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Gabe Lawinger-Ryherd thought he wanted to be a computer programmer until a partnership with Vandalia High School and the local library allowed him to learn the trade. While Gabe plans to go to Kaskaskia College in the fall to continue pursuing a career in Information Technology, his ability to earn an A+ programming language certification allowed him to get a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a programmer. This glimpse changed his perspective, and he realized computer programming wasn’t for him.

College Bound,
College Ready

Gabe Lawinger-Ryherd

Gabe shares that he grew up helping his mother with her technology struggles, gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation for technology. “I was around a lot of technology and was always fascinated with it. I learned from a very young age how technology worked, how it communicated, and how to fix it, which led me to want to go into programming.”

He adds, “And then I learned writing code is a very tedious task, a lot of going back and fixing and correcting, and I’m not that person. So, I decided to go into fixing what’s established instead of making something new.”


This distinction, working in an established system as opposed to creating one, is a lesson many college students learn the hard way. Without an ability to explore in high school, Gabe easily could have lost significant time and money to gain such self-awareness.


Instead, Gabe adjusted his interest in technology in high school, where the stakes aren’t nearly as high. Vandalia High School has been a time for him to learn technology, gain valuable certifications, and fine-tune the focus on his Information Technology emphasis before setting foot on a college campus.


These realizations have alleviated significant stress from Gabe’s life. While he shares that his senior year wasn’t nearly as challenging as expected, he admits that high school has been a struggle. A gifted student from an early age, Gabe admits to being able to make straight A’s without much effort. That is until the work caught up and surpassed him.


“I like to call it gifted child syndrome. I’ve always been able to succeed very easily. Up until eighth grade, I never had to try. I didn’t have to try; then I had to and didn’t know how. I didn’t know how to succeed,” confesses Gabe.


While Gabe hit a wall, he eventually learned to put in the effort. He admits that from the outside, looking in, it seemed as if he wasn’t trying even though it was the first time he’d put in the effort. Slowly he learned to put less pressure on himself, accepting that success wasn’t always realistic on the first attempt. He says he taught himself time management and focus and has fought hard to regain his footing.


Gabe’s grade point average has steadily climbed, and he plans to earn a Cisco Engineering Certification through Kaskaskia. While he has contemplated continuing to earn a bachelor’s degree, he knows that a Cisco Certification is all he’ll need to establish himself in the workforce, which is his ultimate goal.


“If it works out well, I want to enter the workforce after getting my certification. Depending on how things work out, I may go back to school for network administration, which would require a bachelor’s degree.”


Focusing on the valuable knowledge and experience he’s established at Vandalia, Gabe says, “In all honesty, I could go directly into the workforce out of high school with the A+ Certification I’ve already received as part of my high school courses. I already have the baseline/ entrance certification, and that could get me a couple of jobs.”

I learned from a very young age how technology worked, how it communicated, and how to fix it.
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