RTC grad now heads to Harvard University

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Foundation support was there for Renton Technical College graduate Don Hawkins when he needed it most. "Thanks to RTC and the Foundation, I was able to pay for school when my dad experienced medical problems," Hawkins said. "I always felt welcomed here. It's a community school. I'm indebted to RTC."


Growing up in Oklahoma City, Hawkins didn’t seriously consider going to college. Although he was bright and hard-working, college just wasn’t something his family did. After high school, they got jobs.


"The idea was there, but in my family, most of us just went to work after high school."


That all changed at RTC. The first in his family to complete a college degree, Hawkins started taking online courses at Harvard two years ago while working at the RTC’s Learning Resource and Career Center where he served as the lead tutor. “I love watching students grow,” he said about his work in the LRCC. This fall, he moved to Cambridge to complete his bachelor’s degree in economics with plans to pursue a graduate degree. 


Hawkins is remarkably modest about getting into one of the most elite schools in the country, with an acceptance rate of just 4 percent. He is believed to be the first RTC student to attend Harvard. “I thought it was time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life,” Hawkins said in his characteristically modest manner. “It’s a great opportunity.”


Hawkins first came to RTC when he moved from Oklahoma to Renton at age 20 to live with his father. His dad recommended the college and offered to pay for all his expenses. The college quickly became his home-away-from-home.


"I wanted to make sure my father's investment paid off," he said. "We didn't know that investment would lead to Harvard."


Hawkins graduated from RTC’s Entrepreneurship Program, where his love of business and economics grew. As part of his class project, he designed and setup a program to provide technical support for students with computer problems. That program, CHIPS (Computer Help & Information Protection Service) continues to thrive today, saving students over $14,000 every quarter in computer repair expenses. 


Hawkin’s work through the CHIPS program caught the attention of the RealNetworks Foundation who recently awarded a $10,000 grant to expand services and to launch a new laptop loan program. The RTC Foundation is providing a full matching grant to double the gift and impact. 


Don Hawkins is now leaving his own impact on RTC students.

Don Hawkins with fellow student tutors in the LRCC

Don Hawkins, center, credits the staff in Student Leadership for pushing him to become more involved on campus. The RTC Foundation helped him stay in school when his dad went through medical problems.