Friday, January 27, 2012

Inspiring Success Story: James McBride discovers new self-confidence and purpose in life

"When I started at Lower Columbia College, my two boys and I were homeless." ~ James McBride

In June 2011 James became the first in his family to graduate from college and earn a degree. He and his two sons now live in a two bedroom apartment of their own, and the boys continue to thrive thanks to LCC's Head Start program.

James McBride and his two sons.
James served in the U.S. Army under Operation Desert Storm, then made several tries at college. In 2009 he and his boys were homeless, living in his parents' home, when he received a postcard saying the boys qualified for Head Start.

That was the first step.

"Head Start allowed me to grow as an individual and learn leadership skills I never dreamed I could learn."

Through James' involvement he was elected to the LCC Head Start Policy Council board all three years that his children attended. He was elected to the Executive Committee first as the Vice President, and then as the Head Start State Representative to the Washington State Head Start Association, where he advocated for children and families.

"Through the LCC Head Start program I have gained a passion for advocacy. I advocate for children and families not only in Washington State, but nationally as well."

In 2010 James was awarded Head Start's National Father of the Year, and in 2011 he graduated from Lower Columbia College with an associate degree in Automotive Technology.

"I have gained so much from attending Lower Columbia College. I have regained independence for myself and my family, and I have a new-found confidence that I can accomplish anything I set my mind and my heart too. I am proud to call myself an LCC Alumni and look forward to giving back to the college that has given me so very much."

In January 2102 James was nominated for the Transforming Lives Award by the Trustee Association of Washington Community And Technical Colleges. Here's James' story of determination and success in his own words.

LCC is very proud to have played a part in James' new-found independence, self esteem and hope for the future.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Inspiring Success Story: Travis Colby Takes Off, Helping Boeing Build Its New Planes

"I would like to thank you for your interest in me, and my family's future, in my new career," ~ Travis Colby, Welding and Machine Shop graduate

Travis Colby demonstrates some of the new CNC
Machine Equipment in LCC's Machine Shop
Travis Colby is grateful, and excited about his new job at The Boeing Company’s Auburn plant. Starting today (Jan. 6), he makes parts for an eagerly anticipated new plane—a union job that starts at $19.75 per hour.

Boeing Recruiting
Boeing executives visited LCC in October to discuss the company’s training needs with our faculty, and brief students on the aerospace industry and how to use Boeing’s Human Resources website.

Travis attended, and handed his résumé and cover letter to Harris Sullivan, Human Resources Manager for the Fabrication Division, Commercial Airplanes. Sullivan called him from his car on the way back, recommending a couple jobs for which he was qualified. “I have my English 110 instructor, Gary Meyer, to thank for knowledge I put to good use designing my résumé,” says Colby.

Machine Trades Instructor Kam Todd reports that several other LCC students are right behind Colby in the Boeing job queue.

Machine Shop Instructor Kam Todd shows some of the
College's CNC milling equipment to Harris Sullivan, Human
Resources Manager for the Fabrication Division,
Commercial Airplanes, The Boeing Company.
Lay-Off Proofing
Colby came to LCC after being laid off from his job at a rock crushing plant, hoping that strong credentials would make him less susceptible to layoffs.

He had experience welding, fixing equipment, and moved quickly into LCC’s Welding program. As a part-time student employee, he helped out in the Welding Shop and worked for LCC Campus Services.  “I’d like to thank the LCC Maintenance Crew for the maintenance knowledge they shared with me, and my new supervisor there, Ken Noble, for his strong leadership and down-to-earth attitude toward his employees. I will never forget any of them.”

After finishing his Associate in Applied Arts Degree in Welding, Colby continued at LCC, working toward his degree in Machine Trades. He’ll finish that degree Winter Quarter, with work experience credit for his new job. He held a 3.9 GPA, graduating with highest honors.

"Travis was and will continue to be a good learner," said LCC Welding instructor Randy Byrum. "Boeing hired a fine man."

Grateful Heart
“Randy (Byrum) and Kam (Todd) have the type of character I will always strive to instill in myself,” Colby wrote in a December letter of thanks. “They will always be in my life one way or another.”

Colby also thanked the Financial Aid staff, writing: “I just wanted to thank Betty (Sjoblom), Ronda (Manick), Marisa (Greear), and everyone in the Financial Aid Office for everything you have done for me and my family while I attended LCC. You all have done a wonderful job in a very tough department.

“I will do my best to keep in contact with you and give you reports on how things are going at Boeing.  LCC students are lucky to have such a hard-working and dedicated team pulling for those who want to succeed.”

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Inspiring Success Story: Sarah Vilardi Finds Her Niche, Organic Chemistry

“I got very excited about chemistry, especially organic. That’s when I switched my major.” ~ Sarah Vilardi, LCC graduate

Sarah Vilardi was training for a career in ballet when an injury sent her looking for a new dream. She found—and followed—it at Lower Columbia College.

Sarah had always liked science. Exploring different fields at LCC, she was an excellent student and became a math, biology and chemistry tutor in the Learning Commons. Thinking she would become an MD, she took every science class she could. “I got very excited about chemistry, especially organic. That’s when I switched my major.”

Taking her tutoring work to the next level, she led Supplemental Instruction sections in chemistry. Sarah was active in the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, and helped with judging at Science Olympiad events.

Next step: Willamette University
“As I found my niche in chemistry and teaching, I went to Willamette University and said, ‘Hey, this is a great school for me; a great fit.’” Chemistry Instructor Armando Herbelin, her advisor, helped her with her scholarship application, and he and fellow instructor Adam Wolfer both wrote letters of recommendation.

She got that scholarship, and the transfer went great. “My credits from LCC transferred so well! I actually had enough math at LCC that it was feasible for me to get a math minor.” The math is especially valuable to her as a researcher. “I have to commend the LCC Math Department. I took a lot of math from Dawn Draus, and she is incredible.”

Today, Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry from Willamette University, with a minor in Mathematics, and is working toward a PhD in Chemistry, doing research in at the University of Utah.

“I really enjoyed my undergraduate lab research at Willamette. It was a big leap for me…I received excellent instruction, both at LCC and at Willamette. I know what research is like, and they really prepared me and pushed me toward what I need to be successful in grad school.”
Sarah took every science class she could at LCC, and led
special Supplemental Instruction groups in Chemistry.

Working on her PhD
At Utah, she’s a teaching and research assistant, grading papers, helping in the lab, leading discussion sessions, staffing open office hours, and helping with research projects. She just finished her first semester. After two years, she will have enough credits and have done enough research to receive her master’s degree.

Sarah has already zeroed in on her doctoral research area: organometallic chemistry. She will use linear algebra to predict chemical reactions, saving time and expense in designing the best catalysts.