygiene program, lauded Kibech, saying she worked diligently to earn excellent grades.
“She has treated her patients with care and kindness as she perfected her skills,” Boyce said. “She was intent on communicating effectively regarding their treatment and education to improve their daily oral hygiene.”
Boyce said because Kibech is fluent in several languages, it enabled her to translate for patients during their treatment in the dental-hygiene clinic.
“She also volunteered to offer oral-health education to other Parkland students who were non-native English speakers,” Boyce said.
Kibech and her husband, Azzeddine, have an 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter. She has been an inspiration to her children.
“I remember once my son told me, ‘Mom, I’m going to work as hard as you. I want to be either a brain surgeon or a pilot,’” she said. “My daughter wants to be a heart doctor.”
Kibech, who has a job lined up in Lisle, said she earned her degree for the sake of her children.
“I wanted them to see me studying hard,” she said. “I wanted to be a role model for them.”
Kibech lauded the dental-hygiene program at Parkland, calling it “one of the best programs I have ever seen.”
“We have such good instructors, such good classmates,” she said. “I enjoyed every single minute. We had our (down) moments. That’s normal.”
She said there are times when she didn’t understand something, “but you wipe off your tears. I had a lot of support from my instructors.”
Kibech is pumped up about graduation: “Hallelujah! I’m so happy. You’d think I’m a little kid, like I’m 18 years old.”