They say variety is the spice of life, and North Lake College graduate Joshua Hamlin has plenty of savory stories to tell.
Born and raised in the DFW metroplex, Josh grew up with parents who were supportive of his dreams. “They told me I could work at McDonald’s if I wanted, as long as I was happy doing it.”
Josh did enter the food service industry, but in a more upscale environment. After earning a culinary degree from a local trade school, Josh was hired as a line cook at the prestigious restaurant Stephan Pyles. While there, he was exposed to amazing culinary talent, including a mentor who would go on to become a “Top Chef.” Josh had loved cooking with his mom as a child, and at the time, he felt confident he had chosen the best career path for his passions.
A year into working for Stephan Pyles, Josh realized he needed a change. Crazy work hours and the hectic food-industry lifestyle drove Josh to return to school.
At age 19, Josh enrolled at North Lake College with plans to study nutrition. To his surprise, he soon discovered that college had its own set of obstacles. He didn’t know how to “do” college. Routine late-night partying caused his grades to slip and he was distracted by his parents’ divorce.
“I knew I had to refocus. I decided to stop blowing off my studies and I ended up with a 4.0.”
Josh credits his professors and mentors at North Lake as a source of support. North Lake faculty helped him ease into the college environment and encouraged him to excel.
“Two people specifically really encouraged me: Dr. Yolando Romero and Beth Nikopoulos. Dr. Romero gave me academic and emotional support. She helped me find a four-year school. Beth was my adventurous partner. She would get me to do things by making them sound so exciting and fun.” Beth Nikopoulos is the assistant director of Student Life.
Josh quickly found his place on campus, becoming involved with a variety of clubs and organizations. He joined student service organization, Epsilon Sigma Alpha (ESA), and began volunteering with local disabilities programs and hospitals. Josh also became involved Phi Theta Kappa, Gay-Straight Alliance, Student Government Association, and Student Leadership Institute.
“The organizations that are available at North Lake opened up so many pathways for me. You get access to amazing networks, scholarships, new friends, career opportunities. It is just so well-rounded.”
Josh graduated from North Lake College in May 2014 at age 22. He was asked to be the graduation speaker for his class and gladly accepted. During the summer following graduation he took on an internship with Texas Congressman Marc Veasey. He says the real-world experience taught him a lot while also solidifying his interest in government work.
“Politicians have been stigmatized. Sometimes we don’t picture them as truly helping the people. But Congressman Veasey is, and that is the type of politician I want to be. He is so genuine with what he does and says.”
Josh is now attending the University of Texas at Austin. He plans to apply to Ivy League graduate schools for his masters degree. He says his ultimate goal is to affect legislation regarding immigration and higher education.
“I know that is a reach, but North Lake taught me to dream big.”