Garrett Bischof, Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering

Garrett Bischof was always “antsy,” and curious about how things worked.

His first job was at McDonald’s, where his manager told him, “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.” So clean he did, as well as he knew how, but those around him said, “You have so many questions. You seem bright. You should go to school.”

Growing up on the Western Slope of Colorado, Bischof was a bit of a high school delinquent, he admits. “I was always sort of gifted at math, but I threw it by the wayside,” he says. And starting at age 12, he had to manage a seizure disorder, which played a role in tamping his self-esteem.

He worked several jobs, entered a long-term relationship, and had two children. When his now 16-year-old daughter was born, a light turned on in Bischof’s mind. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something with my life. I have people depending on me now.'”

Bischof’s father, a state building official, advised his intelligent, once-delinquent son to become an electrician, “because they don’t get dirty.” Bischof began taking work more seriously, exceling in sales and construction jobs. Eventually, he completed his apprenticeship with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and became a journeyman electrician.

Bischof enjoyed the training and the work, but felt something missing. “They left out all the math, all the waveforms and vectors,” he says.

In the midst of a good career as an electrician, Bischof yearned for more. Armed with community college credits, Bischof enrolled at CSU. He’ll graduate this month with a degree in electrical engineering.

And the road has been far from easy. At age 37, Bischof sometimes felt like the “old guy” in class. He faced challenges his younger counterparts might not have known. He’s going through a divorce now, and raising two children. Rock bottom wouldn’t be an exaggeration for how he’s felt at times.

But Bischof is elated to be graduating. “I am so proud of this accomplishment,” he says. “I am going to be putting a checkmark next to a long-term goal.” He wants his story to inspire others to do the same. “Once you know how to work hard, you absolutely can do it. Don’t listen to the people who say you can’t.”

He’s also grateful for the intangible, quiet support he’s received at CSU. “It’s good to hear a kind voice,” he says. “There are organizations here that are full of kind voices.”