What do you say to your kids when they ask why you want them to finish high school, when they know neither you nor your spouse did?
Knowing he would face that question eventually from his two children, Irann Valdez started thinking in 2018 about what he and his wife Hannah could do so their children would not be in a position to ask that question. Together, the Valdez couple decided to enroll at Lakeshore Technical College in the High School Equivalency Diploma (HSED) program.
Today, both Irann and Hannah proudly hold their HSEDs. Irann also holds technical diplomas in both Welding-Industrial and Welding Fabrication Technician and is gainfully employed as a welder at CNH Industrial in St. Nazianz. Hannah is enjoying her job as a patient services representative and ophthalmic technician at Eggert & Eggert, LLC in Manitowoc. Despite the current pandemic, Irann says life is better today for his family, thanks to LTC.
Irann and Hannah both worked at various low-paying jobs while obtaining their HSEDs. Like most adults who did not finish high school, they found their options to be limited due to employers requiring a high school equivalency. They were determined to overcome the many challenges faced along the way, and are grateful for the help provided by Amy Cops, Adult Basic Education/General Equivalency Development Instructor at LTC Manitowoc. “Amy helped so much and inspired us to move forward even when we didn’t have money for gas,” says Irann. “She connected us with resources to help us keep going.”
“They did an excellent job motivating each other to accomplish their goals. It was a team effort,” says Cops. “What stands out most was their shared commitment to their family and their education. Words cannot express how proud and happy I am for Irann and Hannah.”
In spring of 2019, Irann and Hannah celebrated their graduation from the HSED program. With encouragement and confidence from Cops that Irann could successfully pursue additional education that would lead to more opportunity for career success and personal fulfillment, he enrolled in the Welding-Industrial program at LTC’s Cleveland campus.
“I was skeptical at first when Amy talked with me about pursuing any kind of college degree. I didn’t have money for college though Amy told me about scholarships and grants and other help available through LTC,” says Irann. “Hannah had found a good job after graduation, though with just one person working to keep us afloat, we knew it still wasn’t going to be easy.”
Irann’s choice to pursue welding was a result of Cops sharing program options with him, his memories of a beloved cousin who told him how he found great joy in welding, and his introduction to LTC Welding Program Coordinator/Instructor David Saunders, who was excited to learn Irann’s story and help him continue his path to a better life.
“Irann’s story is so inspirational, and I’m always willing to step in and help people like him see their future in welding, which is a high-paying career always in high demand,” says Saunders. “We gave him opportunity and hope through education, and he crushed it with the determination to make a better life for himself and his family.”
With encouragement from Saunders, Irann applied for and was hired for a work study job in LTC’s welding lab. He began his current welding position in August 2020.
Irann sincerely enjoys not only welding items together by using multiple welding methods, but also applying his craft to build things. He also finds time to weld for fun and recently built a go-cart for his family. Future goals include gaining as much welding experience as possible, learning more about working in industry, and taking the Certified Welding Inspector test. And, he says returning to LTC as an instructor to “pay it back” may also be in his future.
Irann’s advice for anyone facing a similar situation as he was back in 2018: “Pursue your education with everything you have. There’s plenty of help LTC can give you, and if you have the time to go now, then definitely do it.”
For details on LTC’s welding programs, visit https://gotoltc.edu/academics/degree-programs.
Options for earning a high school equivalency credential can be found at gotoltc.edu/lift-up-lakeshore.
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