"Because of College of Western Idaho (CWI), I was able to return to college as a non-traditional student having been out of high school for a decade, find my passion, make wonderful friends, gain influential mentors, and successfully graduate with honors and two science degrees," said 2021 graduate, Ashton Syed.
After dropping out multiple times due to an abusive home life and homeless his entire senior year, Ashton graduated from high school in 2009. Despite excelling in several careers over the years that followed, he lacked fulfillment. This lack of fulfillment brought him to CWI in 2018.
"Primarily my discontent stemmed from a lack of intellectual challenge," he said. "In the positions I held, I rapidly excelled and exceeded the established expectations by such a degree much of the work became boring, and I was not encouraged to pursue further growth. The environments, in general, were quite negative and destructive which made it even more difficult to be happy and find fulfillment, given my past."
While at CWI, Ashton rediscovered his passion for Computer Science.
"My Computer Science instructor, Lawrence Sevigny, was exceptional. The course material came so, surprisingly, natural to me. As he and I reminisced about an old computer game I played as a child, a real connection was occurring, not only with my instructor but also with my long-deceased father who was a computer systems analyst and passed away in 1997. My father gave me a foundation in computer networking and a strong interest in computers which I kept through much of my childhood."
Seeking to influence change and enhance learning for students and the success of CWI, Ashton kept himself engaged and involved which included serving as leadership of ASCWI. Despite a number of challenges in his personal life, he was able to keep his grades up and was recognized for several awards and achievements. Among the most memorable was being nominated as an Emerging Scholar.
"This nomination was particularly memorable for me because when Karl Von Der Ehe, my Technical Writing instructor, nominated me I was sleeping at St. Luke's with my then two-year-old daughter during her battle against cancer. Even though I was going through a tough time personally, I was producing exceptional results in class which later earned me two, first-place Presidential Writing Awards."
As a husband and father, Ashton valued the opportunity to take classes online.
"My wife and kids have been a huge part of my journey and are my number one priority. For them, I needed flexibility in my education. Without the flexibility CWI provided through online classes, it would have been much more difficult to push through and succeed - especially during that trying time with my daughter. I am happy to report she is now in full remission and a happy, energetic four-year-old."
Ashton has already embarked on classes at Boise State University where he continues his studies in Computer Science.
"My ultimate goal? To change the world!"