The developing wisdom of discernment

David’s story in his own words.
Man outside holding empty frame
David Gonzalez, soon to be a Western graduate.

David Gonzalez is graduating this Spring with a degree in Digital Media Production. His freshly traversed path to graduation is a testament to resilience, hard work, and focused diligence. Western Technical College is an expert education and career guide, but a symbiotic partnership between Western and determined students like David will pave the way for success.

Originally trained as a welder, David had just been hired at Trane Company. But his career path took a frustrating turn when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted his Trane welding plans. Laid off before things even began and derailed but undeterred—David seized the opportunity to organize and pursue a completely new idea.

Having lived in La Crosse for nearly a decade after immigrating from Mexico, David is thoroughly rooted in this community. This phase of young adulthood is weighty, marked by transitions that feel precarious and profoundly significant. It’s a stark realization that one’s responsibilities extend beyond oneself, encompassing the needs of loved ones and dependents. A devoted husband, father of three, and loving pet dad, he is driven by a desire to provide a secure and stable future for his family, while also seeking personal fulfillment—much like the air steward’s instruction to unselfishly put on your own oxygen mask first.

This motivating force of responsibility and trusted self-worth directed him back to school, despite the challenges posed by balancing work, family, and education. Navigating the educational landscape as an adult was an advantage for David, who is not afraid to ask questions to get what he needs. And as slightly older and a bit wiser than your average student, David set out to make his fleeting time at Western the best it could be. He joined student government to make friends and participate, he volunteered, and worked in Western’s Marketing Department as a video production intern. David noticed that the culture at Western is welcoming to everybody, no matter your background or your age—these things don’t matter or stand out at all. David emphasizes, “At Western, you just be yourself and get involved. It’s very welcoming here! It is a great place to make connections, which is more important than you think.”

Initially drawn to linguistics, David was disappointed to find that the local university did not offer it as a major. However, during a conversation, a Western advisor noticed that David’s interests aligned with the Digital Media Production program. David always liked communicating, performing, and elevating the creativity within his work. Years ago in Mexico, David was employed as a clown at his church. Over the past two years, Western’s community noticed Cal the Cavalier having a particular zesty spring in his step, fluid dance moves, and a magnetic physicality to his being. Indeed, David has been sharing his generous spirit with us by dressing as Cal.

Western’s practical, hands-on approach appealed to David, and he rapidly found himself immersed in coursework that stirred his passion for photography and the technical side of media production. As he delved deeper into his studies, David found himself thriving in the supportive environment of the college. David appreciated the flexibility and accessibility of Western. With personalized support from instructors and a curriculum tailored to his interests, he felt empowered to pursue his dreams, fueled by practical needs, personal growth, and an uncovering of interests and talents. David warns not to discount comfortable relationships and supportive friendships; they buoy and inspire without explicit purpose, a true testament to the power of relationships. He was awarded two scholarships during his Western tenure, including a sizable sum sponsored by Altra Federal Credit Union.

David says education makes for a more enjoyable life; the more you know, the more interesting things become, and the more there is to appreciate. In line with his video production acumen, David loves watching movies with a critical lens and an appreciative eye. This is noticed as he systematically breaks down a creative scene from a movie he just watched. He also enjoys family time, and he loves cooking; he and his partner rotate family cooking duties. The family is working together to carve out their own traditions by blending their Mexican heritage with the culture of Wisconsin, from the formal ceremonial rites of Quinceañeras to the warmth and coziness of a traditional Christmas Eve dinner.

With graduation on the horizon, David reflects on the challenges he has overcome and the opportunities that lie ahead. He plans to focus on freelancing and starting his own company; he remains grateful for the solid foundation he created for himself, along with Western Technical College. The skills and knowledge he acquired already serve him well in his endeavors, whether in the field of digital media production or beyond.

David sums up his life philosophy, “One can learn anything from anyone at any time: be perceptive and receptive! My goal and the source of my internal motivation is to be the best version of myself I can. For example, I can be a better student; I can be a better father, and be more mindful of what I’m saying. Be yourself. Be honest and true while living your best version of yourself. But—and this is key, do not concentrate on the stuff that does not matter. It’s a needless distraction.” For David, the developing wisdom of discernment becomes easier with every passing year!

Looking back on his days so far, David is filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. From his beginnings in Mexico to the threshold of graduation in Wisconsin, he is a living example of determination, thoughtfulness, and perseverance in making good things happen. As he prepares to embark on the next cycle of his life, he does so with optimism and gratitude for the opportunities that lie ahead.