Meet our Graduate
Wes Schiefer, 2011 Graduate
MiraCostan Wes Schiefer is smiling today. He is getting ready to transfer to the University of California at San Diego this fall to major in mechanical engineering. But only two years ago, Wes had no idea of the educational successes he would achieve and where his academic pursuits would take him.
In the fall of 2002, following his graduation from La Costa Canyon High School, Wes, a San Diego native, was taking general education classes at MiraCosta College. After attending two semesters, he found himself unmotivated so he “fizzled out.” Wes may not have been enthusiastic for college yet, but he was far from spending his days lounging at the beach. His ambition and drive, coupled with his hands-on experience working in construction, gave him insight into how things are built and what materials they are made of. His self-taught approach to architecture and his knowledge of ArchiCad enabled him to land a job working for a well-known architect, which kept him busy on some very prominent projects for the next few years.
In 2008, Wes, who had always been an avid softball player, surfer and snowboarder, got the opportunity of a lifetime that began with an old contact from the past. His high school history teacher had long encouraged Wes to broaden his horizons. Through some connections, his teacher was able to help Wes make this happen. So, for the next six months, he taught an international summer sports camp in the beautiful and idyllic mountainous town of Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Those were happy days for Wes, hiking, teaching sports and spending time with young children from all over the world. He even climbed to the top of the majestic Matterhorn, something that he still fondly remembers. Little did he know that very challenging times were just ahead.
Returning to San Diego with the hope of working again, Wes was stunned to learn that his once lucrative architecture projects were gone, thanks to a worsening economy. Unemployed, and without a college degree, Wes realized any job he could get would earn him little money. At this point, Wes decided to return to MiraCosta College, and half-heartedly signed up for classes with the thought of staying “just one semester” to learn some new skills. Then, some interesting things happened.
During his first semester back, Wes took a class called Auto-Desk Rivet, an architecture computer class with instructor Tom Volkoper. “He was an awesome friend and mentor. After lecture was finished, Tom would spend the rest of the class very hands-on with all his students. He was always available to us,” says Wes. “Although I wasn’t planning to attend another semester, it was Tom’s sincere enthusiasm and my success in the class that kept me interested in attending just one more semester.” And he adds, “I earned an A in the class and it felt great.”
With his sense of self-assurance now more secure, he felt freer and more confident about staying another semester, and enrolled in English 100. Wes reflects, “I considered that my transitional period. I wasn’t too serious. I thought it was just a placeholder in time.” Then Wes met the man who would change his life.
Instructor Bob Turner was his teacher for English 100. Wes thoughtfully remembers his teacher’s tenacious hands-on approach. Through Turner’s sage advice and guidance, Wes was able to solidify the way to go about learning. “Professor Turner changed my thinking and my life. He fought for me and motivated me to stick with school. I needed to hear things to change my focus from working to school…he breathed life into my educational pursuits and long term career planning,” remembers Wes.
Although Wes plans to major in mechanical engineering upon transfer to the University of California San Diego, his oceanography and marine biology classes at MiraCosta College helped him get his current day job at the Carlsbad Aqua Farm where workers raise and culture oysters, abalone, mussels, brine, shrimp, seaweed and copapods. Wes faithfully attends his classes at night while during the day he works as a website designer.
These days, Wes, who earned a 4.0 GPA his second-to-last semester, can’t say enough nice things about MiraCosta College. He is grateful for health services on campus and for financial aid. And he loves the new college website that makes registering for classes easy. He even visits both campuses in his spare time to read or just hang out and meditate.
“What makes MiraCosta College such an awesome school that stands out above the others is the teachers. They love what they are doing and they care. They are willing to fight for their students to stay in school and succeed. They want the entire class to succeed!”
His advice to incoming students? “Sit in the front row and get to know your teachers. They will be an active role in your life–present and future.”