James Wells Jr. returned to college after 20 years to earn his degree and advance his career in cyber security

In May 2020 James Wells Jr. released a burden he’s carried for more than 20 years. He dropped out of college in 1999 – an opportunity he says he wasted as a youth – and that decision followed him everywhere.

“Not having a degree was like a weight that I dragged around for most of my adult life,” Wells says. “Whenever applying for a job or considering a new position, lacking a degree on my resume was a limiting factor.”

Wells, who lives in Elyria, has been working in the information technology support field for 14 years and spent the last eight at MCPc, a data solutions provider headquartered in Cleveland. He had hopes to move into a cyber security position within the company, but without a degree he was never qualified for the open positions.

James Wells Jr. returned to college after 20 years to earn his degree and advance his career in information technology

An encouraging conversation

Going back to school had floated in and out of Wells’ mind for years. But time and money seemed like impossible barriers to overcome. And the life he had built with his wife and their six children, four of whom still live at home, kept him very busy. Beyond working full time Wells and his son James Wells III are actively involved at their church. Wells Jr. is a minister, plays piano and keyboards in the choir, and contributes to the church’s online radio and television stations.

But then, in 2018 Wells read about LCCC’s cyber security program offered primarily online. It was the degree he wanted in a format that might suit his life. And even though fitting in the time still didn’t seem feasible, he decided to meet with someone to talk about it anyway.

Wells spoke with Larry Atkinson, associate professor at LCCC, who answered every question Wells had about the program. Atkinson was direct but optimistic. He told Wells that completing this degree program would be challenging but assured him that he could do it.

“Larry encouraged me to make an appointment to determine what schedule would work for me. Without that brief but effective interaction, I may not have taken the steps needed to get here today,” Wells says.


The most inspiring study buddy

The road to earning his degree was trying but with his supportive wife, a nearby campus, and a flexible class schedule, Wells made it work. It also helped that he had a college study buddy in the home. His son James had enrolled in LCCC’s Early College program in 2016 through Elyria City Schools, which meant he spent his entire high school career on the LCCC campus taking college-level courses.

“The fact that my son was selected to participate in the Early College High School program was a blessing and a privilege,” Wells says. “He earned an associate of art degree along with his high school diploma – all at the age of 17.”

And Wells earned his associate of applied science degree in cyber and information security – more than 20 years after dropping out of college.

“I was overjoyed to have had the privilege of graduating alongside my own son.”
James Wells, Jr.

“I never dreamed I would be able to graduate from college given the opportunities I wasted as a youth,” Wells says. “But I am overjoyed to have the privilege of graduating alongside my own son.”

With his degree in hand, Wells plans to pursue those cyber security roles at MCPc that once seemed out of reach. He also hopes to earn a Certified Ethical Hacker certification and CISSP certification.

As for his son, Wells III is still deciding his next steps, but is considering a career in the United States Military.

Whatever lies ahead, Wells knows he and his son are walking toward bright futures. And these days, Wells is travelling a little lighter.