It only takes a spark
Years from now when Aaron Fitzgerald settles into a career as a chemical engineer, he can credit JCCC experiences for beginning his dream.
"At JCCC I’ve met some really great teachers and that is what actually got me interested in chemical engineering," Fitzgerald said.
"My first class was a chemistry class. I had never taken chemistry before. Within a week I decided this is something I really loved. The teacher made it so exciting for chemistry and chemicals. I didn’t expect it to be enjoyable, and it was just great."
That instructor was Barry Herron, professor of science, who teaches Principles of Chemistry.
"I liked the fact that instead of just being in class, we were learning about the world around us and how life relied on chemistry and so many people use chemistry but you never think about it," said Fitzgerald, who was home schooled and graduated high school in May 2012.
"I had never even taken a chemistry class before that day. I actually planned to be a writer, but this changed my mind completely."
Fitzgerald chose JCCC because it made sense for him and his family.
"JCCC is close to my house and my sister was already going here," he said. "I also knew a few people who were attending JCCC, and they all said it was a great school. They told me about some of the experiences they had with their teachers and that the school provided a friendly community that inspired learning. I decided that was something that would be really great for me as a person."
This is the second year Fitzgerald received the President's Scholarship from the JCCC Foundation, and he is appreciative of this financial assistance to follow his dream.
"Receiving the President’s Scholarship made me feel so good because it shows that if you dedicate yourself to something and work hard at it, not only will you succeed but you will be rewarded," Fitzgerald said.
"I was all set to come to JCCC when I graduated from high school, but getting the scholarship made me even more excited to come and come back for a second year. I plan to take as many credits at JCCC as I can before transferring to a four-year university to complete my bachelor's degree."
While his first chemistry class sparked a career interest for Fitzgerald, JCCC experiences outside the classroom further solidified his career aspirations -- developing environmentally friendly fuels for race cars and maybe even designing new tires that use less rubber and are easier to recycle.
"Seeing the JCCC campus dedicated and committed to sustainability is exciting," Fitzgerald said. "There are many people who talk about ways to be more operations sustainable, but being at JCCC and seeing buildings and other things created that are sustainable is really inspiring."
When he not thinking about his science and environmental passion, Fitzgerald finds time for campus involvement, including work on the student-run newspaper. This semester, he is circulation manager for The Campus Ledger.
"The Campus Ledger covered a lot about Joe Sopcich, the new JCCC president, and I was part of that reporting," he said. "It was great to learn more about Dr. Sopcich and his background. I’m really excited to see where Dr. Sopcich is going to take this school because he generates a new energy and I think he is really passionate about his job and the students he serves."
In his reporting role, Fitzgerald also wrote a column discussing politics and how they affect students.
“Writing and reporting is something I love doing,” he said. “It is more of a hobby than a job."
From that first class to his current campus activities, Fitzgerald feels nothing but inspiration at JCCC."I just like walking around the campus because you see people out playing Frisbee or talking in small groups," he said. "Everyone is having a good time. They are serious and they are going to school, but you really get the feeling they enjoy what they are doing. It really inspires me."