For Kellie Kirkpatrick-Jacobs, Clover Park Technical College offered an opportunity to pursue a passion for helping people and turn it into career. Her impact as a behavior therapist in the community has prompted recognition, as she was selected as a recipient of CPTC’s 2019 Alumni of Distinction Award.
Kirkpatrick-Jacobs graduated from CPTC’s Human Services program in 2017 and works as a registered behavior therapist at ACES Comprehensive Educational Services, assisting children with autism and other special needs. She also works in the Bethel School District as a paraeducator in a one-on-one transitional program for students who have gone through the 12th grade but still need more functional education. It’s quite the shift from her previous time working in retail.
“I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing anything, so I started looking around at programs to find something I’d like to do,” Kirkpatrick-Jacobs said. “I was interested in working with children and especially special education. When I was researching programs, I kept coming back to Clover Park.”
An Aberdeen High School graduate, Kirkpatrick-Jacobs lived in the Auburn/Federal Way area for a while before joining the United States Air Force. Following a 20-year career, she chose to move back to the area upon retirement in 2008. As she settled into civilian life and focused on raising her family, she worked various retail positions for nearly a decade. When one of her daughters was diagnosed with Asperger’s High Functioning, it helped her discover a passion for helping students.
“Watching her struggle through school with homework and teachers kind of put me on that path to get the human services degree and work in this field,” she said.
Since she was still working, she had to find a program that fit her schedule. She discovered that at Clover Park, and she was also interested in the wide range of career options within the human services field. She enrolled in 2015.
“The program was great, and it was kind of an eye-opener for me,” Kirkpatrick-Jacobs said. “I learned a lot about different cultures and what different individuals go through.
Upon graduation in spring 2017, she began work at ACES in Tacoma. While she continues to work with ACES, she also joined the Bethel School District in fall 2018. As she expands her experience, she hopes to continue to grow. She has plans to eventually find an online program to pursue a bachelor’s degree, and maybe someday move into a leadership position that can help find even better ways to assist special needs students.
After years in retail, Kirkpatrick-Jacobs is thrilled to be doing something she loves. And the impact of her work goes both ways.
“Human services gear you towards compassion and helping others,” she said. “It takes you out of the ‘me’ mindset and makes you realize that there’s more to life than just focusing on yourself. There are people out there who may need a lot of help, and there are others who might need a little help. Helping gives you a good feeling.”
CPTC’s Alumni of Distinction awards are provided to alumni who have contributed to the college and/or Pierce County community we live and work in. Nominees are selected for professional or personal achievements, community service through active involvement in civic and/or charitable organizations, or service on a CPTC program advisory board or as a student mentor or advocate.
To learn more about CPTC’s Human Services program, click here.
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