Coming from a small town is a common Illinois experience. Coming from a small town with a big city name always creates a conversation. Kelsie Klingenberg and Sam Polczynski hail from Nashville, Illinois (population 3,109).

For Klingenberg and Polczynski the transition from a small town to Bloomington-Normal was made a little bit easier having known each other since grade school. “Funny enough, despite having different majors, we have had a class together since eighth grade,” Polczynski said.

Finding a school that would offer them plenty of opportunities, but also had a sense of community, was very important to them in the college decision process. “I was attracted to Illinois State because I saw the endless opportunities within the University,” said Klingenberg, an actuarial science major. “I saw that the Honors Program gave students the brick to build a road, but it was up to the students to build the path in the direction they wanted. This created a collaborative, passionate, and tight-knit Honors Program that I knew I wanted to be a part of.”

Klingenberg and Polczynski with Reggie Redbird at Presidential Scholars Interview Day, their Senior year of high school.

Klingenberg and Polczynski with Reggie Redbird at Presidential Scholars Interview Day, their senior year of high school.

As passionate and involved students, they have found their paths crossing again and again. Klingenberg and Polczynski received the Presidential Scholarship, and both have served on the Honors Student Leadership Team as community assistants.

They have made their own ways to success independently as well, taking advantage of academic and social opportunities through their respective majors. Klingenberg is an active member of the Actuarial Club, and also works as an Admissions Ambassador. Polczynski, a marketing major, founded Sigma Pi, the newest social fraternity on campus, and has worked as an intern for the Town of Normal.

Illinois State is commonly referred to as a “big school with a small school feel,” something these small town natives certainly appreciate. Klingenberg and Polczynski have embraced the sense of community offered through the University at large, as well as through the Honors Program. Whether through traveling domestically and abroad with Honors Travel, or taking advantage of networking opportunities through their Honors Seminars, these two highly motivated students have embraced the ability to customize their college experiences. “I was excited that the Honors Program here is not just extra courses, or similar to the AP classes that I took in high school,” said Polczynski. “It has truly proven to be an opportunity to grow as a student and a professional.”

“When I began freshman year I had no idea what type of support system I would have at Illinois State,” said Klingenberg. “By joining a wide range of extracurriculars and being involved with the Honors Program, I have created my own support system throughout the university by simply doing things I am passionate about.” For these two Nerdbirds, being able to follow their passions with the Honors Program at Illinois State is what makes Normal, Illinois, feel like a home away from home.