From GED to CNC: Humboldt Park’s “Student of the Year”
Jaime Vargas vividly remembers what it was like growing up in his Humboldt Park neighborhood in the 1990’s, “the environment was pretty rough, there was a lot of peer pressure, a lot of gang activity and drugs,” Vargas said. At the time, Vargas admits to being more involved with the streets than he was education, he dropped out of school in 1997 and never looked back until he came to Wright College Humboldt Park in 2015.
The decision was prompted by a huge push from his family, but mostly his children, ranging form ages 3 to 13. “I have younger kids, just seeing them struggle in school made me want to show them how important school is. If I can show them how important school is, then maybe they’ll do better in school than what they’re doing at the moment. My 13-year-old son, Jaime Jr., wasn’t doing too hot in school, and once I saw that he had to go to summer school I felt I should get my GED,” Vargas said.
He had previously tried several times throughout the years to obtain his GED, but couldn’t seem to retain the right focus to finish. Finally, in the summer of 2016, he earned his GED. He initially didn’t intend to pursue any education beyond that until Camilo Rasquin, Transition Specialist at Wright, told him about the Gateway program which presented an opportunity for him to go further in school. After talking with Rasquin, Vargas became interested in the CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) program that his older brother recommended to him. “My older brother put me onto the CNC machining program, he got his certs about six years ago and now he’s an electrician, he went from GED to CNC machining and is about to be a journeyman, so then I jumped on board and now here I am,” Vargas said.
While going through the CNC program he faced huge challenges with math, which was his biggest concern. “Math is almost a foreign language to me, I had to study so hard to get it, but Franklin, my math tutor, broke it down in a way I could understand it. Now I really enjoy the equations and being hands on,” Vargas said.
Making the transition from GED to CNC turned out to be a rewarding experience for Vargas. He recently won Adult Education “Student of the Year” award. “One of the greatest things that happened to me in the past year was the Gateway program, I really appreciate all the work the Gateway scholars program has done for me,” Vargas said. Vargas completed the CNC program this semester, May 2017. earning his certification in CNC Milling and Turning Operator and plans to become a CNC programmer who the machines that cut, shape, and finish materials such as metals, plastics, or wood into usable components.
He offers advice to students who maybe nervous about going back to school,”Look at me, I’m 35-years-old and it took me almost 20 years to make a move, to decide to do something better with myself than what I was doing and realize there was something more important out there for me to do, if you feel you’re in a rut don’t give up on life there’s so many opportunities out there for you,” Vargas said. Vargas hopes his journey will encourage students to finish strong no matter how long it takes.