In this edition of Alumni Spotlight, LaTonya Pope Rawlings, JL class of ‘95, tells us about her career, family and the lasting impacts JL made in her life.
Climb!: When were you a Climber? What have you been up to since you graduated?
LaTonya: I was a climber from 1992 to 1995. After that I went on to Christopher Newport University for a year then took a break, started working, had a child, and went back into the workforce in 2008 in the Norfolk Naval Shipyard Apprenticeship Program. It’s a four-year program where you have the opportunity to obtain an Associate’s Degree while you work in your trade. I worked there for four years and graduated the apprenticeship. Immediately upon graduating I was promoted to work leader. I stayed in that role for about three months and was promoted again to supervisor. I did that for a few years. It was a bit of a challenge to be in charge of such a large crew, but I liked that challenge. That experience helped me to obtain the position I’m in now: engineering technician. I’m currently the subject matter expert for MP, or magnetic particle testing. As such, I instruct initial certification classes for other apprentices and inspectors, I write procedures and revise nuclear power manuals.
C: Thank you for sharing! Can you tell the readers a bit about your family?
L: My husband’s name is Robert. He works at Newport News Shipyard – the funny thing is that he is also a former JL climber! We were the original class of Climbers. We lost touch over the years but when Facebook became more popular, we found and befriended each other on Facebook. We started dating in 2009 and got married in 2014. So I wouldn’t have met my husband if it weren’t for Jacob’s Ladder! I have an 11-year- old daughter named Tanasia. She’s starting middle school next year. We’re so proud of her—we found out on her last day of school that she was accepted into three honors classes next year so we’re really excited about that!
C: Tell Tanasia we said congratulations! What was it like for you returning for the 25th anniversary celebration?
L: It was so great. It was emotional. I loved seeing Mr. and Mrs. Hall again. They look the exact same (laughs)! I really enjoyed that because I got to tell them thank you and how much I’ve appreciated all they’ve done for me. It was especially nice having my daughter there so that she could meet those two people who are special in Robert’s and my life. And then running into everyone and seeing everyone and catching up—it was great.
C: Have you kept in touch with your fellow Climbers over the years?
L: We’re all friends on Facebook. We know about each other’s lives, we congratulate each other on accomplishments, we know all of each other’s kids’ names. [Jacob’s Ladder] builds friendships for life, it really does.
C: What are some of your biggest takeaways from your time at JL?
L: I can remember learning how to write and speak Chinese, learning that culture; I remember canoeing on the lake. These are things that if not for JL I would never have been exposed to. We went hiking, I learned how to swim there; I used to be afraid of the water but it turns out I learned to swim. We learned how to work in groups and problem-solve. One other thing that I took away from JL: All those experiences I was exposed to, Robert and I, we’re giving them to our daughter. We’re doing some of those same things: hiking, canoeing, exposing her to different cultures so that she experiences that at a young age like we did.