Graduate Spotlight: Sam Mackenzie

Posted on May 10, 2016


This Friday night, 572 students will walk across the stage at Rock Valley College’s annual commencement ceremony. Over twice that many students will have earned a degree from RVC this year.

But many of those students may still have no idea where they are going after they walk off that stage. That was the case seven years ago for Sam Mackenzie.

After graduating from Harlem High School in 2007, Sam decided to attend RVC but admits he lacked focus and direction. He transferred to Taylor University in Indiana but left after one semester and worked a number of odd jobs before something changed his life in 2011 and renewed his focus.

That was the year he married his wife, Mandolyn.

As Sam and Mandolyn talked about what their future goals were it became clear that they were both interested in traveling and in the flexibility of working from home or being able to essentially do their jobs from anywhere. That led his wife to ask him if he had ever considered programming or being a web developer.

Sam_MackenzieIn the fall of 2013, Sam started to teach himself to code by going online and completing free tutorials.

“I completed them pretty easily,” says Sam. “So then it was ‘OK, what’s the next step? I need to go somewhere so I can get a degree in it so I can put it down on paper that I know how to do this.’”

Sam decided to return to RVC in the summer of 2014 to pursue a degree in Web Programming & Design.

“That fall, he took 19 credit hours, all while working full time,” says Mandolyn. “This took immense discipline and sacrifice—we shared a car during this time, we didn’t qualify for aid so we took every penny out of our savings accounts, and night after night I watched him stay up late with his homework.”

His sacrifice paid off. Sam made the dean’s list for three straight semesters and finished with a 4.0 grade point average in his final semester. Four months before completing his degree in the fall semester of 2015, he was offered a job as a developer with Ticomix, a Rockford-based technology company.

“I feel Sam perfectly represents the opportunity that Rock Valley College offers to this community.”

Sam has been at Ticomix for over eight months now and he loves it.

“It’s a great company and I see a lot of growth potential,” says Sam.

Even though he finished his degree last December and is fully entrenched in the workforce now, Sam will join his fellow graduates Friday night at the commencement ceremony to celebrate his achievement. It will be the second time he has walked that stage, but this time he knows exactly where he’s going when he walks off.

“I feel Sam perfectly represents the opportunity that Rock Valley College offers to this community,” says Mandolyn. “RVC gave him the opportunity to change his life. If RVC didn’t exist, I highly doubt that he would be where he is in life and we’re both so grateful.”

Sam Mackenzie

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