40 Under 40 Class of 2022

Walter Rice

Business & Community Liaison, Work-based Learning Coordinator, Westover Job Corps; Age: 34

Students at Westover Job Corps (WJC) receive technical training to pursue successful careers. Thanks to the efforts of staff members like Walter Rice, the students also learn how to have a successful life.

In his role with WJC, Rice builds relationships with employers in the community to create internship opportunities for students, so when they graduate with industry-certified training in welding, plumbing, electrical, and other skills, they have a path to employment.

That represents only part of the training, as Rice works with students to learn interviewing and interpersonal skills.

“We make sure students work on what they need to succeed on the job and to make sure they are empowered with independent living skills to maximize their personal lives,” he noted.

While sometimes called “soft skills,” he contends interpersonal skills are life skills that help a person represent their brand, and when combined with technical skills, the result is a truly successful person.

Rice is involved in about a dozen different community efforts in Western Mass. to make life better for young people. One notable recognition came from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Excellence in Community Outreach and Prevention.

“We had a speaker series called ‘You Can Be Who You Want to Be,’ where WJC graduates shared stories of how they were able to succeed in their careers and encouraged young people they could do the same,” he noted.

Rice lives by a philosophy of always doing his best and living in the moment.

“The most defining moment we can have is right now,” he said. “No matter what is going on, I have to give 100% of myself and try to make a difference right now.”

At the same time, he can see the bigger picture.

“All of us who work in the community have many people standing behind us and many who came before us,” he said. “Because of the work we’ve done collectively, our community is stronger.”

Proud of all his accomplishments at WJC, Rice recently joined the United Way in a similar role as a liaison for business and community organizations.

“I enjoy working in Western Mass. because we can really have an impact and help others,” he said. “It’s just an honor to serve our community.”

 

— Mark Morris

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