Charles Padmore was depressed when he reached his 30th birthday. "I thought I was too old to go back to school and do anything meaningful,” he said. He'd been a stay-at-home dad, caring for his daughter Alaina for years. When she entered full-time kindergarten, he decided to explore furthering his education despite those doubts.
After deciding against attending a local career college, he visited Milwaukee Area Technical College and decided it was the right place for him. He enrolled in MATC's information technology network specialist associate degree program and began attending classes in August 2011.
Mature Students Value Their Education
"I decided to give MATC a try, and everything worked out," he said. "I couldn't be happier. I see people in their 40s and 50s coming back to school. They are mature and they really value their education. I realized it's never too late to go back to school."
Padmore lived in many places before moving to Milwaukee. He was born in Monrovia, Liberia, during a time of civil unrest and a coup. When he was three weeks old, his mother fled with him and his two siblings to the United States. They settled in New Jersey, where they lived in a one-room apartment with Padmore's uncle. His mother, who holds degrees from Harvard University and a college in Liberia, had been an English professor in West Africa. When the family arrived in the United States, she was forced to take odd jobs, even doing a stint as a door-to-door encyclopedia salesperson. Eventually, she landed a job teaching English at Texas Southern University.
The family lived in several Texas cities over the years. In 2001-2002, Charles dabbled in studying computer networking at Texas State Technical College, but said he "wasn't motivated" at the time. He left college to become a full-time waiter. When his wife Lavinia landed a job as a lab technician at the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCOW), the couple moved to Milwaukee. Shortly after settling in Wisconsin, the Padmores welcomed their daughter Alaina. Charles worked briefly as a lab technician at MCOW before leaving that job to stay home and raise Alaina.
Upon his return to college, a chance meeting with Patrice Jefferies, MATC West Allis Campus student life coordinator, led Padmore to a life-altering decision. Jefferies asked Padmore to consider joining the student government.
Dr. Michael L. Burke, MATC president, congratulates Charles Padmore on his induction into both Phi Theta Kappa,
an international honor society for students at two-year colleges, and the National Technical Honor Society.
Serving in Student Government Changed Padmore's Life
"At first, I was hesitant,” he said. "But I decided to accept her invitation. I would never have taken the initiative to sign up for it without Patrice's encouragement. I'm so glad I accepted. I'm loving it. Being in student government prepares me for lots of things. It's opened up a lot of doors to me. It's changed my life. Before, I was a loner. I was shy. I had trouble speaking in public. I've totally changed. I have a different outlook on life. Now, I see how giving back and becoming involved in your community has so many benefits."
As a student ambassador and vice president of the West Allis Campus student government, Padmore walks the halls of the campus, talking to students about scholarships, grants, events – helping them become engaged in the college any way he can. He meets with legislators about student issues. Padmore said that the student government's main priorities at this time relate to saving students money. Student leaders are trying to negotiate a system of textbook rentals instead of purchases. They also are encouraging the use of e-books instead of print books, which is estimated to save 60-70% per book. Additionally, they are working to arrange student discounts with area retail establishments.
"I decided to give MATC a try, and everything worked out. I couldn't be happier.
I see people in their 40s and 50s coming back to school. They are mature and they
really value their education. I realized it's never too late to go back to school."
-- Charles Padmore
Padmore said he loves the family atmosphere at MATC. "Now I feel a part of the school," he said. "I'm amazed at the dedication of the faculty and staff and at the convenience and affordability of the college. I want to sing the song of MATC to the mountains."
His attitude has dramatically changed since the days when he thought a 30-year-old had missed his chance to make a difference. "A lot of our students are parents and full-time employees," he said. "Some are working third shift and fitting school in around all that. These are the students I like to fight for. Student government is for them."
Padmore addresses the crowd at the Phi Theta Kappa/National Technical Honor Society induction ceremony.
Padmore poses with daughter Alaina and wife Lavinia.