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.
“This decision meant that I would be starting something new. It was difficult but I was determined that I would take one step at a time,” said Vaughn. “I was walked through the process and helped along the way until I could stand on my own.” The Worker Retraining staff nurtured Vaughn, making sure she would succeed. A big part of the return-to-school plan was to make use of the math tutoring lab, a friendly, efficient resource to help people overcome math deficiencies, and come to understand the workings that trap many.
“There are a lot of resources at Centralia College that can help. I encourage people to take advantage of what the college offers,” she said. Those resources can help propel students past the barriers that might otherwise hold them back. Once Vaughn had her footing she began to stretch. “I got involved in a leadership program that changed my life,” she said. She joined the Marketing Management program’s Rotaract Club, a student-based organization mirroring Rotary. She branched out into Student Government, looking to make things better for fellow students.
“I’m a testament to the fact that you can do what you set your mind to,” said Vaughn, who earned her 2-year Associate in Arts degree in Business this past June. She jockeyed with nearly a 3.5 grade point average and was awarded a WAVE (Washington Award for Vocational Excellence). The award for her has been honorific only, since the state did not have the money to fully fund the program. “I have been invited to advocate before a state Legislature about this,” said Vaughn.
The money would be a major building block for her plans to continue her education at The Evergreen State College beginning this fall. She has developed lofty goals for a career after earning her four-year degree. “I’ve worked about 25 years in radio (including time at KMNT/KELA in Centralia) and now I’m on the air at KGY in Olympia,” said Vaughn. “I want to stay in the field and work as a radio station manager.” She knows Centralia College has given her the tools to do that.
“My education here has given me the skills in accounting, human resources, marketing and business management,” she said.