When Kim Porter’s husband passed away after 26 and-a-half years of marriage, leaving her to raise 12 kids alone, her life turned upside down. But instead of succumbing to grief, she charged through the storm with support from friends, family — and even the faculty at LCCC — to lead her children toward a brighter future.
“I had to realize, ‘My partner is gone, and I’m going to have to run this family by myself,’” says Porter, who married Ron when she was 20 and he was 19. “I had to learn to be a single mom. I looked at my kids and I knew, ‘I have to do better.’”
Porter initially enrolled at LCCC because two of her daughters were signing up for classes. At a friend’s urging, she decided to enroll with them, and she was astounded by the compassion she felt from the staff at LCCC as she carved out a new future for herself.
Porter had previously worked in health care, but the majority of her career was as a full-time mom. She had just given birth to her youngest daughter when her husband’s health began to decline. She took him to the ER expecting doctors to prescribe a quick treatment and send him home. Instead, they diagnosed him with diabetes and explained that he was in the first stage of renal failure.
“We spent countless hours in and out of the hospital, taking him to different doctors, to dialysis, to specialists,” she says. “But at the same time, I was still a busy mom with a newborn baby, twins who were just a year old, and behind the twins was a 2-year-old — and then the other eight kids. So I’m juggling all these things. I didn’t have time to ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’ I just had to keep my focus.”
Her husband’s illness lasted for seven years, and Porter became a full-time caregiver. Soon after their youngest daughter turned 7, just days after their son graduated from high school, “He just slipped away,” she says. “I woke up one morning and my whole life changed. That’s how I ended up at LCCC, because I had to rethink my life as a mother.”
During her time of loss, Porter was surrounded by a strong support system of friends, family and neighbors. But she never imagined that she’d find so much encouragement on a college campus.
“When I first signed up for LCCC, I was blown away by the staff,” including administrators, professors, lab assistants and others who provided guidance. “They genuinely care, and they give you the resources you need if you ask for help.”
Porter began taking business classes in 2013. Then one day, when the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was hosting an event on campus, she bumped into the SWE faculty advisor, Ramona Anand.
“I was talking to her about her daughters, that they could be involved in engineering and become members of SWE,” says Anand, a professor who founded the SWE chapter at LCCC. “But it ended up that Kim was encouraged and excited about it, and she picked it up herself.”
Through their conversations, Anand suggested that Porter’s hard-working determination made her a good fit for LCCC’s Mechatronics program, which offers hands-on training for assembling electronic components, MicroElectroMechanical systems (MEMS) and printed circuit boards (PCB).
“MEMS took me way back to when I was young,” Porter says. “I used to take old TVs and radios apart and look at the PCBs inside. I was always curious about what made things function. It was so crazy that Ramona suggested the MEMS program, but she never gave up on me.”
Anand even went with Porter to sign up for her MEMS classes, and then began mentoring her through SWE.
“Kim is a great example of SWE’s mission to stimulate women to achieve their full potential as engineers,” she says. “It’s commendable how Kim manages her education, her household and her kids. She’s truly a role model for the campus, and also for the community. There’s a lot we all can learn from her.”
With the support of Anand and other faculty at LCCC, Porter plans to complete her MEMS associate degree this spring, and then start working in the engineering field while she pursues her bachelor’s degree in MEMS at LCCC. Through it all, her top priority is setting a positive example for her children.
“I think my situation gives them a sense of purpose that life can throw you curveballs, but you can bounce back from it,” says Porter. “When you’re on your journey, you’re going to reach obstacles and stumbling blocks, but just move them out of your way and keep running the race.”