Cincy’s Got Tech Talent: Five Questions with Per Scholas Ambassador Kurtis Ashton

When Kurtis Ashton found Per Scholas, he had already overcome many challenges, but he still felt trapped by personal circumstances. Per Scholas’s IT training program was the perfect in-road to a better opportunity for him and brighter future for his family.

During his childhood as a self-proclaimed “military brat,” Ashton had closely watched his father’s work as a military IT tech and longed for a career of his own. But Ashton suffers from epilepsy, a condition that causes convulsions and memory loss. In the past, it had always felt like a barrier to a successful career. Per Scholas’s personalized support and mentorship changed everything and graduated him into a promising career in tech.

Five years into the program, Per Scholas has now graduated 430 students, each with their own unique story and situation. Soapbox spoke with Per Scholas Ambassador Kurtis Ashton about the unique support Per Scholas offered him and the difference it’s made in his life and career.

How did you find Per Scholas?

Prior to being with Per Scholas, I was a corrections officer with Hamilton County Juvenile Court for about a year. I found [Per Scholas] on I submitted an email and sent an application with my resume, info about myself, etc.

What Per Scholas program did you complete?

In August 2017, I enrolled in the CompTIA A+ training program. The program itself goes over the basics of what you need to know in the IT industry — software, hardware, networking, basic forms of cybersecurity, etc. They also gave us software to use to prepare for the Comp TIA A+ certification exam.

In what tangible ways did Per Scholas prepare you for what came next? What skills did you gain?

The number one skill I obtained is Delrae McNeill’s philosophy of “Don’t freak out.” I pretty much preach that now to all my coworkers and our clients that we do business with. Outside of that, the biggest thing I’ve learned is confidence. In all honestly, when I walked through the door I was so intimidated I didn’t think I could do it.

I think the part that made me most successful was them giving me a private tutor/mentor. He was into cybersecurity himself and studied with me from the time the doors opened until the time the doors closed … Even now, as I’m in the process of going to college for cybersecurity, he (Don Geiss) is still studying with me.

What are you now doing professionally?

Upon leaving Per Scholas, I worked at Spectrum for about six months then got this job at Midwest Protech. I’ve been here for almost a year and now they’re helping me go and get my certifications. I do three different types of work: technical consulting, managing media broadcast for the company, and running an IT 101 program. In IT 101, we are basically teaching community residents and businesses the basics and standard knowledge needed to operate computers. At our next session, I’ll be teaching cybersecurity classes.

What difference has Per Scholas made for you professionally and personally?

People like myself who have issues (often) don’t feel like they have any assistance. There are people who are confined to wheelchairs, mentally challenged, have a language barrier, etc. Per Scholas is helping with making accommodations for people to climb the ladder to success. A lot of people don’t want to hire me because they don’t want to take the time to educate me. I needed an individualized environment. That’s what they gave me. I honestly think that Per Scholas was the one thing God told me: “Go and do right now.“

When I first walked into Per Scholas, I was in a hallway of locked doors. Per Scholas gave me the keys and I found my way to success. They gave me the confidence and determination I needed.

I feel like I have a lot more job security. I feel like I can actually provide for my family and can actually afford the things I want — finally — and I sure as heck feel like I am capable of working together with my wife to buy our first house.

Support for the Cincy’s Got Tech Talent series is provided in part by Per Scholas Cincinnati. A CompTIA A+ & Network+ Certification class begins on April 23, 2019. To apply, visit Per Scholas Cincinnati. 

Read more articles by Liz McEwan.

Liz McEwan is a proud wife, mama, urbanite, musician and blogger. Follow her at The Walking Green and on twitter at @thewalkinggreen.
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