Graduate Spotlight - Veterans

Veterans benefits ease transition

Katie GreerKatie Greer served in the U.S. Coast Guard for four years. Returning home in 2007, she decided her career should involve service of a different kind, so she used her veterans benefits to complete the nursing program at Greenville Technical College and went to work as a psychiatric nurse for Marshal Pickens. Now she’s returned to college once again, planning to use post 9/11 funds to complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Clemson University. At Greenville Technical College, she enjoyed the advantage of extensive hands-on experience and the knowledge that her benefits provided the support she needed to succeed. “As a veteran, I didn’t have to worry about paying tuition, plus I received a monthly housing allowance,” she said. “These two things helped alleviate financial stress so I was able to focus on my studies.”

Manufacturing Career Path Pays Off

Reuben DurenReuben Duren entered the manufacturing field in July, a milestone marking the end of a long journey and the beginning of a new chapter. Duren graduated from Travelers Rest High School in 1999. Unsure of what he wanted to do, he worked construction jobs for several years and got involved in wiring work at a local factory. The automated machines he worked with interested him, so Duren went to Greenville Technical College and took an aptitude test, which indicated potential for engineering careers.

By 2001, Duren had enrolled at Greenville Technical College, eventually landing in the Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) program. But even though he had found the right educational path, it would be some time before he came to the end of it because he joined the South Carolina Army National Guard, service that led to several interruptions in his academic career. As he neared graduation, he was deployed for 15 months. Part of his MET senior project was completed in Afghanistan and presented for a final grade when he returned home.

After Greenville Technical College, Duren enrolled at USC Upstate, transferring all of his MET credits into a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Technology Management. Finishing that degree in 2010, he found a soft job market and limited opportunities for new graduates, so he went back to the military, completing training for helicopter pilots. When he returned to the Upstate in May 2013, the economy had improved and he once again looked for an opportunity to use his education in a manufacturing environment.

This time, his perseverance paid off, and he began work in July at Associated Fuel Pump Systems Corporation (AFCO) in Anderson, a joint venture between Robert Bosch GmbH and DENSO producing automotive products and high pressure, turbine type, electric fuel pumps. He serves as a paid intern, working 40 hours a week. The position is expected to last seven months, and Duren hopes that it will lead to a permanent job with the company.

As an intern, Duren is being exposed to process improvement and waste reduction in the manufacturing process along with managing the efficiency of the people who put their hands on the parts. It’s an opportunity to put his education to work while learning more. “I’m enjoying the job,” Duren said. “The factory is a clean environment and everyone is very professional in the way they operate.”

Duren said his college experience did more than deliver textbook learning; it prepared him for the real world. “The knowledge of the instructors at Greenville Technical College was really good. They strive to make you think and to put yourself in the manufacturing industry mindset as you complete your classroom projects,” he said.

Duren’s path from aptitude inventory to career goal took more than a decade. But the payoff has been worth it. “Getting this job felt really good,” he said. “My first day of work was a very happy day.”

Student awarded Bronze Star

vet-Ric SebastianRicardo Sebastian, a student at Greenville Technical College, was awarded a Bronze Star for heroic action in combat operations while serving in Afghanistan.

Sebastian, a member of the Marine Corps in Special Operations, enrolled in Greenville Technical College's University Transfer program after his service, with plans to transfer to USC Upstate and major in Nursing.

His award reads in part: "Gunnery Sergeant Sebastian's exemplary performance, selfless willingness to place himself in great peril over the course of 45 direct fire and indirect fire engagements, and uncanny ability to provide order to chaotic situations served as a catalyst for the team's ability to establish a village stability operations site in an austere environment devoid of any previous long-term coalition force presence."

The award concludes: "By his extraordinary guidance, zealous initiative, and total dedication to duty, Gunnery Sergeant Sebastian reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and United States Naval Service."