Bradford found passion to learn at career center, now gives back
Graduating only three years ago, Arthur Bradford has already decided to give back to the Electronics program at Warwick Area Career and Technical Center that impacted his life. He has donated $1,000 to update the program’s curriculum.
Bradford took an interesting route to high school graduation. After attending Warwick Neck Elementary, St. Kevin’s School and eventually Gorton Junior High, Bradford started home schooling in eighth grade.
Then in the ninth grade, a family friend who happened to be a professor at the Community College of Rhode Island helped him audit a college course. After only one course, he was hooked, starting CCRI’s Running Start program shortly after.
“I went in a little early,” admits Bradford, who was completing high school work and college courses before his sophomore year.
Then his grandmother, Kathleen Melander, a former supervisor with Warwick Schools, saw an article in the Warwick Beacon about Career Center students competing in the SkillsUSA competition and showed it to her grandson.
Bradford was intrigued and started to investigate the offerings; the electronics program caught his eye.
“At that point, I was incredibly interested in computers,” he said.
He was also inspired to explore engineering by his grandfather, Dennis Melander, who worked for Boeing and NASA during the Apollo missions.
Bradford joined the program as a sophomore, and was selected to compete in the SkillsUSA competition he had read about.
He took home a gold medal that year, followed by a silver medal in his junior and senior years.
“So the year after I saw that article, I was in the article the next year,” said Bradford.
Bradford says attending the Career Center and taking part in the electronics program was one of the best things that could have happened to him.
His grandfather agreed.
“[This program] brought him from a student just getting by to a student who wants to learn,” said Melander.
“This was my only part in public high school during my high school experience,” said Bradford. “This place is unlike any other high school. I love this place.”
After graduation, Bradford joined the Electronics’ program advising council, assisting teacher Real Carpenter with keeping the curriculum up-to-date.
“Arthur is one of those gifted individuals,” said Carpenter.
As a student, Bradford presented an idea for a project to Carpenter for a display sign; Carpenter let his student run with it because he knew he could do it. Bradford designed the project and led the team who built the sign; that sign now sits above the classroom door, scrolling the word “electronics” in bright red lights.
“Arthur was also instrumental in helping other students,” said Carpenter, admitting Bradford was often a tutor to classmates.
Bradford is still helping the students today. As a member of the advising council, Bradford helps come up with ways to advance the program. Recently, that discussion included bringing micro-controllers and computer programming to the classroom.
Knowing that costs money, Bradford decided to donate $1,000 to his former program to help.
“I just wanted to jumpstart this process,” he said.
Carpenter said the $1,000 donation would be put toward purchasing micro-controllers and the components to make them work, so his students can design, automate and program the micro-controller.
At 20 years old, Bradford is currently working part-time as a data analyst and database manager at CCRI for their Connect to College program. However, because of his part-time employee status, he can only take three college credits at a time.
However, taking college courses for the past seven years has certainly helped; Bradford is only about a semester away from obtaining not one, but three degrees at CCRI: Engineering transfer, computer programming and engineering technology.
“I’m certainly not done yet,” said Bradford.
He hopes to become a full-time employee soon and qualify for free tuition to the University of Rhode Island as a state employee. He hopes to double major in electrical engineering and computer engineering.
And he’s not done there, either. Bradford hopes to move on and study for a master’s degree and a doctorate.
He also hasn’t ruled out teaching.
“It’s a possibility,” he said.
Carpenter jokes that when he retires, Bradford can take over teaching duties for the electronics program.