CC student finds his place

2015 All-WA Academic Team member discovers his passion for people and the environment

Centralia Thomas A

Aaron Thomas has worked hard to be the scholar and leader he is today. Aaron was recently named to the 2015 All-Washington Academic Team, representing Centralia College.

As an older student, Aaron came to Centralia College after having spent several years moving around, struggling in school, and striving to make ends meet. Although he joined the Navy and attended several community colleges and universities during that time, he didn’t have a plan.

“I wasn’t very focused. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I was going with the breeze,” he said. “I went through the motions, did the minimum, then I went home and would waste time. I had no purpose.”

His grades slipped, and he found himself out of school, looking for work—again. Living paycheck to paycheck was a struggle. But, it was a struggle that finally made him realize the importance of going back to school.

After working several different jobs in the courier and retail businesses, Aaron was encouraged by various customers who kept telling him, “You can do better than this.” He also had many opportunities to observe the ways employers treated their employees. Often, he noticed management did not appear to value their employees, being more concerned about the business and making a profit. Having spent time at the bottom as one of those “barked at” employees gave Aaron empathy and understanding that could not have been learned in a textbook. This eventually motivated him to be a different kind of leader in the business world.

“To effectively lead, you have to know what it’s like to be the guy at the bottom,” Aaron explained.

Returning home to Centralia, Aaron enrolled in Centralia College, finally ready to do something with his life. Surprisingly, after moving around the country looking for direction, he found it right back where he started! After taking an environmental science course, something finally clicked.

“I found what I’m passionate about here,” he said. “The environmental science class opened the door for me to gaze at the world in a different way.”

He now has a purpose: “I’m passionate about taking care of the world.”

Making the most of his education this time around, Aaron has not only been getting excellent grades, but he has also intentionally found ways to connect and get involved in leadership. He currently serves as president of both the Science Club and the Iota Omega Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. He attended the Students of Color Conference and serves as chairman of the Student Services and Activities Committee. In addition, he is the student representative on the Budget Review Planning Committee and the Sustainability Committee. Aaron was also named Student Employee of the Quarter for fall.

Diligent and hardworking, Aaron is finishing his associate degree through Centralia College and completing his bachelor’s degree online through NJ Thomas Edison State College. He plans to pursue his master’s degree in entrepreneurship.

Combining his passion for caring for the earth with his interest in business has led Aaron to pursue a career in sustainability and entrepreneurship. He sees himself creating a company that is not only profitable, but takes care of the earth and treats its employees well. He desires to “do the right thing—not just make a buck.”

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