EL RENO — Rick Richard admits he counts his blessings more than ever before.
In the span of a year and a half, the 44-year-old Yukon resident has undergone chemotherapy, retrained for a new career and accepted a good-paying job.
In the winter of 2011, Richard was diagnosed with a liver disease. The single father faced enormous health uncertainties and financial hardship. He turned to the state Department of Human Services for help.
He wasn't seeking handouts. He wanted to earn his way but didn't know how to make ends meet.
Richard had prior experience working on diesel engines while in the Army reserves in the late 1980s. A DHS employee suggested he consider training in diesel technology at nearby Canadian Valley Technology Center.
Richard was placed in the PIVOT program at the El Reno school until an opening became available in the diesel program. PIVOT provides a structured, supportive environment for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families clients seeking to further their educations.
“I got help getting an internship at U.S. Foods and financial help to pay for gasoline and groceries,” Richard said. “Workforce Oklahoma helped me get some tools to get me started with training.”
When he didn't know where else to turn, he found the help he needed to sustain him until he could get ahead.
Richard walked the stage recently to receive his certificate, having completed the diesel program early, in just over eight months. U.S. Foods wanted him back full-time, and he was hired in early May at an hourly rate of $17, plus full benefits as a diesel technician.
“Sometimes I just can't believe it myself,” Richard said. “The ladies in PIVOT are awesome.”
Richard was diesel student of the year and winner of the El Reno Campus Superintendent's Meritorious Award.
Greg Winters, Canadian Valley superintendent, said Richard is a prime example of somebody who sought to improve himself and better provide for his family.
“I'm so impressed with how well Rick performed as a student faced with dire circumstances,” Winters said. “As a student, he was still able to focus and persevere with a tremendous amount of tenacity while facing a lot of health issues.
“He didn't allow those things to get in the way. He kept his focus on the reward at the end. I have a lot of respect for someone like that. The sacrifices you have to make as an adult are tough anyway.”
Richard said the best news for him personally is his doctor expects him to beat the disease and heal completely.
Bill Kramer is communications and marketing coordinator for Canadian Valley Technology Center.