Ken’s Story

Ken Stark believes life’s possibilities are determined by the amount of effort you put in. That thinking is guiding his life now and was essential to his journey to be the first one in his family to graduate from college. His theory of pushing forward and working hard to break through also paid career dividends. Ken is now an air pollution specialist improving the air quality in his home state, California.

Ken is the first to admit that going to college wasn’t easy. At first, he didn’t even consider himself a college student and was unsure if he could juggle work, family, friends, studies and serious personal medical issues to pursue a certificate. With help from professors that Ken says doled out strength and motivation — and his own work ethic — he soon earned an associate degree in diesel technology from American River College (ARC).

“With time and hard work, I earned my current position of air pollution specialist. Now, I can use my background in diesel mechanics and economics to improve the air quality of California.”

The degree in diesel technology led to job offers. Ken was able to work in his chosen field, moved on to Sacramento State, and earn a B.A. in economics, all without the burden of excessive college debt. He believes this is positive proof that it is possible to earn a degree with minimum debt, and anyone can make it through without taking loans.

Ken’s successful approach to college included taking advice from tutors, study groups, and counselors. He says he would pick the professors who received good reviews but were considered difficult because they pushed students to be their best. The strategy worked. Ken graduated with honors from both colleges and was a member of multiple honor societies. At ARC, Ken even served as vice president of leadership for the prestigious Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, an elected position.

The unlikely honor student also used one other important strategy in college that he says helps: set goals. Goals helped Ken balance the inevitability of strained relationships during those busy years along with the mental drain of feeling like his hard work may never pay off. Goals gave Ken hope and a forward direction.

Ken’s forward direction is now boundless. Thanks to his supportive wife and family, Ken’s journey to get through college was accomplished, and grad school is in his future. He advises others to do what he did: keep an open mind, work hard and listen to others around you.