John Fitzpatrick never went to high school, and got caught up in a life of crime when he was still a child. Eventually, he spent a decade behind bars. While incarcerated, John took a college readiness course through Centralia College and decided to apply for a scholarship from the mikeroweWorks Foundation (Mike Rowe is the host of television show Dirty Jobs).
Rowe's required video application posed a tremendous challenge for John, since video equipment is not permitted in correctional facilities in Washington. While a less determined person might have given up, John pursued the appropriate permissions and sent in his application. He was dumbfounded when he received the $12,000 award.
Not everyone was pleased with John's scholarship. Rowe received public criticism from members of his fan base for “wasting” the money on a convict. He took to the airwaves to respond to his critics.
“What's the point of paying your debt to society, if society never forgives the loan? Unless we're willing to lock up every criminal, forever, the question is, what's best for society? I mean, who would you rather live next to? A former convict who has a useful skill and a full-time job, or a former convict with no skill, no prospects, and no hope of re-assimilating?” ~Mike Rowe, in response to criticism about John Fitzpatrick's scholarship award
After initially attending another institution, John is now in his second year of the Diesel and Heavy Equipment program at Lower Columbia College.* In spite of encountering a host of barriers including homelessness, John's positive attitude and determination are both evident and infectious.
“I do not interact with many students who have the drive and positive attitude that John has after trying to overcome a situation like he's coming from. You will not find a more humble and hardworking student on the LCC campus. He does not feel entitled to anything and does not ask for handouts. He believes hard work and determination will get you far in life, and I admire this about him.”
~Shalaina Williams, LCC employee, in her nomination of John for the Transforming Lives Award
John faces ongoing challenges in life, but is determined to accomplish his goal of finishing a degree and working in the skilled trades industry.
“I have allowed others to see the good and the bad in my life, and not all the time did I make honorable, law, abiding decisions in the things I did. So I had to reach back to my early teachings and regain good work ethic so I could start exemplifying and showing my basic teachings learned through Bible principals. I accept the horrible decisions I have made in my life and from my own experience in change. Change is hard, very hard outside of the norm but in the same sentence, change is a choice.” ~John Fitzpatrick, 2020 Transforming Lives Award Winner
*John is currently on a break from LCC while working full-time, but we hope to see him back in the spring.