NEWARK, Ohio, May 24, 2018 — Luke Rager graduated from East Knox High School on Sunday, May 20, but that's the second time he's graduated this month. Two weeks earlier, he received an Associate of Science from Central Ohio Technical College (COTC). Rager enrolled at COTC through College Credit Plus and was selected to speak at the college's commencement ceremony on May 4.
"No matter how hard life may seem or how great the obstacle is standing in front of you, rise up," he challenged COTC graduates. "The hard road you may be on may be for a greater reason to make you stronger and prepare you for something better than you ever dreamed. The light at the end of the tunnel may just be around the corner and present you with a beautiful opportunity."
Rager's words were inspired by his own hardship. A straight-A student and quarterback, Rager was excited for his sophomore year of high school. Before the regular season began, Rager suffered a severe concussion during practice that resulted in memory loss and several visits with a specialist at Nationwide Children's Hospital over a three-month period.
"I still had hopes of returning to the game I love, only then to realize my sports career was over. As a high schooler I couldn't understand how one moment I was living my high school dream and the next it was completely shattered," explained Rager. "For a year after the injury, my grades, social life and family relationships all suffered from bad mood swings and depression."
Prior to his junior year, Rager's parents encouraged him to look toward the future. That's when he decided to enroll at COTC. His life was beginning to turn around, but Rager still experienced lingering symptoms from his concussion. He went through several more months of therapy to improve his memory, raising both his grades and his confidence. He also started working part-time to fill the void of not being able to play sports.
Still unsure of his future, Rager spent time with his cousin's new husband who is a firefighter and paramedic. He was hooked instantly, he said, and knew he wanted to pursue a career in firefighting. This past October, Rager became a member of the College Township Fire Department and enrolled in Knox County Career Center's emergency medical technician (EMT) certificate course, which he completed on April 27.
"It definitely wasn't easy taking 18 credits of college classes, EMT class, volunteering at the fire department and still working at Elsaan Outfitting, but it was more than worth it," said Rager. "I plan on staying around this area and serving the people of this community that I have grown up and lived my whole life in. It is special for me to be able to give back to the place that I was born and raised."
Rager began a 40-day accelerated firefighter program at the Ohio Fire Academy on May 17. He plans to return to COTC to complete the paramedic one-year certificate program and an associate degree in emergency medical services technology.
Rager's full commencement address can be seen at https://youtu.be/lEf2iFDBuZg?t=16m52s.
COTC is a fully accredited, public college dedicated to providing high-quality, accessible programs of technical education in response to current and emerging employment needs. COTC is the only technical college in Ohio operating four full-service campus locations: Newark, Coshocton, Knox and Pataskala.