Having the Opportunity
Rick DeLong never intended to go to college; instead, he thought it made more sense to go directly into the workforce and start making money. Working as a commercial automotive mechanic in rural West Virginia, all Rick saw was more and more symptoms but no solutions. “I realized I wanted to become part of the solution instead of continually just fixing the problem,” Rick stated. While working on aircraft, industrial and construction machinery, and commercial automotives during his tenure as a United States Marine, he saw several avenues for improvement.
Once Rick, 33, realized that his career goals had changed, he started school at Ashland Community & Technical College and soon transferred to the University of Kentucky to concentration on mechanical engineering. He and his wife, along with their four children, all under the age of 10, moved here two years ago and live on campus while he finishes up his classes.
While the transition has been hectic for him and his family, Rick is excited about the possibility of doing more. “Anyone can have the ability and skills, but it’s the opportunity that makes it work,” Rick states, “I realized I had the ability and skills to make a difference, but didn’t have the opportunity financially to make it work.” Fortunately, long-time donors, Stan and Karen Pigman, came through with the opportunity. “Along with my gracious wife and her support, I would have never been able to do this without them,” Rick said gratefully.
Rick has nothing but warm and inspiring words to say about Mr. and Mrs. Pigman. They have offered career advice, work-life skills, and educational support in addition to their generous financial donation. “They have not only helped me financially, but have also been excellent mentors and role-models during my tenure,” Rick states, “I think it is so important that the Pigmans have taken time out of their busy schedules to work with me and help me in ways I never imagined.”
Rick is combining his education and problem-solving experience by working at the machine shop on campus. He plans to continue this work by pursuing a quality assurance position within the automotive industry when he graduates in May 2012 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
Rick is living proof that a non-traditional student can positively manage a hectic work schedule. “I will go anywhere the good Lord sends me. I have a responsibility to do good with the opportunity that has been given to me,” Rick said. “I’m just glad to have this opportunity.”