ACTC Graduation Speaker, Savage Farms owner Shares His Outlook on Life
Louisa resident Jonathan Wesley Hughes, one of 600 workers laid off by AK Steel in 2015, was the graduation speaker May 5 at Ashland Community and Technical College.
“While stressful and devastating for many families in our area, the layoff allowed me to come back to ACTC to finish the APT (Applied Process Technology) Program I started back in 2005,” he told the graduates. “At the time, I was a young father and needed a steady income to support my children, so when I was offered a steelworker position at AK Steel, I accepted.”
“This layoff gave me the opportunity to go back to school and even better support my children. I have a 10 year old son Bryden and a 5 year old daughter Kennedi, and they are the reason I am here tonight.”
For Hughes, returning to school was also “a chance to prove to myself that no matter what my age, I can still accomplish my dreams. And it was a way to set an example for my children that once you start something, you see it through.”
He wants to be a role model for his children in a way that his stepfather Keith Moore was a role model for him. “He started our family business, Savage Farms, back in 2006. Against all odds, we are now the largest commercial maple syrup producer in Kentucky. It was my stepfather who taught me that when you have a vision you never give up and if you put your heart in it, you will be successful.”
His message to his fellow graduates was “to follow your dreams. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, because as long as we are passionate about what we are doing, we will be successful. There will be a point in all of our lives when the rug will be pulled out from under us, but if we look in the right directions, there will always be someone to help lift us back up. Just like Kentucky Career Center and ACTC was there for me.”
A Boyd County High School graduate, Hughes was able to come back to school through funding by the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Program (TAA) for workers dislocated because of foreign trade practices. He completed his last three semesters of classwork at ACTC in just two semesters and earned an Associate in Applied Science Degree in Applied Process Technologies. His goal is to work in a chemical plant.
Like most graduates, he credited many people to helping him along the way. He thanked his parents, children and girlfriend Holly for their support and encouragement; his advisor Sheila Marcum and instructors Kevin Sargent and Woody Fosson for their guidance and help; Marathon Petroleum for the “opportunity of a life time” with an internship; and God.
At the end of his speech, Hughes received a standing ovation from the audience in the Paramount Arts Center.