The Wenatchee Valley College Board of Trustees nominated Tom McGinness for a 2013 Transforming Lives award. The award, given by the Washington Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges, honored students and graduates who overcame barriers in pursuit of a college degree. Though Tom was not selected in January as one of the five winners chosen from across the state, he is an inspiration and role model for his peers, and believes strongly in giving back to help others.
Tom's education journey was anything but smooth. Just out of high school, he joined the Marine Reserves. After boot camp, combat training, tank school, two deployments, a failed attempt at a university and a period of unfulfilling employment, he decided he was ready for a second attempt at a college degree. Tom enrolled at Wenatchee Valley College, and once on campus, he began to seek out resources in the veteran's office and the career center.
"Tom's maturity, dedication and diligence did not go unnoticed," said Randy Mitchell, WVC Director of Education and Career Planning. "He was offered a work-study position in the veteran's office helping fellow veterans. The students enjoyed working with Tom and considered him a role model."
Tom's struggles with injuries, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder led him to the field of psychology. Learning about himself and the desire to heal from mental and physical trauma gave him a strong sense of purpose, he said. After earning his associate's degree from WVC, he transferred to CWU in Ellensburg. Upon graduation, he plans to pursue a master's degree and help others develop coping mechanisms and healing in the field of mental health counseling.
"I've gone through enough trauma," Tom said. "I figure I can now give back."
At Central, he is helping to start a veterans group. At WVC, his feedback and insight for developing the new veterans' lounge was invaluable, said veteran's coordinator Laura Murphy. He continues to visit WVC during breaks from CWU and help current students with final plans.
Tom credits the community college experience—the smaller setting, accessible resources and services, and the personal attention from faculty and staff—with helping him make the transition. "While that may be true, it was his personal determination, strong work ethic and the commitment to his educational goals that led him to where he is today," said WVC Board of Trustees President Jim Tiffany. "Tom refuses to give up or give in."
"Don't let anything stand in your way," Tom said. "If you meet a barrier, find another way. Work toward your goals. It pays off in the end. Do something that's beneficial to yourself and others."
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