After dropping out of college, Kegan Forrester finds the courage to try again - then graduates from the welding program with honors, and lands a good paying job in the aerospace manufacturing industry!
“Everyone at LBCC encouraged me to keep going. The faculty is inspiring and really want to help their students succeed. They aren’t just here to collect a paycheck.” Kegan Forrester
You would think honor roll student Kegan Forrester’s road to college would be nothing but smooth.
Though he ended up graduating from the welding program with honors, Kegan's first try at college was not so great.
After struggling in math, he decided to drop out - with no intent of returning. Maybe college just wasn't for him. Being the first in his family to attend college, Kegan really felt he was on his own to figure things out.
He discovered along the way that sometimes it takes trying, failing, and then trying again to succeed.
After high school, Kegan, like many students, went to work. Although he liked his job at a farm outside of his hometown of Moro, Oregon, he knew that getting a college education would help him be more successful in life.
“My first try at college, I actually started out pursuing a criminal justice degree - I didn’t start thinking I would become a welder,” said Kegan.
Although he was doing well in most classes, college-level math was challenging - so much so that Kegan became discouraged and dropped out.
He returned to his farm job in Moro, something he knew he could do. But his bosses saw his potential, and with their encouragement, Kegan decided to give college a second try; only this time in a different program. Since he liked welding in high school, he reasoned, the welding program seemed like a good second choice.
As it turns out, he found that he could do the math. LBCC industrial programs offer math and writing classes that directly relate to each program, and Kegan actually got the math this time.
“Welding has its own core classes, including both math and writing for welders, which helped me to connect and understand it better,” said Kegan. “I love welding. It’s a great fit for me at this point in my life.”
Connecting with people who helped along the way was key to his success.
“There were a lot of people who helped me, including math instructor Russ Burchard who often worked with me one-on-one," said Kegan. "My welding instructors, Fred Stuewe, Dean Dowless and Dave Ketler were great as well, and helped keep me on track with my schedule."
As a bonus, a few months before finishing the program, Kegan landed a good paying welding job at a local aerospace manufacturing company.
“My advice for new students is to get to know as many people at the college as possible. They can help you along the way,” says Kegan. “Getting involved and meeting people helped me to get grants to help pay for school, and helped me get a job. I’ve made some excellent friends here.”
Kegan served as budget officer for LBCC Student Leadership Council, as president of the LBCC Welding Club, and as senior vice president of LBCC Phi Theata Kappa (PTK) Honor Society. He also volunteered at Christmas Storybook Land and participated in two Honors In Action Projects.
During his last college term, Kegan was taking 28 credits and working full time. He graduated with honors, earning an associate of applied science degree in welding. He’s the first in his family to earn a college degree.
Story & photos: Lori Fluge-Brunker, LBCC College Advancement Marketing Office
Calapooia Center, CC-109, 541-917-4410