Two military veterans: One person served in Operation: Desert Storm in the early 90’s and another person recently returned from Afghanistan. Both students learned important lessons while serving in the military that are helping them in their programs. And, through their sacrifices for our country, they have certainly learned the value of giving back.
Bilingual: Three students I met with speak English as a second language. These adults are seeking better employment options. Perhaps businesses should find ways to utilize the benefit of bilingual people to be more competitive in global markets. More intriguing is the fact that all three of these students give back to their communities by helping other people meet their obligations.
Unemployed: One lady returned to school because she is out of work. Trying to piece together part time jobs which pay minimum wage, she still finds time to lead the organization of study groups with her classmates.
Injured on the job: Two students are studying at Southwest Tech because they are unable to work due to on-the-job injuries. While waiting for surgery, or recovering from it, both of these students sought ways to help their classmates simply because they knew they could help.
Former inmate: One student was incarcerated but, after paying his debt to society, has embraced the opportunity to learn about a career that will provide for his future. He said he sees other students who make poor choices, like his own, and tries to tell them his story so they won’t repeat the same mistakes. We have other students who have overcome substance abuse or escaped from domestic violence. Some of our adult students have young children and are also responsible for the care of their elderly parents demonstrating the ability to care for a range of needs.
One of the commonalities between the various people, despite their unique backgrounds, is their selflessness. All of the students I got to know give of themselves to help others.
Perhaps the most important attribute I hope people learn through their experience at Southwest Tech is to bless the lives of others. For the fourth year in a row, over 90 percent of our faculty and staff donated to our Foundation to support students. I hope we achieve 100 percent. There is no valid reason why we shouldn’t, and the benefits to both the giver and the receiver far outpace the sacrifice.
Tomorrow afternoon we will celebrate graduation. As students walk across the stage to receive their credentials, I will wonder about their individual stories. We know they have learned a great deal about their future jobs because that’s exactly what we do so well at Southwest Tech. We are also confident our graduates have practiced positive techniques for interpersonal communication, learned to think critically, and have practiced working productively. This year, however, I will be curious to know how each person will give back of their time, talent, or treasure. After all, there are few work environments that match our example of giving and is one lesson for which I am most grateful.