MOUNT VERNON — Alexander Hood will be the first to say he wasn’t a stellar student during his time at Anacortes High School.
Classes didn’t interest him, he said, and after graduating in 2003 he didn’t want to attend any more of them.
Things have changed since then.
On Friday, Hood graduated from Skagit Valley College with awards from the physics and math departments, the President’s Medal for maintaining a 3.9 GPA and the college’s Sydney S. McIntyre scholarship.
“I’ve had a good experience,” Hood said. “It’s really a fun place. I’m sad to go.”
The full-ride scholarship is for students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher who plan to transfer to an in-state, four-year university to study basic or applied sciences.
“It’s something I’m very, very happy I decided to do,” Hood said of his 2015 decision to go back to school. “I wanted to prove to everyone that I was able to accomplish something even though I didn’t do well in high school.”
Hood plans to attend Western Washington University in the fall, where he will study renewable energy source engineering.
“I’ve always liked to take things apart and see how they work,” Hood said. “I’ve always been very green. For me, renewable energy source engineering is something I’ll be proud of and happy with on many levels.”
Hood’s college career took off in 2015 when he decided he wanted something more than the handyman business he had established in Anacortes.
“I was turning 30 and I was like, ‘What am I doing? Do I want to be a handyman forever?’” he said.
He said when he decided to go back to school he started at the beginning with basic-level math classes to reintroduce himself to academia.
“Because of my poor career in high school, I was a little worried,” Hood said.
He entered the college’s TRiO support services program, he said, which is designed to help students from diverse backgrounds succeed in the college.
He eventually became a tutor in that program.
“It was an interesting transition for me, going from nervous college student to now getting As and tutoring,” he said. “I’ve helped a lot of students, as well as been helped by a lot of students.”
The key, he said, was hard work, dedication and focus.
During the college’s awards night, Hood said he knew he was a finalist for the scholarship, but he prepared himself to not get it because he knew the other three nominees were also worthy.
“We had this competition among friends,” he said.
That night, Hood said, the presenter told the audience that this year’s decision was a tough choice, so the college decided to give McIntyre scholarships to two students, including one who had excelled at the college after taking a break after high school.
“When she said that, I knew it was me,” Hood said. “I worked hard for it.”
The other recipient was Jordan Shelley of Whidbey Island, Skagit Valley College Vice President of College Advancement Anne Clark said.
Receiving the scholarship means Hood will be able to focus on school in the fall.
“I want to be doing something for a career that I can hold my head up to,” he said. “And I’ll be helping the planet.”
He said he hopes others will learn from his experience, whether they are fresh out of high school or nontraditional students such as himself.
“It’s never too late,” he said. “Make the best of each day and take it one step at a time.”