The WAVE (Washington Award for Vocational Excellence) Scholarship, created by the Washington State Legislature in 1984, recognizes the accomplishments of professional/technical students. The Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board manages the scholarship program.
Meet Mitch Voag, this year’s recipient of the WAVE Scholarship. Voag is one of those big guys who walks into a room and without saying a word, gets your attention. He’s what some would nickname “Teddy Bear.” The friendly guy exudes kindness, enthusiasm and optimism about life and his future, something really admirable considering what he and his family have been through.
Voag, 40, and his wife of 20 years, Teresa, were always grateful for the life they shared with their children, living the American Dream. Voag’s work as a machinist provided a nice lifestyle for the family of four. They lived in a nice home and didn’t have to worry about money. Their children attended local schools and played with the kids in the neighborhood. Voag volunteered in his son’s classroom and as a leader in his Boy Scout Troop. He also volunteered as an assistant coach for the YMCA tee-ball team and as a batting coach for the Mill Creek Little League team. Weekends always meant fishing, hiking, swimming, riding bikes, playing golf, and snowball fights in winter.
Then in 2005, Voag experienced a serious accident which forced him into early “retirement.” He was unable to work for two years, pretty much flat out on his back. Countless attempts by doctors to help the constant back pain brought nothing but bills and frustration. Then, sadly, Voag was in for even more hardships. Unable to pay his mortgage, Voag and his family lost the home they had had lived in for 14 years.
When Voag was physically ready to move forward, he talked to the folks at the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, where he learned about the Worker Retraining Program at Shoreline Community College, and in the fall of 2007, he enrolled in the Purchasing and Supply Chain Management program. This particular program allowed Voag to utilize many of the skills he had used as a leader in the machinist industry. His familiarity with production processes and bidding practices could prove invaluable in a purchasing position within the machinist industry. Additionally, not only could he earn a two-year degree, he could earn a bachelor’s degree, and that opportunity looked pretty good to Voag.
The Worker Retraining Program at Shoreline has helped countless people who have lost jobs for one reason or another. They choose from 52 different professional-technical programs or enroll in additional training in the field they have already worked in, and after earning certificates or degrees, they often return for upgrade training. Free tuition and books are usually provided for the initial two quarters of study.
As in all professional-technical programs, Voag found that the program provides students with general business skills such as communications and computer applications along with accounting, business administration, math and economics training. The program is highly regarded in industry and graduates who want to go on to earn four-year degrees transfer easily into junior year status.
DECA advisor and business faculty member, David Starr says, “Mitch demonstrates good academic skills and is able to successfully translate the classroom lesson into his practical experiences.” He also credits Voag for his ability to work as a leader and as a team member. “He possesses and presents good personal characteristics. He demonstrates honesty and dependability.”
At Shoreline, Voag found that by joining DECA, he would have opportunities to expand his leadership skills and confidence. Taking on the challenge of working as the honor society’s public information officer, he created a user-friendly process to help the Public Information Office get photo release forms from students who were highlighted for marketing purposes. He is currently working with another student to form a new club for students with disabilities. “I would like to be Chancellor for Clubs,” says Voag.
Purchasing faculty member Jerry Baker says that our graduates work around the Seattle area, including The Seattle Times, Phillips Medical Systems and Coastal Environmental Systems. Employees of Boeing, Starbucks, Nintendo, the University of Washington and others take classes at Shoreline as well.
Voag is optimistic about his career. “The finances provided by this scholarship will enable me to complete my schooling in a field that will enable me to support my family and work with my new disability it will enable me to go into my retirement years.”
He hopes to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Supply Chain Management from the University of Washington and eventually move into a senior buying position for a manufacturing company.