When Albert Kates reflects on his education at Thomas Nelson Community College, he immediately thinks about the faculty and staff who inspired him, encouraged him and helped him succeed. “From the Financial Aid Office to the Educational Foundation Office, I honestly can’t count all the people who inspired me,” Kates said.
The Social Science major enrolled at Thomas Nelson in 2012 because it was affordable and close to his home in Poquoson. Immediately, he became acquainted with Thomas Nelson’s TRiO team. “They helped me so much from the start, and they really love me like one of their own,” he said.
Kates received an Associate of Science degree in Social Science during Thomas Nelson’s 45th commencement ceremony on May 15. In the fall, he will attend Old Dominion University to study physical education with emphasis in education. He also plans to enroll elsewhere to prepare for a life in ministry. “My dream in life is to teach physical education all during the week and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ on Sundays,” Kates said. “I love kids, and I love Jesus. I don’t believe I could muster up a better career choice.”
As a Thomas Nelson student, Kates juggled his studies with a work-study position in Thomas Nelson’s mailroom and several student activities, including TRiO, the Cru Bible Study group and the Student Government Association (SGA). Last year, Kates was selected as part of the third class of the Valley Proteins Fellows Program, administered by the Virginia Foundation for Community College Education. Out of the more than 400,000 students Virginia’s Community Colleges serve across the state, only 10 are selected for the Valley Proteins Fellows Program. The approximate value of the scholarship, accompanied with professional development, travel, and cultural opportunities, is $15,000. As a Valley Proteins fellow, Kates attended a leadership conference that encouraged him to be stronger and bolder, two characteristics that he will need as both a teacher and a minister. “I want to take what I learned and pass it on to the kids,” he said.