MARIETTA, OHIO—Patrick Casino didn’t take the traditional route to college. In just 32 years, his life experiences have covered the gamut from traveling salesman, restaurant chef, and now college student. He knows what it is to have and be without. Yet, despite the struggles and strife the Washington State Community College (WSCC) Student of the Month has endured, his optimism for life is untarnished and his vision for his future is bright.
Right out of high school, Casino jumped at the opportunity to travel the country. He was selling magazines door-to-door, a job that had a few highlights that included meeting famed NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb. However, for the most part, Casino said he spent a good portion of his time dealing with law enforcement who were always asking him to move along. While it was an interesting two years that allowed him to see lots of cities across the map, it didn’t have long-term prospects and he ultimately returned home with nothing more than stories in his pocket. Unfortunately, his experience didn’t amount to much on his resume and he found himself scrapping by in go-nowhere jobs. He became familiar with bare cupboards and the harsh reality of homelessness.
But even in the toughest of times, Casino remained optimistic for greater opportunities that would feed his lifelong craving for creativity and science. In fact, he thought he found it in his pursuit to become a chef, however, the dad of a beautiful nine-month-old baby boy realized he wasn’t bringing home enough bacon to make ends meet. “I loved all that, but the paycheck wasn’t there to take care of my family. I realized I had to do something else.”
Motivated by the desire to provide security for his son and wife, he shifted his focus to earning a degree in electrical engineering. While many may not see the correlation between the two career paths, Casino sees a direct connection. “They both have those channels that I’ve needed forever that let me be creative and scientific.” Moreover, Casino said he sees future opportunities of marrying his two passions with the recent movement toward dark kitchens.
Electrical Engineering Professor Jim York praised Casino for the enthusiasm he brings to the classroom. “I need more students like Patrick. He’s fully engaged, eager to learn, and asks insightful questions. That makes for a dynamic learning environment.”
Casino said he believes his generation “falls into this crack where we seem to think everything amazing has already been done, but the technological era is now and it can help provide for my family.” He said this is evidenced by the ingenuity that was seen during the pandemic as people were forced to think of new ways to do old routines.
He credits his success as a student to what he’s learned from past experiences. “If I am successful, it is probably because I know what it is like to have nothing and nowhere to go. I don’t want my son to ever know that feeling.”
Casino sees himself as an inventor of sorts, and actually has several patent ideas. “I have always had ideas to make life better but was too poor to ever follow through.” He said he would like to some day open a small business and sell technology that improves people’s daily lives. “Most people haven’t had the struggle I’ve had. There are people like me out there. It’s not that we don’t have the motivation, skills, or drive. We just don’t have the support.”
He believes his current path will provide his family with a better future, but he also sees the doors it will open that will allow him to help those who share his past struggles. “I found my niche of what I want to do,” he said definitively. “It has a good pathway to my future and will provide the avenue to permanently provide for my family.” He added that having a good job will also allow him to “help with the homeless population in America helping with homes and skill training.”
Casino will graduate next fall with an associate degree in electrical engineering technology and plans to continue his education and earn a bachelor’s degree.