Washington State grad is happy for opportunity

Saturday concludes a week of commencement celebrations for Washington State Community College, marking a time Waverly, W.Va., resident Scott Cale would have had trouble imagining three years ago.

That’s when Cale, at age 35, enrolled at Washington State. He said walking in the front door for his first classes was the hardest part.

On the first day, he “got there an hour early and I sat in the car 45 minutes thinking to myself, ‘What am I doing?'” Cale said.

It wasn’t just that he hadn’t been to school in so long. Even when he was attending elementary and high school, Cale faced challenges because he was a hemophiliac. His blood lacks a key protein to form blood clots.

“If I get cut, I’ll bleed and bleed,” said Cale, now 38.

That also led to bleeding in joints, which ate away at the cartilage in his knees. Treatment for the joint bleeds would often cause him to miss extended periods of time at school, with a tutor sent to his home to help him catch up.

“It seems my whole life in school, I was always trying to get caught up,” he said.

“When I went to college, I found out I was a little bit smarter than I thought,” Cale said.

Cale started out taking prerequisites to ease into the college experience. Although he participated in some online classes, most of Cale’s courses were on campus.

“I liked interacting with the people more. I learned more that way,” he said.

On Thursday, Cale marked completion of his associate’s degree with a pinning ceremony with 10 other graduates of the medical lab technology program. He said he was interested in that area of study because of his hemophilia.

“It was always interesting to me just to learn more about how it works for my condition,” he said.

Despite his initial nervousness, Cale said he had a wonderful experience at Washington State and greatly appreciated the staff there, especially medical laboratory technology program director Heather Kincaid and Associate Professor Julia Will.

“They really took their time. They’re great people,” Cale said. “There was always someone, if you had a question, you could go and they would help you.”

Kincaid had praise for Cale’s performance as a student.

“He’s been very dedicated,” she said. “He was very nervous when he first came to me, but he fell right back into … sync with studying and participating in the classroom.”

Cale’s condition, primarily the severe pain in his knees, kept him from working after high school. But technology has improved, and now Cale receives regular blood infusions at home, rather than waiting until a problem arises to receive treatment. With his degree in hand, he wants to pursue a career.

“I’m ready to work. I’ve always wanted to work. I feel better about myself when I’m doing something,” he said.

Pinning ceremonies for multiple health-related courses have been held this week, and spring commencement is taking place in two parts Saturday. More than 120 students are expected to participate, but Claudia Owens, executive director of public relations and marketing, said the actual class of 2013 numbers 404 when fall and summer graduates are included, as well as students who attended the pinning ceremonies.

Two state legislators will be guest speakers at the dual commencement ceremonies, Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, at 10 a.m. and Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, at noon.

Last year, commencement was split into four Saturday ceremonies.

“Last year we had a lot more participating, and that was our largest graduating class,” Owens said.

The graduation is also earlier this year, due to the college’s state-mandated conversion from quarters to semesters.