Mar 17, 2021 4:04 pm

When Ronald Wilkins walked through the doors at Pierce College, he wasn’t sure what to expect from this new chapter in his life. He had already enjoyed a successful career in retail management, and gained a wealth of life experience along the way. Yet when his former employer decided to sell the business, he knew the time was right to explore new career possibilities.  

After a little career counseling and a lot of reflection, he realized his true strengths lie in helping people. He eventually settled on pursuing a career as an alcohol and drug abuse counselor, and searched for the best program in the area that would help him reach his goals. “I shopped around quite a bit, and it was clear to me that Pierce College had the Cadillac of programs,” Wilkins said.

He enrolled at Pierce College, but not without reservation. Wilkins was unsure what it would be like to attend college as an adult, but it didn’t take him long to realize the benefits of having such diversity in the classroom.

“My experience at Pierce College was just phenomenal, and my fear of being ‘the old guy’ in class proved to be a wonderful learning experience for me,” Wilkins said. “It would have been a horrible thing to let something like that fear prevent me from pursuing my goals.”

During his time at Pierce, Wilkins joined the TRiO Student Support Services program, which provides transfer advising, mentoring, financial and career guidance, cultural activities, tutoring and more for eligible students located at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. “I found that there was always someone there to talk to, along with tutors and computers to use between classes,” Wilkins said.

His experience in the classroom was not always easy, but he believes it equipped him well to develop a successful career in a demanding field. “One of my professors was able to draw so much out of me that I had not dealt with on my own,” Wilkins said. “If I had not dealt with some of my own issues before becoming a counselor, it would have ruined me. I learned a great deal about myself, and I was able to realize that I’m not here to save everybody. But I am here to listen to my clients, and let them know that they are valuable. Those are all lessons I took away from Pierce College.”

Wilkins earned his Associate in Arts and Science and Certificate in Alcohol and Drug Abuse in 2004, before transferring to The Evergreen State College. “I had such a wonderful time learning about myself that I decided to transfer to Evergreen and continue learning,” he said. “I left Pierce having made the Dean’s List and Phi Theta Kappa, which are things I didn’t think I would ever do. It was such a life-changing experience for me that any time I’m near Pierce College, I want to go inside and say hello to everybody.”

Wilkins now works for the Metropolitan Development Council in the withdrawal management unit, where he works with clients with substance abuse issues. “I just love my job, and ability to help people recognize that they have a purpose,” he said. “Some of us just take a little longer to realize what that purpose is. I never thought I would be where I am today, but I’m very happy and feel complete.”