Category Archives: Winter 2013

Julie Lind

Julie LindJulie Lind of Rochester started attending Centralia College five years ago. When proposing some changes at work, her supervisor at Washington State Employees Credit Union challenged her, and told her that she could make the changes she wanted, if she would just take an accounting class. She took that challenge, and as Lind puts it, it was the beginning of her love affair with education.

“I was hooked after that,” Lind says.  And though it took her five years while still working forty to forty five hours a week, she finally earned her Associate in Arts degree from Centralia College in 2012. Commencement was very special to her; she celebrated with her nephew, who is also a 2012 graduate from Centralia College.

Lind graduated from Tumwater High School in 1990, and she had tried to attend college, but with two jobs, and being on her own at 17, it was just too much. Instead, Lind entered the work force, and at the age of 19 landed a temporary job with WSECU; twenty one years later, and after a lot of hard work, she is still with that same company. Lind has worked her way up to become the Assistant Vice President of Small Business and Consumer Lending.  Though she has been successful in her career, she wants to continue advancing, and feels that the key to that advancement is through education. In fact, as she puts it, “I want my bosses’ job, and he knows it”.

That’s not the end to Lind’s journey at Centralia College; she is now enrolled in the two year program of Centralia College’s new Bachelor in Applied Science in Management. When asked why Centralia College? “It’s the quality of the instructors, and the quality of the classes. I looked at several other colleges. The new BASM program was a perfect fit for me with its hybrid classes, part online, and then classes a couple of nights a week.”  Lind finds she is even more motivated than before, has a great pride in her educational achievements so far, and is a proud member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for community colleges.

Lind is impressed with the curriculum in the new BASM program at Centralia College. Students in her marketing class are creating marketing plans for an existing company, eCreamery, an online custom ice cream company recently featured on the popular TV show Shark Tank. The plans students create will be presented to eCreamery for review, and possible implementation. “You don’t get that kind of real world application with the opportunity to present your work to an existing company for review in many educational settings”, she said.

Lind is grateful to have the support of her job, and her family while attending Centralia College. “They are very understanding at work when I need extra time for classes,” she says. WSECU also reimburses her for tuition for up to five credits a quarter, something she feels more businesses should do. “They need to make an investment in their employees.” Lind’s family and fiancé Kevin have understood the constraints on her time as well. When she has to occasionally miss a family gathering due to a class, or to homework, she just tells herself, “The long term benefits are worth the short term sacrifices.”


Zoltan Holden

Zoltan HoldenFor Zoltan Holden there was no other choice but to commute from Olympia to attend Centralia College. No other college in the region offered the program he wanted. When he graduates in 2013, he’ll have an Associate in Technical Arts in Electronics, Robotics, and Automation (ERA).

The skills he learns in this college program will serve him well as he develops his interest in electronics.

When it comes to computers Zoltan is a natural. He started by taking apart TVs and VCRs as a kid, later being mentored in electronics and computers from members of his church. It’s what he loves to do; in fact, “Zollie” as his friends know him, is the go to guy if they’re having any problems with their computer. He is able to fix anything from broken lap top screens, to software glitches, and often helps people that he doesn’t know.

“Since starting college, I have already learned so many new techniques that I use in my hobby of working on computers. Now I can’t imagine going to any other college than Centralia College, the commute from Olympia is definitely worth it,” Holden said.

How he got here was an even longer commute. Born in Romania, he was adopted by American parents at the age seven and brought to the U.S., first to Minnesota, then Alaska, and finally landing in the Pacific Northwest. He is a 2003 Yelm High School. He then worked mostly in menial jobs before deciding to attend Centralia College.

It’s the Centralia College instructors that have most impressed him.

“They are so patient; they take their time to help and are never in a hurry. They want you to succeed,” Holden said. He is especially thankful to electronics associate professor “Cal” Taylor for his “knowledge, and encouragement,” and Elisa Sunflower from TRiO Club, and Math Department for her “warmth and patience” when explaining difficult math problems, a subject he finds challenging.

Holden enjoys the student activities on campus, especially ultimate Frisbee, and projects with the Electronics Club; he has made many lifelong friends. Holden believes that his prospects have expanded with a bright future in robotics and in the computer industry. He feels that Centralia College is the reason behind this, with its “challenging classes and encouraging instructors”.

Gerardo Gomez

Gerardo GomezGerardo Gomez has his sights set on becoming a Certified Public Accountant and Centralia College is the school that will give him the boost he needs to reach that goal. He would be the first in his family to earn a college degree. That is motivation for him and those who encourage him.

Gerardo’s family migrated from Mexico when he was very young and settled in the Mossyrock area. After graduating from Mossyrock High School he made the decision to attend Centralia College to work toward his education and career goals.

His father operated a retail nursery enterprise, working on weekends, and Gerardo helped. He found that the bookkeeping side of the business was a part of the operation that got him excited.

“It was the part of his business that I really enjoyed. Watching my dad work got me thinking about a career. Now I want to become a CPA,” Gerardo said. While in high school he was able to spend a day with a CPA as part of a college program and that experience cemented the deal.

Coming to Centralia College was a decision that made sense.

“My family is important and they want me to stay close to home. Besides, coming here will save money,” Gomez said, demonstrating his practical side. “I came from a small school and I don’t think I was ready to go to a bigger school right out of high school.” Centralia College’s accounting program is strong and provides an excellent academic foundation for those who plan to go into the field.

“There is a lot of work in accounting but the instructors are really good at explaining concepts. They work with me to be sure I understand. Besides, this is something I enjoy,” Gomez said.

He does plan to transfer to the University of Washington. Gomez received two scholarships, which will go a long way toward covering the expenses of his first two years.

“I am able to set my studies as my first priority,” Gomez said.

Lamont Peabody

Lamont PeabodyLamont Peabody is unforgettable. Beneath those distinguished Viking features lie an infectiously optimistic good-natured character with many talents and skills. Soon he will be adding college graduate to his list of accomplishments when he receives his Associate in Applied Science degree in Electronics, Robotics and Automation (ERA) this fall.

The next step is getting a job where he can combine his knowledge of electronics with his extensive work experience. Lamont, the adventurer, took the long road on his path to higher education; his is a journey down the road less travelled. Immediately upon high school graduation, Lamont enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. As a Combat Journalist, Corporal Peabody spent seven years traversing the globe covering stories for all branches of the military. He often volunteered to participate in dangerous training exercises with the military’s elite forces in order to write more thorough news pieces.

When his military commitment ended, Lamont settled down in the surf-friendly city of San Diego, CA, working in a pawn shop in the evenings to free up his mornings to catch the best waves. After two years, however, the call of the road beckoned again. Lamont bought an RV and set a course for Alaska. The Northwest’s beauty, however, captivated him and Olympia became his new home.

Lamont’s new job as a truck driver appeased his adventurous spirit. Often travelling for months at a time navigating the inter-connected highways of America, Lamont never missed the opportunity to view unique roadside attractions, ghost towns and tourist spots along his delivery route. But life on the road was not conducive to the responsibilities of raising a family, so he opted for employment closer to home.

Starting a new career working in factory production, Lamont entered the industry as a forklift operator and quickly moved into the role of machine operator. As he discovered his passion for industrial equipment, he needed to learn how these giant machines worked. He taught himself all of the mechanical and electrical components of the equipment he operated. In no time, Lamont became a Production Supervisor. He was able to fix any piece of equipment on the floor, but he also inspired his crew to increase production to record numbers.

For more than 15 years, Lamont did it all. He was an Electrician, Welder, Lead Maintenance Technician and Plant Engineer. But by 2010, economic factors brought production to a halt. As if losing his job wasn’t bad enough, Lamont was also in the process of going through a divorce. Ever the optimist, however, Lamont viewed these events as an opportunity to go to college. “It was getting harder to find a job doing what I love without the formal college education,” he said. Today, many employers require college degrees as a prerequisite to the interview process. Lamont was referred to Centralia College’s Worker Retraining Program by the helpful staff at the Lewis County WorkSource. “I’ve never met so many wonderful people who really care about helping people achieve their goals. I couldn’t have done it without everyone’s expert assistance,” he added.

After ensuring that his children’s financial obligations were met, the remainder of Lamont’s unemployment check fell short of what was necessary to rent an apartment and go to college. Lamont, however, was not deterred from reaching his goal. For the last two years he has been homeless. “I lived up in the woods for the first year until my shelter collapsed under the weight of heavy snowfall. It’s been a great adventure and I’ve met some really interesting people,” recalls a grinning Lamont.

This fall, Lamont’s dedication and determination are being rewarded in the form of a college degree. Not only will he graduate from college, but he holds the honor of being the only student from the ERA program to hold an associate level of competence from the International Society of Certified Electronic Technicians (ISCET). Lamont explains, “Last spring, ISCET administered the highly technical exam to eight of the ERA students. Given two chances to take the test, I passed on the first attempt.”

Lamont has often taken the road less traveled. He’s a bright, humble, hard-working, humorous, homeless veteran with a college degree and an exuberant outlook on life and will no doubt be an asset to the company fortunate enough to employ him.

For more information on the college’s Electronics, Robotics, and Automation program, and the career options that could be available, please contact Cal Taylor, David Peterson, or Dave LaLond, the ERA instructors.

Rex Folkman knows the value of education

Rex Folkman

Rex Folkman

By the time he was in his early 20s, Rex Folkman could have been the poster child for a man without purpose. He had more than three dozen misdemeanor arrests lying in his wake, jail time in four different counties, was deep into drug addiction, and faced the promise of more, harsher penalties fueled by his need to support his addiction.

“I was using just about every kind of drug out there. It was controlling my life,” said Folkman, who is now 26.

Adding to his problems was the fact that he didn’t hang onto any one job for very long. He was able to land low-paying manual labor jobs that did little to challenge him.

It was easier to see how he got to this point in his young life, much harder to know where he was going.

“It was a couple of years ago that I made up my mind to change direction. I looked at the jobs I held and realized that 10, 20, or 30 years down the road I would still be earning minimum wage or close to it. That’s not what I wanted.

“I got so disgusted at not having control over my life. I was always depressed, except when I was on drugs,” said Folkman. He said he realized it would only be a matter of time before he would be facing a felony charge. “I knew it was coming because that was the direction I was going,” he said.

He decided he would kick his addiction and entered a treatment program. He checked into a halfway house in Centralia where he found a friend in his mentor, a man being treated for cancer at The University of Washington Medical Center. Folkman accompanied him to the UW for one of his treatments and it was there that Folkman had a revelation.

“I looked around at the students on campus. They were clean-looking, they were focused, they had the look of prosperity, all the things I wanted.” And the light came on. “I knew that if I wanted to get away from low-paying jobs, the drug addiction, and the path I was on I needed an education.”

A short time after his return to Centralia, Folkman made his way to Centralia College. He vividly remembers the day he enrolled. “I was really sick and it was snowing. I walked from the halfway house to enroll. The desire to do something positive with my life was overwhelming!”

He started in business because it was what he thought he could do. After running head first into what he said was a “tough” economics class, he realized business wasn’t for him. A friend, who knew that Folkman had abilities with numbers, suggested that he take math classes to see if there would be a connection. It was magic.

Well into his second year, Folkman is now a top Science Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) student, attending on a STEM scholarship. “The math might be review for most of the students in my classes but it isn’t for me,” said Folkman. He does have natural talent in the field but he is also very motivated: he’s seen the dark side of life and knows that he can’t fail. He will outwork everyone else.

What makes Folkman’s journey even more of a miracle is that from an early age he did not have favorable odds. He lived in foster homes beginning at the age of 11, occasionally moved in with one parent or another, or lived on the streets. It was difficult to stay away from drugs users who made sure he didn’t stray too far from the fold. Folkman became known as a troublemaker in and out of school. It was a reputation he earned.

He was kicked out of the schools he attended until finding more solid footing at Everett High where, in 2006, he was able to graduate. Even then his prospects were not bright. At age 20, after a series of menial jobs, he returned to the Centralia area and his life took a turn for the worse; he spent the next two years struggling with severe addiction issues before he sought help.

“I knew that education was what I needed, I wasn’t sure how to get it but I did know that the path I was on wasn’t what I wanted, it was all so clear. I was just ready for a change,” Folkman said. And that’s where Centralia College came in.
“The college made the difference. Members of the faculty have made learning easier for me, everyone has been very supportive, very helpful,” Folkman said.

He hasn’t looked back since. He credits the mentoring at the halfway house for the beginning to his life change, but he credits Centralia College with making it stick. “I would never have thought that I could have made it this far. Education is giving me the confidence I need. The passion of the science and math instructors is amazing! These guys are experts in their fields, and could work anywhere; their passion has become my passion!”

When Folkman graduates from Centralia College, he will have an Associate in Arts degree in Mechanical Engineering. He isn’t sure which college he will transfer to but with his grades and desire, he is sure to have his choice of schools to attend for a baccalaureate degree. His goal is to earn his degree and work overseas, all part of this plan to see “some of the world I’ve only read about,” he said. He’s well on his way to becoming the poster child for a much more positive way of life.

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