Rolling Meadows barber launches scholarship for District 214 students entering trades
A small awards ceremony took place last week in the auto shop at Rolling Meadows High School. There was little fanfare, but everyone involved hopes the scholarship may lead to a life-changing opportunity.
Senior Justin Leander of Arlington Heights was the recipient. He has taken four years of automotive technology classes at Rolling Meadows, and he plans to put the scholarship toward pursuing his automotive technology degree at Triton College in River Grove.
Jose Maldonado, a 2010 Rolling Meadows grad, created the scholarship. He runs Jefes Barbershop in Rolling Meadows, and recently earned his teaching certificate in the trade. But he still remembers the scholarship he received at Rolling Meadows High School that set his career path in motion.
"If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't be here," Maldonado says. "My family didn't have much. The scholarship was enough to get me in (to barber school). I don't know where I'd be without it."
Fittingly, it was called the Jumpstart Scholarship and Maldonado was the recipient in its second year. Jim and Katherine Okon of Arlington Heights created the scholarship after their five children graduated from the school. They hoped to give a deserving student a jump-start to going to college or trade school.
Jim Voyles, athletic director at Rolling Meadows High School, helped create the Jumpstart Scholarship with the Okons. Though the family has moved out of state, he intends to tell them how their concept has come full circle, with Maldonado creating a similar scholarship designed for students hoping to go to trade school.
"The coolest part is that Jose has taken the scholarship to another level," says Voyles, who had Maldonado in his physical education class. "He's giving back to his school -- and to his community."
Maldonado purchased the barbershop three years ago and he now employs five full-time barbers. He married his high school sweetheart, Jackie, and they and their two small children live in Rolling Meadows.
Jackie Maldonado is an early childhood teacher at Schaumburg Township Elementary District 54's Early Learning Center.
Maldonado says he knew from the time he was a small boy that he wanted to cut hair and it became his goal to go to barber school.
"It was my passion," he says.
Now, he sees that same passion in Justin, only to work in the automotive technology field. At Rolling Meadows High School, he's already gotten a head start.
For starters, the school's program earned accreditation from the National Automotive Technician's Education Foundation.
In their full-service auto lab, students work on real cars, doing everything from tire rotations and brake inspections, to learning the difference between alternators for hybrid and electronic vehicles, and diagnostics for different sensors.
Students who take four years of automotive classes receive six months of job experience toward their Automotive Service Excellence certification and they also can earn college credits from area community colleges and trade schools.
During the awards presentation, Maldonado and his former teacher, Voyles, described how the original scholarship had jump-started his dreams, and they hoped Justin would find similar success.
"I hope the scholarship helps him a little," Maldonado said. "But once he gets in (to an automotive program), he has to find his passion and set his own path."