One of the goals of a community college is to prepare students for transfer to another institution, and when Anne and Audra Burkhead of Canton came to Spoon River College in 2013, that was their plan.  Anne was working towards a career in sports management, and Audra was there to complete the prerequisite classes for nursing.

While at SRC, both played softball, served as Student Ambassadors, and were inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. In 2015, both graduated with their Associate of Arts and Sciences degree. Anne, inspired by her big brother Justin, transferred to the University of Kansas, and Audra enrolled in the OSF nursing program.

Just like planned. Except even the best laid plans are subject to change, whether it’s by choice or unavoidable outside forces such as a pandemic that shut the world down, including sporting events.

By then, Anne had earned her bachelor’s degree in sports management (with a minor in business) from KU and was finishing up her master’s degree in organizational leadership at Creighton University in Nebraska.

“2020 wasn’t the greatest time to be a new graduate pursuing a career in the world of college sports,” said Anne.

Regardless, she opted to stay in Nebraska and at Hy-Vee, where she had worked all through her college years, from Canton to Kansas to Nebraska. She secured a full-time position with them as the Department Manager – Health Market/Health and Beauty. She hasn’t completely ruled out her original goal of someday working at a Division 1 school in marketing and promotions, but she’s not at all unhappy about where she’s at. “I love what I’m doing, it pays well, and offers good benefits. Hy-Vee is a great company.”

Meanwhile, Audra had revised her original plan; she switched from nursing to surgery technician, a career that caught her eye during a job shadowing experience. She enrolled in a program and completed another associate in applied science degree, this time at Illinois Central College, graduating as a certified surgical technologist.

That degree landed her a full-time position at Unity Point Methodist Surgery, where she works hand in hand with surgeons in the operating room. She’s glad she made the change. “I’m not doing what I thought I would be doing, but I love what I am doing.”

She also continues to work part-time at OSF, where she’s been employed for the past six years, first as a patient care tech and now as a safety champion/behavioral health monitor, working with patients suffering mental health traumas such as attempted suicide and drug overdose. “I liked working there and didn’t want to give it up even after I began working at Methodist,” Audra said. “I like this position. It gives me the chance to have direct one-on-one time with patients.”

Working hard is nothing new to Audra or Anne. Both were responsible for paying for their own education. They took advantage of scholarships, and Anne got a gig as a grad assistant while attending Creighton, but they also held down jobs while attending college.

“Those girls worked all the time, and still do. They’re just like their dad,” said their mom Jean Burkhead.

Audra now lives in Peoria, where she and friends regularly meet up for an evening out, and she still plays slow pitch softball in East Peoria with some of her former SRC teammates. Anne also makes time to play a weekly softball game, plus has a special man in her life. Their proximity to Omaha makes it easy for them to take advantage of the big city entertainment offered there.

Anne and Audra aren’t living the lives they planned in 2013, but they are enjoying the lives they’ve created. They have no regrets, but they do have some advice for other students.

“Make good choices when choosing your classes. All of my SRC credits transferred to both OSF and ICC, where it made the registration process a breeze and saved me time,” said Audra. “If you plan on transferring, check and double check to make sure the classes will be accepted wherever you plan on going.”

Anne, who freely admits that she didn’t want to start at Spoon River College, says she’s now glad she did. “It was affordable, and since I was paying for it, that mattered. But when it comes time to transfer, don’t be afraid to go away to a big school. I met many wonderful people, and had many doors opened to me, providing opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.” And when it comes to scholarships? “Apply, apply, apply.”

Moral of the story? You can make a plan—plans are good and help one achieve goals—but you can’t predict the future. Or a pandemic. Always be ready to roll with it, whatever ‘it’ may be.

Anne and Audra Burkheadr
Anne and Audra Burkhead

Anne and Audra Burkhead