Real Success Stories

Meet real role models working in various industries who have found success through alternative pathways after high school — and what they like about what they do! Looking to dive deeper? Complete this scavenger hunt to help you explore the many paths to success.

  • Anna Bartholomew

    Childcare Teacher

    I started working with kids as a teen, helping out at a daycare before and after school. I kept working there when I graduated from high school and enrolled at Johnson County Community College, and I was sad to leave when I transferred to Kansas State University a year later.

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  • Shawn Dryden

    Web Developer

    I’ve had a talent for drawing from a very young age, and everyone who saw that told me I should be an architect. When some cousins who were also good at drawing went into graphic design, I started looking into that and it seemed like the perfect job.

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  • Sophie Justus

    Sophie Justus

    Mechanical Engineer

    One of my earliest career interests was to become a teacher. I adored and respected all of my teachers throughout school, and they instilled a real love of learning in me. Having that kind of lasting impact on others sounded special. 

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  • Jared Kirkland

    HVAC Service Technician

    I took a pretty unusual path to get to where I am today!  I always knew the heating and cooling industry was an interesting field. So right after high school, I earned my bachelor’s degree in construction science and management. With that degree in hand, I started working in an office as a manager...

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  • Michael Hidalgo

    Michael Hidalgo

    Personal Banker

    I started to consider working at a bank shortly after graduating from high school in Topeka. I wanted to build up my resume and get experience in a professional setting. Plus, a friend had worked at a bank and told me they’d learned a lot of valuable skills there. 

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  • Franco Del Pozzo

    Electrician Apprentice

    When I was a child, I wanted to be a lawyer. I liked the idea of using logic to arrive at a certain point or conclusion. That interest never went away, but instead of using logic in a courtroom, now I use it to install electrical features. 

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  • Jeremiah Meeker

    Electrician Apprentice

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to understand how things work. When I was a kid, I loved taking things apart and putting them back together. And I was never very “book smart” — learning was easier for me when it was experiential. I pick things up really quickly when it’s a hands-...

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  • Tyler Brown

    Medical Laboratory Scientist

    When I was 5, my 7-month-old brother had open heart surgery to repair a congenital defect. When I looked back on that experience over the years, I came to truly appreciate that team of doctors and nurses. I started to think it would be cool if I could help others the way those healthcare workers...

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  • Olivia Laliberte

    Cardiology Nurse Manager

    I didn’t become seriously interested in healthcare until the age of 30. I was working for an insurance company in a cubicle and talking was frowned upon. I’m a very social person, so I began to consider changing to a career with more human interaction. My parents suggested nursing because I had...

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  • Kevin Hecht

    Agronomist/Precision Ag Specialist

    I’ve always had a fascination with farming, especially farm machinery. My father, an agronomist, helped a farmer with harvest and I was hooked from a very young age. I looked forward to spending all day and most of the night observing, and my parents had to pry me out of the machinery when it was...

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