As an older, returning student and a U.S. veteran, I found the fresh start I needed at Whatcom Community College. As evidenced by my nombre, my parents are Mexican. We are a large family; I'm one of nine children. I am proud of my parents, who both dropped out of school, for moving to the United States for better jobs and a greater quality of life. My parents met in the states and did not stay together for very long. I was raised in the projects of Tacoma with my mother and two older brothers who dropped out of high school.
From an early age I was independent in nature, taking care of myself because my mom had to work in order to provide food and shelter for the entire family. When I was 14, I met my father for the first time and learned that he was living in Anacortes with his new wife and family. After attending Lincoln High School in Tacoma for a semester - and not succeeding - I decided to live with my father and his family and see if I could graduate there. I enrolled at Anacortes High School and graduated with good grades. At first the adjustment was rough, but because I had younger brothers and sisters, I needed to set the example for them to finish school. When I was younger I never had anyone to look up to, so I made it my personal goal to graduate and become a role model for them.
After I graduated high school in 2002, I did not know what to do with my life, so I decided to join the service. I wanted to join the Navy because of Steven Segal in the movie "Under Siege," but after seeing their uniforms I decided to join the Marines. My initial plan was to make a career out of it, but then the Marine Corps and I didn't agree on a couple of issues. I was honorably discharged in 2006 after serving four years and three tours in Iraq. When I got out of the Marines I came back to Washington. I lived in Tacoma and found work in Tukwila at a glass company.
I worked the graveyard shift and quickly became a leader in the company because of my work ethic that I had learned from my mother; whether she was sick or the weather was bad, she would still go to work and do an excellent job. During my last year working in the glass company, I decided to transfer to the day shift. I was moving up in the company, but I noticed I was not properly being compensated and work was taking over my life. I said to myself, "There has to be more to life than work." At that moment I also remembered a quote someone had said to me long ago: "You have to work to live, not live to work." Taking that to heart, the decision that needed to be made was clear: I needed to go to college.
I heard that Whatcom Community College was an excellent school. I drove to Bellingham and met with academic advisor Jarid Corbitt, who also leads Whatcom's veterans office. Jarid is a vet, too. We connected right away. After talking with him, I knew Whatcom was the place to earn my degree and to achieve the goals I have in life.
During my two years at Whatcom, I made sure I enjoyed everything college has to offer. I have been a student ambassador, member of the business club, invited to attend the Chuckanut Radio Hour, had lunch with WCC President Kathi Hiyane-Brown, met with Sen. Patty Murray, and been employed at the WCC veterans office on campus. With my positive experience and new accomplishments at WCC I have more pride than I did before. I am thankful to all who have helped me, and I am looking forward to continuing the adventure at Western Washington University where I'll earn my accounting degree.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
This article is one in a series of essays written by Whatcom Community College students who graduated June 20. David Aguilar is a student veteran and first-generation college student at Whatcom Community College. He will be the student speaker at Whatcom's 2014 commencement ceremony. David will graduate this spring with a transfer degree and has been accepted at Western Washington University. He plans to become an accountant. At Whatcom, 82 percent of students who are pursuing a degree or certificate plan to earn their transfer degrees and will continue their educations at prestigious colleges and universities in Washington and throughout the United States.