Growing up in a low income neighborhood with a single mother, I succumbed to social pressures and began a life of drug abuse and crime. The life I was leading was not conducive to succeeding in high school, and I eventually dropped out. Several years later, I was living a life of complete demoralization and committing crimes to support my drug addiction. Out of desperation, I committed a robbery of a pharmacy and ended up sentenced to five years in prison.

I couldn’t have known it then, but this ended up saving my life. It is in prison where I acquired my GED and was then afforded the opportunity to take some welding courses while incarcerated. I graduated the Welding Tech program offered by Walla Walla Community College while in prison, and this gave me a taste for learning.

This is why I am currently in school and pursuing higher education. I attribute my ability to navigate prison and stay out of trouble to the education I received there through Walla Walla Community College. Originally, my plan had been to seek employment, but once I was released, three factors contributed to me continuing my education. The first was that I had already seen the evidence of school keeping me out of trouble in prison. The second was that studies have shown that higher education is the most effective weapon against recidivism, and the last reason was that I saw school as being more conducive to my recovery than working. Then, I literally received a sign from above when I saw a billboard for SCC, and I knew that was where I wanted to go, so I enrolled as an AA transfer student.

My current goal is to get a degree in mechanical engineering. Growing up, I was constantly taking things apart and, to my mother’s dismay, not putting them back together. Over time, though, this curiosity evolved into a working skillset, and I can now put most things back into working order. I would like to develop these skills further and put them to use in the renewable energy field. My other interest is in helping others that are either struggling with addiction, or having trouble reintegrating into society after a life of crime. I am currently involved with my community custody officer in helping others that are struggling with such problems by being a guide to enrolling and staying at SCC. I attribute much of my success to enrolling in college, and it is at SCC where I learned to think, question, and communicate in a way that helped me reintegrate into society. It was also at SCC where I was exposed to a much larger world than the one in which I grew up.

There are many lessons that I have learned from my past, including that that so as long as I continue to live a principled life, never give up, and keep doing that next right thing, there is no limit to what I can achieve. I have much that I am thankful for, and I can’t help but cry from the overwhelming sense of gratitude. SCC is a big part of why I feel so blessed. If I could share one piece of advice it would be this: “No matter what fears you may have, there is someone out there that has lived through the same fears, and succeeded.”

Aaron is a recipient of the Eikrem and Biella Foundation Scholarships through the CCS Foundation.

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