Leyna Gilleland, Liberal Studies

Leyna Gilleland earned the 2014 Brian Brendlinger Award for Leadership and Engagement. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Leyna Gilleland earned the 2014 Brian Brendlinger Award for Leadership and Engagement. Photo by Sandi Yanisko

Over the last three years, Leyna Gilleland has blossomed into a young woman with the confidence to start and lead a theater group at Montgomery County Community College’s West Campus in Pottstown.

“I graduated a year early from a cyber charter school called Commonwealth Connections Academy,” said Gilleland, now 20, of Pottstown. “When I started at Montgomery County Community College, I was an extremely shy person with no voice, not someone who was capable of being a leader.”

As a high school graduate a year younger than her peers, she was accepted to Notre Dame University. But the institution required her parents to cede their parental rights to the school until she turned 18. Montgomery County Community College was a better alternative for her: closer to home, convenient, and affordable, she said.

It may have been convenient, but it was not easy.

“I overcame my obstacles with the support of my professors and the staff in the Student Leadership and Involvement Office,” she said.

Gilleland participated heavily in clubs and activities at the College.

“I was in the choir my first year and also started the West End Student Theatre (WEST), the drama club on West Campus.”

She was president of WEST all three years and organized several student activities, including the Halloween Bash in 2013 that raised money for anti-bullying and won the Student Activity of the Year Award.

“WEST won several awards at the 2013 Club Banquet, and then I personally won an award for my community service efforts,” Gilleland said.

She also earned the Brian Brendlinger Award for Leadership and Involvement prior to graduating in May, serving the community and reaping the benefits, too.

“Throughout my time and involvement with WEST, I became a leader. I gained a voice and was given the opportunity to step up as a student leader and use that voice,” she said. “Montgomery County Community College shaped me into the leader that I am today.”

Gilleland plans to study anthropology and archaeology at Millersville University beginning in August and to minor in education administration.

~ Neree Aron-Sando

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