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Warren Thomas

Photo of Warren ThomasWhen Warren Thomas’ furnace went out on a bitterly cold day last winter, the arrival of the repairman warmed not just his house but also his heart.

Thomas was surprised to see that the repairman was a former student he had helped in his position as CLC’s repatriation and student services coordinator.

“He told me how he really appreciated how I helped him at CLC,” Thomas said. “He had previously spent time in jail. But after he was released, he enrolled in a certificate program in heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration technology. Hearing that the former had followed my advice, found a purpose and was staying out of trouble was like receiving an early Christmas present.”

Thomas’ own path to an education included some detours. He grew up one of 12 children in a low-income Chicago family and after high school held a series of jobs, including driving 18-wheelers. Later, he joined the Marines and was based in California, where he enrolled at Chapman College (now Chapman University). After earning his associate degree at Chapman, Thomas returned to Chicago and worked first in factory assembly jobs and then at the Lake County Second Chance/Urban League. While there, he took advantage of a state veteran’s grant to enroll at Southern Illinois University, which offered evening classes at Naval Station Great Lakes. Eventually, he earned a bachelor’s degree in workforce education and development and Training.

About eight years ago, Thomas joined CLC and while working at the college completed an online master’s degree in psychology from Phoenix-based Grand Canyon University helped him cope with the stresses of losing his mother, a brother and a nephew all within several months. 

Getting an education has opened up opportunities for Thomas, and in his job at CLC, he helps others connect to the opportunities at the college. Thomas also works inside the Lake County Jail, where he registers and tests inmates for obtaining their G.E.D certificate. He also  finds CLC speakers, ranging from student recruitment staff  to members of the student club Men of Vision, to provide motivation and educational opportunities to the inmates.

“Many in the African-American community need help in finding a career direction,” he said. “That’s where CLC can play a critical role. We want to give them hope, encouragement and help developing career and life plans.”