Congressional honor for former BC adjunct



Justin Reid (left) receives his congressional honor with BC fire technology professor Tim Capehart (right).

Zach Sullivan, Reporter

Former Bakersfield College student and current adjunct professor Justin Reid was recently nominated and awarded a congressional honor by Congressmen David Valadao for his hard work and advancements in fire technology, said Tim Capehart, director of Fire Technology at BC, who nominated Reid for the award. Capehart said he first met Reid roughly 10 to 12 years ago when he was one of his students. “He was a student in my class, and one of the things I tell all of the students is, the reality is not everyone in the class is going to become a firefighter, but there are a lot of other jobs in the fire service they should be aware of, and of the jobs I talked about was a fire engineering technology job. Back then there were only two colleges offering degrees, University of Maryland and Oklahoma. He graduated from BC and called me up and said he was heading back east to go to one of those colleges to be a fire technician engineer and I told him to stay in touch and let me know how things go for him,” Capehart said.

After a few years, Capehart said Reid contacted him to say that he was graduating from the University of Maryland and was returning to California. “Before I knew it, years later I got a call from him saying he was graduating from the University of Maryland. I said, ‘Hey, congratulations that’s great, if you ever make it back to California let me know.’

“Couple years later he calls me up and tells me he’s working for a fire protection agency in Los Angeles and I told him if he ever makes it back to Bakersfield and you ever want to teach a fire protection class here, let me know, because I’m always in need of an adjunct,” he said.

“So sure enough he called me maybe a year or so later and tells me that he’s living in Bakersfield working for R.L. Hardcastle here in town, and they develop sprinkler systems and other fire protection equipment and so sure enough that semester coming up we needed an instructor, so to have a California licensed fire tech engineer teaching our class was unheard of, it never happened before.”

Capehart said he felt Reid deserved to be awarded for his hard work and reached out to Congressman David Valadao, who agreed Reid should be honored. “I really felt that because of his perseverance, him and his girlfriend at that time, who is his wife now, piled up into their car and drove across the country to Maryland and they didn’t have a family member or anyone who lived there. They found a place to rent and then he goes to Prince William Community College and takes additional courses to get into Maryland, and he was accepted into the program at the University of Maryland. So a long, round about story where one of our students persevered and in his letter he writes about some of the hardships he had to work through, but now it’s all water under the bridge. It’s really just a great success story of how one of our students is earning a well-deserved, good income and is able to live out the dreams he had when he first started here at BC. A good tribute to BC for meeting his needs and being that stepping stone to get to the next place,” he said.

“Whether it be financial challenges with tuition, not having a place to stay, long hours of school and homework. Then getting an internship, a company hired him full time, and then coming back to California and then going to Afghanistan. Though he was never in the military, he worked for the federal government and kept those bases safe. He gave a lot of himself to make those bases safer for everyone, and I thought he should be rewarded. All of his hard work and perseverance should be acknowledged and I am thankful David Valadao agreed with me that Justin should be acknowledged, and I appreciate Congressman Valadao working with me as well.”

In a letter Reid wrote himself and provided to The Rip, Reid gives credit to both BC and Capehart as factors that helped influence him get to where he is today. “Bakersfield College was instrumental in my career. I graduated Bakersfield High School in 1997. In that fall semester I started working and taking classes at Bakersfield College. I focused my classes for transfer into either the University of California or the California State College system. Well I thought I knew what I wanted to do and I started taking classes that were geared towards business administration. I did this for several semesters still thinking ‘business administration’ was how I should go,” he wrote.

“Although I really did not know what I was going to do with type of a career focus, it sounded good and I figured I was on my way to a business career. I kept doing this but realized I did not feel passionate about this course. I got frustrated and thought about just stopping all together. So I made a decision, one and a half years into my BC coursework, I decided I was going to choose what I wanted to do, and that was to become a fire fighter.”

In his letter, Reid credits Capehart personally for being a major influence to him and helping him find what he was passionate about.

“When I look back at my career so far and how I got here, it is apparent that Bakersfield College was the first domino that led me to this place. If I had not stumbled onto Mr. Capehart’s fire technology class, I would not be where I am today. I essentially started from scratch at BC. I barely graduated high school. Bakersfield College allowed me to restart and to shape my career path to whatever I wanted it to be. I am forever indebted to the support structure that BC provided me. They had the positive message that anything was possible and I can truly say that, it was.”