Student Overcomes Personal Challenges to Help Others

Kenneth Poling

Kenneth Poling

From living through the World Trade Center collapsing in New York and surviving an illness that is going to be with him for the rest of his life, computer science major Kenneth Polling’s story begins in Pullman, Michigan where he lived his first eight years of life.

Poling’s parents visited 3ABN, an Adventist television-broadcasting network, in 1995 when he was just two years old and in 2001, 3ABN asked his parents to work for them. They went for an interview around the end of August leaving Poling to spend a week with his grandmother on his dad’s side.

“All I could think about was whether or not I was going to have to move,” Poling says. When his parents came back from their interview, they informed Poling that they were going to leave for Illinois on Thursday, September 13, 2001. Two days before they were set to leave, the U.S. was attacked. This day is better known as 9/11.

Poling was in his house when his Czech Republic neighbor came over. The neighbor exclaimed that New York was being bombed. Poling’s parents turned on the television before the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

“I was so scared,” Poling remembers, “I didn’t know what was going on. I lived a sheltered life and didn’t know much about the outside world. I wasn’t sure how far New York was from where I was at.” He lived about 745 miles from the attack at the time it was happening.  This, however, didn’t affect the family’s choice to move and he and his family arrived in Illinois on September 13, where he lives today.

In the summer of ’09, Poling went with his Pathfinder group to Oshkosh. They got sick when they returned home. After a few weeks everyone started to get better except Poling. His father didn’t think anything of it and said he would be fine. After five months, he was still not feeling well. Worried, his parents took him to a free clinic to see what was wrong with him and that’s when it was discovered that Poling had Crohn’s disease, an autoimmune disease affecting the digestive system.

He never finished high school. He tried, but money was tight and his parents couldn’t afford it. He also had a part-time job and battling his illness made him very sick. When discussing school, Poling says, “I was a fairly lazy child, but when I became sick I realized that there is a difference between not wanting to do work and not being able to.” When he starting feeling better he didn’t let himself get lazy. “I started being a better helper to people,” he says. “Over time, I developed a selfless attitude instead of a selfish one.”

He got his GED on April 2013, and went on to attend Rend Lake Community College where he received an associate degree in computer programming while working at 3ABN. When he completed his associate degree, he considered attending a four-year Adventist college. After going to generation for youth for Christ, GYC, at the end of 2014, he visited an Adventist education booth which helped him get his name out there so all the Adventist colleges could potentially contact him. Southwestern Adventist University called and encouraged him to apply.

Poling has been at Southwestern Adventist University since fall of 2015 and is now studying for his computer science degree. When he is at home in Illinois, he is active with Illinois Youth Council for all the Adventist churches in the state, and I Disciple for Christ. A quiet person, Poling nevertheless has used his concern for family and friends to motivate him to help others, both here at Southwestern and in his home state of Illinois.

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