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Arwyn Hopkins’ workplace is quiet, and filled with the smell of bound law books. It’s a big change for this former construction worker, and she likes it.
Hopkins, 30, spent nine years as a construction worker, graduating through the apprenticeship program with the International Union of Operating Engineers. She was making $23-$28 an hour, but she got laid off every year at the end of the construction season. That made it hard to support herself, her partner and their two children.
Seeking a steadier paycheck, she took a chance on education. She started at Columbus State’s Skilled Trades program in 2006, but soon switched to Paralegal. Paralegals assist lawyers with duties such as research and document preparation, and they do much of the heavy lifting in the legal world.
“After dealing with a notorious local slumlord and Franklin County Housing Court, I realized the law was the field that most interested and motivated me,” Hopkins says.
In June of 2009, she left the construction field to take a job at a gas station. It was a huge pay cut, but the steady schedule allowed her to plan her classes.
The Paralegal program led to another opportunity: While researching the Franklin County Law Library, she saw a job posting for an assistant law librarian. The Columbus State program had already given her the research skills she needed, and a glowing recommendation from a professor sealed the deal.
“Deborah Hoffman, an adjunct instructor for the paralegal program, gave me such a wonderful recommendation my boss said I was the obvious choice,” Hopkins says.
Tom Shanahan, professor in the Paralegal program, says Hopkins will go far in her chosen field. "Arwyn has been a student who is committed not just to law, but to social justice."
Hopkins graduated the program in March 2011, and now she’s planning to go to Ohio University to complete a bachelor’s degree. Using an innovative “3+1” program, Hopkins will do a third year of general education classes at Columbus State, then complete her fourth year of classes with Ohio University. It’s one of many transfer agreements Columbus State has struck with other colleges.
After that? Arwyn dreams of law school, and then a judgeship.
“That dream used to seem unattainable for a ‘ditch-digger’ like me, until I learned that Franklin County Municipal Court Judge James Green himself was once a union carpenter,” Hopkins says. “If you put your mind to it, you truly can do anything.”