CPTC students join 2024 All-Washington Academic Team

By Jean Borst

Clover Park Technical College (CPTC) is pleased to announce that students Chas Gardner and Marco Leon have been named to the 2024 All-Washington Academic Team. The 2 are among 92 students from the state’s community and technical colleges who will be celebrated on April 25 at an award ceremony hosted by South Puget Sound Community College in Olympia.

Now in its 28th year, the All-Washington Academic Team recognizes students from community and technical colleges across the state. The program honors individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to success in the classroom and in their communities.

“As members of the All-Washington Academic Team, Chas and Marco are among the top community and technical college students in the state,” CPTC President Dr. Joyce Loveday said.  “This is an outstanding achievement, and we are so proud to have them represent Clover Park Technical College.”

Chas Gardner, Pastry Arts

U.S. Army veteran Chas Gardner grew up in a single-parent household where he saw his mother battle addiction and struggle to make ends meet. As a child, it fell to him to fill in the gaps, from taking care of the house to walking his mom home from the bar late at night.

“I promised myself that I would set the bar and be an example for my children that education is the key to success,” he said.

He’s kept that promise and continues to serve as an example for his children, his community and his fellow students.

In addition to being a 3.85 student in CPTC’s Pastry Arts program, Gardner works as a mentor and coach in the college’s Male Engagement Center. In recognition of his accomplishments, he recently received the Excellence Award at the Pacific Northwest Black Male Academic Achievement Conference, an honor awarded to one college each year.

Gardner’s passion for service extends beyond the campus. He also provides life guidance and car-maintenance advice to youth in the community as well as necessities for those in need.

After he completes his degree, Gardner’s goal is to transfer to South Seattle College to get his Bachelor of Science degree in hospitality management. After that, he hopes to return to CPTC in a different capacity – as a Culinary and Pastry Arts program instructor.

To be named to the All-Washington Academic Team and recognized for his achievements is something Gardner never imagined.

“This selection is truly an honor, and I am extremely grateful,” he said. “Despite all my trials and tribulations, prayer, faith and determination are what kept me going.”

Marco Leon, Architectural Engineering Design

Challenges and obstacles haven’t stopped Marco Leon. Even when he dropped out of high school, he knew that he wanted to get an education and do something he truly enjoyed. He credits his faith, a strong support network and an important person in his life for keeping those dreams alive.

“My mother was a big inspiration to me,” Leon said. “She had little education but was a very hard worker and able to provide for our family as a single mother.”

When Leon was recently sidelined by a work injury, he saw it as an opportunity to go back to school to retrain in a new field and pursue a fulfilling career. Unfortunately, the program he was interested in wasn’t available where he lives.

“I found out that Clover Park Technical College offers an Architectural Engineering Design degree online,” Leon said. “To be able to complete the program remotely is a huge win for me.”

Today, Leon is a 4.0 student. Even so, his selection to the All-Washington Academic Team is an opportunity he’d never imagined.

“It’s a huge honor and it feels really good, especially considering the challenges and obstacles,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without God and a lot of people who helped me get where I am today.”

The All-Washington Academic Team program is sponsored by the State Board for Community and Technical CollegesWashington Association of Community and Technical CollegesWashington State Association of College Trustees and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Post-script: The event’s photos and program were released on April 30, 2024.