||Each year from his office on the Metropolitan Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®), Wardsey Gates assists more than 130 men and women who served their country in the armed forces.
Gates is director of the Veterans Upward Bound program (VUB) at Tri-C. VUB provides veterans with preparatory and/or remedial coursework in English, math, science and computer skills to prepare them for post-secondary education.
“We, along with other veterans initiative programs here at Tri-C, provide a ‘one stop’ location where our veterans can go for services, support and encouragement,” said Gates. “We did not have these opportunities when I came to Tri-C for classes back in 1992. I took the bus from work, got a class schedule booklet and went from there. This is so much better.”
Gates, a Georgia native, came to the Cleveland area in grade school and graduated with honors from Cleveland Heights High School in January 1979. A talented artist who won awards for safety posters that appeared in local grade schools, Gates wanted to be an architect. Graduating early, he opted for the Army and was in basic training when he received a packet of letters from home. Two of the letters were from universities offering him scholarships to their schools of architecture: The Ohio State University and the University of Southern California.
Having made his commitment to the Army, Gates finished training and spent the next six and a half years in the service. His job as a surgical technician and physician assistant meant frequent transfers to bases at home and abroad. Finally, Gates and his wife decided it was time to settle down with their two small children and establish a more permanent home.
Gainesville, Fla., was the next stop for the Gates family and there Gates worked in the local VA hospital and at the University of Florida, where he also took classes. A job opening at the VA hospital in Cleveland prompted his relocation in 1987.
Knowing he could only advance his career through further education, Gates enrolled at Tri-C and took the bus to the Metropolitan Campus each day after work. He graduated with an associate degree in 1994. Three years later, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Cleveland State University in finance and marketing. He is several credit hours away from completing an MBA from John Carroll University.
While Gates was at CSU, the American Advertising Federation named him one of the Most Promising Minority Students. This led to a job in Production Management with LTV Steel.
When LTV folded, he worked for RTA and then Rockwell International before starting his own business venture and writing a book on financial literacy. In 2006, he went to work for Tri-C’s Veterans Upward Bound as a recruiter, later becoming the veteran campus coordinator for the Western Campus before assuming his current role in 2011.
“I am helping men and women with programs and services in a one-stop environment, many of which were not readily available where I was attending Tri-C,” said Gates. “I had to do a lot on my own and it was difficult. Now I work to assist other veterans in avoiding obstacles and barriers that prevent them from obtaining their goals of post-secondary education. At times, this has not been the most glamorous job, but it is the most rewarding for me. I was once told that when you do something you enjoy, it means you never work a day in your life.”