Submitted by South Puget Sound Community College

South Puget Sound Community College is proud to announce student Eliab Cortes as the nomination for the Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) Transforming Lives Awards. Cortes and other nominees were honored during the Transforming Lives Awards Dinner on January 21, 2019.

After leaving a four-year university in California due to a low grade point average, Eliab moved north to Lacey, to take care of his grandmother who had been diagnosed with cancer. He arrived only with a suitcase. He had no job, no friends, and no transportation. His grandmother pushed him into getting an education; she told Eliab that, “without it, you will only ever know regret, and dream about what could have been.”

Within one year, Eliab had obtained a car, a steady job, and applied to SPSCC. Currently, he’s finishing both his Associate in Biology and Associate in Science degrees, and he hopes to pursue a Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering degree at a four-year institution. He credits Charles Ensminger, former interim director of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Center (DEIC), with helping guide him through times of emotional and financial hardship, as well as his peers at the DEIC for stepping in and supporting him when he was gravely ill and on the verge of living on the streets.

Each year, the board of trustees from each of the Washington State community and technical colleges accepts nominations from staff and faculty for students whose lives were transformed by attending a community or technical college. Eliab Cortes’ story was chosen from among five top nominations put forth by SPSCC staff and faculty in fall 2018.

The stories of all nominated students are entered into a Transforming Lives booklet that will be shared with state and federal legislators to showcase how education helps overcome barriers, break cycles, and change lives.

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