Home » News

Wallace Student Makes Best of Hard Situation


Dothan, Ala.— James “Matt” Ward had a difficult childhood, but that didn’t slow him down. With the help of a friend and a degree in hand, Ward has made the best of a hard situation.

Ward didn’t have a stable home growing up, but when he met Donald Wilks and offered to help him on his farm, things began to change.

“Growing up was hard, trying to get by, moving back and forth and place to place and not really having a stable foundation,” Ward said. “Mr. Wilks helped me out and gave me a job. He’s been a major part in it too, helping me get on my feet.”

Ward completed the Pre-Apprentice Electrical Lineworker course at Wallace Community College-Dothan in 2016 and was offered employment shortly after graduation, all with Wilks’ encouragement.

“Matt’s home life wasn’t good, and he was having to live with this kin folk or that kin folk,” Wilks said. “He worked with me a while and said he was going to have to move. That was his junior year. I got him a little travel trailer and Matt lived in that trailer through his senior year.”

Ward lived there and helped on the farm through the remainder of high school, when Wilks suggested he look into the lineworker course at WCCD.

After high school graduation, the two ended up at the College to check out the program.

“We came over to Wallace, and it happened to be that they still had a couple of openings left and we enrolled Matt into the lineworker course,” Wilks said.

Seeing students come through his program and leave with the ability to get a good paying job is something that Mike Evans, WCCD’s lineworker instructor, said makes his job worth it.

“You just don’t know how good that makes me feel. It makes me feel really good to see my students succeed,” Evans said. “The rewarding thing about doing this is not getting a pay check. It’s seeing kids like that right there getting on their way in life.”

Ward said he enjoyed his time at Wallace, and learned a lot from his instructor.

“Because of Wallace I started my career,” Ward said. “I wish my time at Wallace was longer. It was a good program with a great instructor.”

Ward and his wife, Megan, live in Panama City, where he works at Southern Electric Corporation, and has been assisting in a lot of electrical repair after Hurricane Michael.

“There are still people without power in Panama City right now. We hook up people every day,” Ward said. “After the storms you get to cut peoples power on, that right there will get you enjoying it. You kind of get butterflies, you get a little bit excited to restore power for those that have been without it.”

Overall, Ward said he is thankful for the special people in his life for helping him succeed.

“Every day I’m proud of myself,” Ward said.  “It’s a blessing to come from that, and be where I am now.”

For Wilks, his satisfaction comes in seeing Ward do well.

“It’s just a feeling I can’t describe when you help someone like that, and they get out and give it their all,” Wilks said. “It just makes your heart swell up.”

Pre-apprentice Electrical Lineworkers are entry-level employees who work in the electrical distribution industry. Students who complete this course of study find employment with power companies, electric cooperatives, municipal electric companies, and electrical contracting and construction firms.

This 7-week program is physically demanding. Students must be able to work aloft without a fear of heights.

For more information about the pre-apprentice lineworker course, go to www.wallace.edu/fasttraclcareers.


Wallace Community College is a member of the Alabama Community College System, which is the state’s single largest system of public higher education. With campuses in Dothan and Eufaula, Wallace enrolls 4,600 credit students every term in its academic, health, and career technical programs. The College also serves approximately 3,000 students annually through adult education, workforce training programs, and continuing education. Area high school students take dual enrollment courses through Wallace to get an early start on their college education. 

Back to News Listing