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Student Success Stories

Each quarter, we select students of diverse backgrounds and experiences to tell the many stories of success at Centralia College. Read their stories and post a comment on our Student Success news blog.

Student Success Archives...

Valerie Vaughn

"There are a lot of resources at Centralia College that can help. I encourage people to take advantage of what the college offers....I'm a testament to the fact that you can do what you set your mind to."

Valerie Vaughn

Valerie Vaughn was staring into the jaws of a double whammy that would have caused many people to give up. She endured the disaster caused by the December 2007 flood, then in January 2008 she was laid off from her job. Unemployed but undaunted she looked for options. She explored retraining programs at Centralia College that could get her back into the workforce but she also needed financial support.

"It was hard because it had been 30 years since I was in school. My math skills were such that I didn't want to go to college as a youth," said Vaughn. She realized she had to overcome that barrier since going to college was her best option. She found her way to the Worker Retraining office at the college, where as a dislocated worker she was surrounded by others treading the same troubled waters: people out of work, needing financial and emotional help to get back on their feet.


Two named to 2010 All-Washington Team

Jeffery Lowdermilk and Jair Juarez, both Centralia College students, were named to the Coca-Cola All-Washington Community College Academic Team and have been nominated to the 2010 All USA Today Community College Academic Team. Students are named to the team based on their academic achievement, community involvement, and service to the college.

The two were nominated by Centralia College faculty members and are invited to take part in the academic team awards ceremony scheduled to take place on March 25 at South Puget Sound Community College. Governor Chris Gregoire is expected to speak at the event. An announcement on those earning All USA Today team status is expected to come in April.

"These young men are examples of what individuals can do when they have purpose. They each hold great promise not only for their lives but also for society in general. We are proud of what they have done and for what they will do," said Dr. Jim Walton, college president.

Jeffery Lowdermilk

"A year ago I enrolled at Centralia College with some trepidation, not quite knowing what to expect....Confidence is certainly no prerequisite to success but it does help."

Jeffery Lowdermilk

Jeffery Lowdermilk, who spent most of his life living in Japan and China, is a second-year student working toward a career in software engineering and will fine-tune that by specializing in research and development. His time at Centralia College is not only helping him to build a solid educational foundation, it is also helping him to adjust to education in America.

"A year ago I enrolled at Centralia College with some trepidation, not quite knowing what to expect. The prospect of entering (college), while not a cause for panic, did make me feel unsure of myself and my abilities," said Lowdermilk. A 4.0 grade point average has certainly boosted his confidence. "Confidence is certainly no prerequisite to success but it does help," he said.


Jair Juarez

"During my first two years at Rochester High School, I was very unsure of what school I would attend after graduation. I loved the idea of going to college but I just didn't know how to get there."

Jair Juarez

Jair Juarez, also a second year student is seeking a career in social sciences and knows he wants to be involved in student diversity at the college or university level.

"During my first two years at Rochester High School, I was very unsure of what school I would attend after graduation. I loved the idea of going to college but I just didn't know how to get there," said Juarez. He received a visit from several members of the Centralia College Latinos Unidos Club and was shown how he could overcome obstacles and enroll in college. That visit opened Juarez eyes to see what he could do if he set his mind to it.

John Heller

"It's absolutely the best I could have asked for…I can be qualified to enter the accounting field right away, and all of my credits can be transferred to a four-year college…a big jump in reaching my goals."

John Heller

John Heller is a returning second-year Centralia College student from Shelton. "Actually," he admits, "I was born in Shelton and graduated from high school there, but we moved around a lot. I was an Army brat," Heller grinned. For the next twenty years, Heller lived a life of hard work and high adventure. "I was a commercial crabber and salmon fisherman in Alaska," he explained. "I served in the Merchant Marine, and when I came back to the Northwest I started working in construction, building trades, and hard physical labor."

Times were good, according to Heller, and the money sufficient, if not of the "get-rich-quick" kind. And then one day, stepping down from the back of a construction rig, Heller slipped and seriously fractured his foot. His days on the high seas and in big construction were over. He had to find a new career.

Kenta Yamaguchi

International student & world-class biker, Yamaguchi chose CC to learn English & fulfill dreams of a career in journalism or the international arena.

Kenta Yamaguchi

Busy fulfilling his life's dreams and goals, Kenta Yamaguchi is finding challenges everywhere he can. The twenty-seven year old Yamaguchi is a Centralia College International student from Japan. Since arriving in the United States three years ago, Yamaguchi has been studying at Centralia College. He came to Centralia College with a bachelor's degree from a Japanese university and five years work experience as a Japanese licensed real estate agent. However, he did not speak English and that is what he wanted to learn to do.

Yamaguchi chose Centralia College because of the English studies programs. Through the college's International Club, his friends suggested that he seek a work study opportunity helping with children at the Centralia College Children's Lab. He used this opportunity as an additional way to enhance his daily English learning regime.

Victoria Stewart

"I think you need to challenge yourself, engage the professors, read the material, and do the work. Do that and success will be yours."

Victoria Stewart

She is a renaissance woman who looks with anticipation at the wide-open canvas of her life. There is so much to do, so much that piques her curiosity. She likes the possibilities. The foundation for what Victoria Stewart will do has been laid with her life's experience and now with the associate in arts degree she just earned, a tool that will open more doors of opportunity. It would have been easy to assume she would enter college bent on earning a degree in journalism. She is, after all, a freelance writer/photographer for The Chronicle and for DeVaul Publishing, has served as a writer for and managing editor of the Lewis County News, and wrote and edited the Legionnaire the Washington state American Legion newsletter. At Centralia College she served as the editor and photographic designer of Beyond Parallax, a showcase publication primarily for student-generated literary and artistic talent. One of her poems and, augmenting her display of talent, several pieces of her photographic art were included in the publication.

Jibril Gude, Samuel Dafala, Marco Kila

"We have talked with teachers and students and we are anxious to start college here."

Jibril Gude, Samuel Dafala, Marco Kila

When classes resume in September, Centralia College will welcome three young men from Sudan. When Jibril Gude, Samuel Dafala, and Marco Kila enter their classrooms, they will write a very different chapter in their ongoing story.

During the pre-dawn darkness at an isolated cattle camp in northeast Sudan, life changed for those three young teenagers in the blink of an eye. A band of armed, militant Arab Muslims swarmed into the camp with guns, knives, and machetes and began targeting anyone who moved. There was a bloody civil war underway—North versus South—and the Muslim rebels were intent on enforcing the North's Islamic Law. Black Sudanese in the cattle camp were mostly Christians whose allegiance lay with the African population to the south. Jibril, Samuel, and Marco, caught in the deadly firestorm, did the only thing they knew; the trio ran for their lives. How they ran. They didn't slow their pace until they had outdistanced a handful of pursuers late that day—and still they ran!

Ben Clary

"Centralia College is a quality school and the Energy Technology program has a great reputation."

Ben Clary

Ben Clary, an Energy Technology student, trains using electronic equipment donated to the college by John Fluke Manufacturing, tools that enhance his training. A resident of Napavine, Clary is returning to Centralia College to earn his degree and receive training for a career in Energy Technology.

"Careers in the energy field are stable and the pay is very good," said Clary. "This is something that will work for me for a long time." He said Centralia College offers the program that would lead to a secure career in a solid field. He worked out a schedule with his instructors to get the training he needs while keeping his regular job. "Centralia College is a quality school and the Energy Technology program has a great reputation," he said. He also appreciates the opportunity to use quality equipment donated by Fluke as part of his training. "It's important to be able to use equipment that gives accurate readings," he said. This is the same equipment he will likely use when he converts his training to a real job. They are tools he can use to his advantage.

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