IDEAL Scholarship Paves the Way for Student Success

October 12, 2021

The Blackhawk Technical College Foundation is proud to present this semester’s IDEAL Opportunity Scholarship recipient – Jacob Bernal. Through this opportunity, Jacob will experience two internships while progressing through the Industrial Maintenance Technician program. For the Fall 2021 semester, Jacob is working with the maintenance department at SHINE Technologies, and for the Spring 2022 semester, he will transfer to the Beloit Frito-Lay facility. In his work, Jacob has already had the chance to fulfill physical requests like repairing items and hanging whiteboards and machining requests like creating custom parts.

student Jacob Bernal pictured in SHINE Technologies facility

“Jacob is our first BTC intern here at SHINE, and he’s done a great job. Whatever objective has been put in front of him, he’s knocked it out of the park,” said Matt Barnett, Director of Maintenance at SHINE. Along with essential maintenance and machining requests, Jacob passed the written test to move on to the practicum training for work in the radiation control area of SHINE. “Radiation is new to me,” Jacob shared. “I never looked into radiation because it’s something that I never knew about. But getting the chance to study the safety measures and work in that area, it’s really interesting. I’m so glad I’ve gotten to learn about it.” SHINE is currently constructing their concrete “Moly Plant,” which will become the first U.S. producer of Molybdenum-99, a radioactive isotope required for medical imaging. 

Jacob never considered college until he was encouraged to apply for the IDEAL Opportunity Scholarship. “Before Blackhawk, I was in a program called YouthBuild,” he said. “I wasn’t doing so well in high school, and YouthBuild was helping me get to graduation.” To qualify for the IDEAL Opportunity Scholarship, students must be nominated by a community organization, which YouthBuild – a program of Community Action, Inc. – was happy to do for Jacob. “Jacob has been one of Beloit Fresh Start’s greatest accomplishments,” said Kaelyb Lokrantz, one of the YouthBuild instructors. “Jacob came into our program needing direction and took the initiative to transform his life. Jacob became one of the hardest working, most dedicated, and thoughtful students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching. Jacob became a role model for his family and friends. He has made the decision to create a better future for himself and his family.”

IDEAL Opportunity Scholarship recipients receive full tuition and necessary supplies to attend Blackhawk. They are also equipped with a faculty mentor, a paid internship opportunity, and a stipend to help offset living expenses while they finish their degree. Jacob is just the second student awarded this opportunity since its inception.

Jacob readily says that this scholarship isn’t just for him; it’s for his entire family. Jacob’s mother came to the United States from Mexico, and his family spoke only Spanish at home until he was about seven years old and started learning English. “Growing up without a father, it was just my mom and me,” he shared. “She has done an amazing job; she’s such a hard-working woman. This scholarship is for my whole family.” Along with his mom, Jacob has three younger siblings for whom he wants to be a quality role model. They lost their father to a violent crime, and Jacob now feels the weight to show them what is possible with education and hard work.

“There’s a lot of students out there who think like I used to,” Jacob said. “I just wanted to keep my head down and do the minimum. If I couldn’t do something, I would just give up. Now I can see what I can do with a little help. Thanks for believing in me.”

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About the IDEAL Opportunity Scholarship

The IDEAL Opportunity Scholarship is an intentional effort to increase access to education and transform the lives of persons of color who are low-income and may be first-generation college students. Individuals must be nominated for this scholarship by a community-based organization. For more information, please contact the Blackhawk Technical College Foundation at or (608) 757-7704.
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