Skagit Valley College student honored with Transforming Lives Award

February 25, 2019

MOUNT VERNON — Until recently, Rachelle Himmelman used herself as an example for how she didn’t want her children to be.

The 48-year-old mother of four had dropped out of high school two credits shy of graduating, hadn’t pursued higher education and said she wasn’t living the life she wanted.

“I’ve had lots of barriers in my life,” Himmelman said. “I wanted to make something of myself for my kids.”

In 2017, Himmelman set herself — and her family — up for change when she enrolled at Skagit Valley College.

In January, she was honored as one of five community and technical college students statewide to receive an annual Transforming Lives Award.

“As she pursues her own educational goals, Rachelle is also inspiring a new community of learners,” Skagit Valley College President Tom Keegan said in a news release. “She exemplifies the many ways that higher education transforms lives.”

The Transforming Lives Award is awarded by the Washington Association of College Trustees. The boards of each of the state’s 34 community and technical colleges nominate one student who has shown their life has been transformed by higher education.

“I’ve had lots of doors open here,” Himmelman said. “I started school and changed everything.”

Himmelman’s career at Skagit Valley College began in the High School 21+ program, which gives adults who did not receive a diploma or a GED the opportunity to get one.

“I was terrified when I came here,” she said. “Just terrified.”

Upon receiving her high school diploma in June 2017, Himmelman enrolled in the college’s human services program.

Himmelman, who said she used to never get a grade higher than a C, now maintains a 4.0 GPA and was recently awarded the Mac and Linda MacGregor Scholarship, which goes to students who show strong academic achievement.

“I’m not one of those people where it came easy for me,” she said. “I’ve had to work for it.”

Being awarded the scholarship instilled in her that someone cared about her education and wanted to see her succeed.

“Everybody that’s been along the way (with me) has just been a huge impact in my life,” Himmelman said. “These people have just given me so much support.”

She said she hopes others learn that it’s never too late to go to school.

“It doesn’t matter how old you are or when you do it,” she said. “Knowledge is yours.”

When she graduates in the spring, Himmelman intends to attend Western Washington University to earn a degree that will allow her to help victims of domestic violence.

Already, she said, her life has been transformed.

“I can now look at my kids and say, ‘Hey, take a good look at your mom,’” she said. “’Now I want you to be like me.’”