Class of 2021 story: Gluth finds success through Fremont Ross’ Early College program partnership with Terra State

Thomas Gluth

Thomas Gluth is only 18 years old, but he has already set himself up for a successful future. He graduated from Terra State alongside a few of his high school classmates before they even received their high school diplomas. 

A 2021 graduate of Terra State and Fremont Ross High School, Gluth has been enrolled in college classes since his first year in high school. He enrolled in Fremont Ross’s Early College program, which gives first-generation, college-bound students an opportunity to complete a high-interest, rigorous curriculum. Students can choose manufacturing engineering technology or health information technology, two fields that are highly in-demand in our area. The enrolled students earn their high school diploma, a career-related certificate and an associate’s degree at the same time, leading to employment and/or continued post-secondary education. The classes are provided at no cost to the students through the state’s College Credit Plus program.

The son of a firefighter and stay-at-home mom, Gluth grew up understanding the financial burden college would place on his family. He knew that he had to create his own future and took advantage of all opportunities open to him. In eighth grade, he noticed a flyer in the hallways of the middle school that was advertising the Early College program. Gluth became interested and enrolled as a part of the first cohort in the then-brand-new program.

“Knowing my situation, I decided to give it a shot and apply,” said Gluth, “Though I was unfamiliar with either offered fields or what it took to be a STEM major student, I took a chance and hoped that I would find a love for a career in engineering. I had the determination and maturity to take on college work in high school, but would I be able to handle the courses? That was a risk I was willing to take for free education.”

Growing up, Gluth saw his future in the military or law enforcement but was never fully certain which path was right for him. Hesitant about his place in the program at first, he found his fit after hearing more about mechanical engineering technology.

Gluth’s confidence in his decision solidified after learning about opportunities in engineering that included designing parts from blueprint to final product, CNC coding and learning different commands and mapping a project.

“To me, coding is an art form. Your lines mold the parts that will be in the homes of millions of people around the world. That type of impact brings me joy, and I know I’ll be happy with this career. I have the Early College program to thank for showing me this career option,” said Gluth.

Gluth was introduced to pertinent classes for manufacturing engineering technology that included new math and science concepts. Nervous about taking classes in one of his not-so-strong subjects, he gained interest in math during hands-on classes in the program. Gluth learned to design parts on numerous software programs, as well as how to operate and troubleshoot equipment. Outside of the textbook he learned essential classroom skills, including studying tactics, note-taking and teamwork. He developed confidence in asking for help, as well as how to balance school, work, sports, leadership roles and family time.

“I benefitted academically through advanced-level courses that surpassed the coursework of regular high school classes…I believe this program matured my mind in terms of balancing important information and adaptability and allowed me to use my skills to thrive academically,” said Gluth.

Starting his third year in high school and the program, Gluth started taking more classes at Terra State and fewer at his high school. During his last semester, he joined Phi Theta Kappa, Terra State’s honor society. He immediately took on a leadership role through PTK, serving as the public relations and community service officer. His responsibilities and experiences in PTK allowed Gluth to improve his teamwork and communication skills. At Fremont Ross, Gluth was involved in student council, Leaders Interact & Nurture Kids (LINK) and Fremont Rotary, where he was honored with the Fremont Exchange Club Male Student of the Year award in 2020. He was also a multi-sport athlete, competing in varsity football and wrestling. His leadership at Terra State and Fremont Ross led to Gluth receiving the student leadership award at Terra State’s Commencement.

“Even with the success I have had in my high school involvement, I was not fully satisfied…I decided to be involved with PTK during the pandemic as a way to continue aiding my community when people needed it most. I had not held a leadership role since the year before, and I felt a void that told me to step up and make a difference,” said Gluth. “By speaking my mind and working with other scholars, PTK’s positive influence led to an increase in my leadership skills.”

He will remember his time in Phi Theta Kappa as one of his fondest memories at Terra State, especially leading the challenge of creating and running PTK’s disc golf scramble, which raised over $300 for the Seneca County Council on Homelessness. Gluth also enjoyed holiday events on campus, so much so that he was an hour late to class one year after spending a bit too much time in the Halloween escape room.

Gluth advises students to stay connected and expand their network. College is a new atmosphere for many, so being involved in social groups allows students to create friendships, increasing the value of the college experience.

“Asking your professors questions in class and carrying a good attitude is a healthy way to be recognized by faculty and allows you to build connections for future career or leadership opportunities. Professors want to see you succeed, and building a positive bond is a great way to meet new people and make important connections,” said Gluth.

He advises Early College students to focus on the importance of time management and limiting leisure time. He remembers studying until 3 a.m. one Tuesday night, which set him two months ahead in his coursework.

“I sat back and laughed, as I realized I now had a whole day each week for two months to go goof off with friends,” said Gluth, “You don’t have to be as crazy as me. Take things week by week and create habits to retain information. However, just know that your schoolwork comes before playtime. Terra State and Fremont Ross have some great advisors that can help you get organized and stay on the path to success.”

Gluth graduated from Terra State with an Associate of Applied Science in manufacturing technology. His school success and leadership skills were rewarded, as he will graduate in June from Fremont Ross High School as the Class of 2021 valedictorian. In the fall, Gluth will continue his education at the University of Toledo in mechanical engineering technology. He was accepted into the Jesup Scott Honors College and will take part in UT’s co-op education. Gluth’s career goal is to design safer vehicle AI or manufacture medical prosthetics. He hopes to make an impact on the world and bring positive change to everyday life.

“Thanks to the Early College high school program and my education at Terra State Community College, I am certain that I am ready to take my next step and make an impact on this world,” said Gluth.