Raised by his grandparents, Zak Luker had what he likes to call a “different than normal” childhood. Although he excelled as an athlete at W.F. West High School, he didn’t apply himself and certainly didn’t see himself pursuing a college education.
After some prodding from his grandparents, especially his grandmother Bonnie Luker, the first to graduate college in his family, Luker agreed to give college a try.
He first attended classes in the Centralia College criminal justice program. After a year he realized that criminal justice wasn’t for him, and withdrew. Luker spent the next year working at different dead-end jobs, and after more than a little prodding from his grandparents this time, he decided to give college one more try, entering the diesel technology program. This time it was a perfect fit.
Now in his second year, Luker maintains a nearly 4.0 GPA and is president of the college diesel club.
“Criminal justice didn’t fit, and I’ve always liked working on cars, so I thought I’d give the diesel tech program a try,” Luker said. “I couldn’t have made a better choice, the instructors are great, and the hands-on learning of how to work on large diesel engines is a lot of fun.”
Though Luker is an excellent student, it’s through the diesel club and the support of its members that he really stands out. The diesel club works on a variety of activities and fundraisers on and off campus. Members are busy year-round raising money for scholarships through firewood raffles, helping with clothing drives for kids, food drives for local food banks, removing invasive species in the Kiser Natural Outdoor Learning Lab at the college, or helping with the foundation’s annual kickoff dinner. Then there’s the popular “touch a truck” event for school children and the diesel club entry of a semi-truck in the Christmas and tractor parades every year.
“I like to keep busy and I get to meet a lot of people when I work in the community,” Luker said. “Growing up here, it’s like helping my family and friends.”
Once Luker finishes school he plans to enter the proposed Bachelor of Applied Science in Diesel (BASD) program at Centralia College. If approved, it would be only the fourth program of this kind in the country and the first community college to offer it.