The story of a recent Lake Washington Institute of Technology (LWTech) graduate was so compelling, the LWTech Board of Trustees moved to create a new award associated with the statewide Transforming Lives Award.
Juan Rodriguez’ life from Tijuana, Mexico to the strawberry fields of Watsonville, Calif. to a fulltime, benefitted employee at Skyline Steel in Longview sparked the action.
The Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges Transforming Lives Award recognizes students whose lives were transformed by attending a state community or technical college.
A U.S. citizen living in Mexico, Juan was forbidden to attend Mexican schools. For years, he crossed the border each day to attend class in the U.S. The daily treks were unsustainable and eventually he made the choice to leave his family and move to San Diego where he entered a welding training program through the federally funded Job Corps program and secured a contract position in Washington State as a welder.
During the recession, the father of three was laid off and found the Basic Food, Employment and Training program which connected him to Lake Washington Institute of Technology and the outstanding Welding Program. Upon graduation in June 2013, Juan interviewed with several companies before taking a high-paying permanent, benefitted position with Skyline Steel in Longview.
The LWTech Board of Trustees nominated Juan for the statewide award which he did not win. Trustee Board member Darrell Mitsunaga and Foundation Board member Dave Ferguson then moved to donate a $500 award to recognize Juan’s hard work. The Foundation will support the scholarship in future years.
Accepting the award with his family at the Trustees meeting on September 9, Juan said, “I deeply appreciate the training and educational opportunities that the State of Washington offers at the local community and technical colleges. If it weren’t for the training and education I received, I might still be stuck in limbo between temporary jobs and public assistance.”
“I am so proud and humbled by Juan’s story,” LWTech President Dr. Amy Morrison Goings said. “His success is our success. We take tremendous pride in the work of our alums and their many contributions to the workforce as well as their communities. I am also very appreciative of the LWIT Foundation for their support of this award as well as the Board of Trustees for their additional recognition of Juan’s accomplishments.”