Overcoming fear: Transforming Lives Awards nominee Edward Barnes

By Jean Borst

The Transforming Lives Awards, presented by the Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT), recognizes current or former students whose lives have been transformed by pursuing higher education at a community or technical college. This year, Edward Barnes is Clover Park Technical College’s Transforming Lives Award nominee.

After leaving a career in law enforcement that spanned more than 16 years, Edward Barnes was looking for a change. But making the switch from something he knew like the back of his hand to something completely different put his confidence to the test.

“I knew that I liked computers and that I wanted a career that offered job security, but I also knew very little about what I was getting into,” Barnes said. “I had an irrational fear that I was going to be a failure.”

After a lot of soul searching, he reached out to college admissions departments to learn more about what they offered. One stood above the rest.

“Everyone I talked with at Clover Park Technical College wanted to help me and ensure I would be a successful student,” he said.

Since beginning his studies at CPTC in 2020, Barnes completed his Associate of Applied Technology/Associated of Applied Science in Network Operations & System Security and is working toward a Bachelor of Applied Science in Cybersecurity. Each quarter he’s landed on the President’s list with a 4.0 GPA.

Focused on the user experience

“Clover Park Technical College is 100 percent student focused,” Barnes said. “From day one, staff and instructors have played a pivotal role in my success.”

CPTC Workforce Development helped him navigate the Washington State Employment Security Department maze and secure unemployment benefits. When he “got stuck” in his classes, IT instructors encouraged him not to doubt his abilities. And when Barnes needed to complete internship hours, staff welcomed him to the CPTC Help Desk where he is helping college employees with their IT issues, earning work-study pay, and honing the critical skills he needs to launch his career. That career begins in January when he starts a new IT help desk position for a private company while completing his BAS. He hopes the opportunity leads to a career in cybersecurity.

Wired for success

“When the call for nominations went out for the Transforming Lives Awards, Edward immediately came to mind,” said Pamela Jeter, CPTC Director of Information Technology. “I’ve watched him overcome his fears by jumping in and embracing roadblocks as learning opportunities. That’s not taught in any class.”

She and other staff and faculty have also seen Barnes leverage key soft skills, including adaptability, resourcefulness, communication and problem-solving – all skills needed for a successful IT career.

“Our IT department is fortunate to have Edward continue to apply his newly acquired tech knowledge while supporting CPTC employees,” she said. “He’s also continuing to build his confidence and skills on his new career pathway.”

Mindset reboot

Based on his own experiences, Barnes offers this insight for anyone considering a career or life change: The only thing that’s stopping you is you.

“Before I started this journey, my mindset was my only barrier,” he said. “Then I realized all the great things I can accomplish with the help and support of CPTC faculty and staff—and my wonderful wife, Rebekah.”

As a Transforming Lives Award nominee, Barnes will receive $250 and be honored with other student nominees at an awards ceremony on January 23, 2023. You can learn more about the awards on Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges website.