While many schools say they give students tools for success, it's literal for graduates of Lincoln College of Technology and Culinary Institute in Columbia.
"At Lincoln, we are proud to teach careers that build America," said Columbia campus President William Moore at the graduation ceremony on Friday, May 3.
"You are now part of that future; trained professionals who help people day in and day out."
Last Friday, Lincoln Tech bestowed 195 certificates and degrees to the next generation of skilled trade workers at Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia.
Lincoln College of Technology began in 1946 in Newark, N.J., as career training for veterans returning from World War II. Today, it operates more than 40 campuses in 17 states, according to its website.
The only Maryland campus opened in Landover in 1960 before relocating to Columbia in 1997. The campus offers associate degrees and certificates in automotive technology, culinary arts, electronic systems and HVAC. Yearly tuition starts at $23,000 and can go up to $37,000, depending on the discipline and type of degree.
Among the 120 graduates last Friday was Columbia resident Brad Kauffman, who received an associate degree in technology and skilled trades.
"I was looking for something different," Kauffman said when asked what led him to Lincoln Tech. "I worked at a small company that did some wiring and it interested me, so I decided to pursue further studies."
Kauffman, 37, said he attended Centennial High School and graduated from St. Francis University (Pa.) with a degree in political science. Before enrolling, Kauffman said he had worked in retail and also for a congresswoman.
Lincoln Tech "was a wonderful experience," he said. "It prepares you for your career moving forward. It's skills you wouldn't otherwise have."
Ellicott City resident Keith Ingram, who received a certificate in electronic systems, said Lincoln Tech taught him the fundamentals necessary for his career.
"It will give us a head start in our employment," said Ingram, 33.
While Friday's graduation belonged to all 195 graduates, a select few were singled out with this year's President's Award, which is given to individuals who achieved a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and perfect attendance.
"Showing up is important, but it is what you do when you arrive that distinguishes you from the pack," said master of ceremonies and Lincoln Tech employee Haroon Rashed.
This year's recipients were Khurram Ashgar, certified in automotive technology, Brian Fitzgerald, certified in HVAC, and Joseph James, certified as an electronic systems technician.
The ceremony's keynote speaker was Michael Miller, a U.S. ambassador for adult education who, as a high school dropout, went on to earn a master's and doctorate from Johns Hopkins University.
A native of Baltimore, the animated and entertaining Miller offered stories and insights into his personal success.
Among the many points emphasized by Miller was the importance of "going to work" over getting a job.
"When you leave here, I need you to go to work," Miller said. "I don't want you to go to work to make a dollar. I need you to go to work to make a difference. ... You didn't come to Lincoln Tech to seek out a career, you came here to seek out a calling. A career is what you are paid for, but a calling is what you are made for."