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Lehigh Carbon Community College

A Clear Road Forward

By Shane Baglini

Jill Clipper graduated high school, went straight to college, got her degree and started working. Sounds familiar, right? It’s the path thousands of high school students take each and every year. But just because you take the path the majority of students take, doesn’t mean it is the path you will end up following forever.

Clipper, a 1999 graduate of Parkland High School, attended LCCC right out of high school. “I was 17, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do,” said Clipper. “I ended up doing the travel and tourism program, and I loved it.”

Sometimes, unexpected forks in the road appear, and we have no way to prepare for them. “I graduated in 2001, and then 9/11 happened in September of 2001, and the travel industry went downhill after that,” said Clipper. “I didn’t really get to utilize my degree back then.” With her travel and tourism degree in toe, Clipper tried to make the best of a situation she couldn’t control. “I worked as a restaurant manager and bartender for 18 years,” said the Allentown native. “I talked to someone I worked with at the IronPigs, and she said ‘I just finished this paralegal program at LCCC, you would love it!’”

Clipper realized that sometimes the path you’re meant to take finds you. Her family has deep ties to law and law enforcement, her grandfather, father and brother all being police officers. “I always had interest in the legal field, but I knew I didn’t want to go to school to be an attorney,” said Clipper. “I felt like everything she was describing about the paralegal program made me say ‘oh my gosh, I’m going back to school!’”

In 2013, at 33 years old – 16 years after attending LCCC for the first time – Clipper decided to come back to her alma mater to pursue her associate degree in paralegal studies. “I decided I was going to try this program, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Clipper. “I was bummed it took me so long to find something I loved, but I think it was the right time in my life. I was never a straight-A student, but I made it through the paralegal program in two years, working full-time, with a 4.0.” Clipper even served as a peer tutor for a few semesters. “It felt so good to find a program that really fit my personality,” said Clipper. “The faculty just wouldn’t let me fail. If you want to do well, they’re going to help you. I can’t say enough about the program.”

As one might imagine, the emotions of going back to school at 33 are very different than those going to school for the first time at 17, fresh out of high school. “I think when I was younger I didn’t quite know exactly what I wanted to do,” said Clipper. “And of course there’s pressure to go to school, you can’t just not go to school.” This idea is what forces many into a decision about college before they are truly ready. “I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, I still considered myself a child,” said Clipper. “I just hadn’t found what I was passionate about at that time. This time coming back, I knew I found my true passion.”

Clipper was nervous about going back to school, but her decision to go back remains one of the best she’s ever made. “Of course I was nervous to go back to school at 33. I was like ‘oh my gosh what am I doing?! I just signed up for college again!’” she said. “But I was more mature, and I was a little older and I am just so glad I did it.”

Jill Clipper poses for photo with husband and child.Her advice to others in her situation, or finding themselves out of work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is to take the leap, because the path you’re meant to be on might not be the one you just left. “My advice would be to not hesitate,” said Clipper. “Just take that first step and it will all work out from there. In a time where there is so much unknown, it’s something you can do for yourself to ensure you have some kind of base to build off of, and find your passion no matter how old you are.”

Clipper is now in the job of her dreams, a legal and business affairs specialist for Clemens Food Group in Hatfield, PA. Clipper secured the role soon after graduating. “I felt super prepared for the interview because of all the work we did focusing on interviewing and getting our resume up to date toward the end of the program. I found that tremendously helpful,” said Clipper. “I had never been on a formal interview, and this was a panel interview with multiple stages, and meeting with the CFO and others, but I felt prepared for that because of LCCC.” In her current role, Clipper works directly with all executives, and cross functionally with various departments including trademarks, marketing, finance, human resources and more, as well as leading all insurance initiatives for Clemens. “My dad is so proud of me, he told me it’s the best money he’s ever spent.”

Going back to school has become a necessity for some due to unforeseen circumstances, but Clipper says it doesn’t have to be that scary. “It almost felt like going back home again. Having that experience at LCCC and coming back just felt like going back to this really familiar place.”