Posted May 26, 2020
Cecelia Dahlinger started her journey on the traditional path at a four-year college, but after struggling with her classes, she found a top program and her passion close to home with Lorain County Community College (LCCC)’s University Partnership computer science and engineering program with the University of Toledo. At 24, the Huron resident is thrilled to be earning her bachelor’s degree in an in-demand field May 16 — and just completed a lifelong dream of working at Walt Disney World.
“The opportunities at LCCC have prepared me by letting me gain real world experience in my field, and giving me a leg up on the competition when searching for jobs, ” Dahlinger said.
When she started out at the University of Akron after graduating from Olmsted Falls High School in 2014, Dahlinger struggled with her original major, chemical engineering. “ I spent a year and a half there, but I slowly realized that I was being dwarfed by the class sizes and wasn’t getting a personalized education,” she said. Dahlinger switched her major to computer science but it wasn’t a success at the first try. She failed her first computer science course.
“I lost my honors scholarship that was paying my tuition,” Dahlinger said. “My student debt was skyrocketing.” So, she decided to move back to her then-home in Olmsted Falls.
Upon returning, she took some general classes at LCCC before picking back up with her passion in 2016 when she found the University Partnership computer science and engineering program. She loved the personalization she could get at the LCCC University Partnership Ridge Campus in North Ridgeville, especially when she realized he could earn a four-year degree at a much lower cost close to home.
“I think it was a fantastic value,” Dahlinger said. “The smaller class sizes and the professors knowing my name helped me feel motivated to continue towards the completion of my degree. That’s something you don’t get on a large campus.”
“Since there are three semesters of co-op as degree requirements, I have been able to challenge the skills I’ve gained before I even graduate,” Dahlinger said. The highlight of her experience at LCCC was finishing a co-op at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, where she worked as a software engineer on the modeling, simulation and training tools during the spring.
“Disney is special to me because I enjoy making people happy, and that’s what Disney is all about,” Dahlinger said. “The team creates and utilizes tools to help simulate rides and attractions within the parks to do things like increase efficiency or even cut down on scheduled down time. While I was there I was treated just like a full-time engineer, getting to work on some amazing projects.”
She previously completed two co-ops at Macy’s Technology in Lorain where she worked on a support team for a semester and a proof-of-concept for a second semester. The University of Toledo’s College of Engineering was recently ranked as one of the top four engineering programs in the state of Ohio by the Princeton Review.
“Adrienne Aguilar, my advisor, was instrumental in me getting through the program,” Dahlinger said. “She knows all of her students personally, and I’m always amazed at her ability to keep track of everyone and make them feel like an individual.”
Dahlinger has a 3.4 GPA.
“The students I shared the classroom with were equally motivated, and most came from non-traditional backgrounds,” Dahlinger said. “I think this environment fostered a sense of pride in what we were accomplishing, since most of the students were there because it was their own choice to continue with schooling.”
Dahlinger has always wanted to be some kind of engineer. She took her first computer science class during her junior year of high school. Today she’s proud to have come full circle and completed her degree at LCCC.
“Computer science is a growing field, and there are sure to be many opportunities down the road,” she said. Thanks to her real-life training with LCCC co-ops, Dahlinger knows her future will be bright.