Army veteran Chris Shelby came to TCC following the advice of a Veterans Administration therapist. A major medical event left him totally debilitated for two years, leaving him to face “many challenges manifested in varying forms that included mental, physical and spiritual,” according to Chris. He said the VA therapist suggested that attending classes, being willing to learn new things, and engaging in campus socializing would be a safe therapeutic way to restart his life.
“By the time I wheelchaired onto the South Campus, I had already been through extensive surgeries, rehabilitations and therapies,” Chris remembers. “However, there remained overwhelming and crippling anxieties about being an older, disabled student that repeatedly kept me from taking that first step.”
It was in a group session at the VA Clinic that a fellow veteran recommended Chris seek help at the Veterans Resource Center at the South Campus. “During that first visit, I got the help I needed to take that next step,” he said. Chris credits the VA counselor, Student Accessibility Resources, and TCC staff for repeatedly helping him in taking the next step. Even with COVID presenting new and devastating challenges that threatened to derail his educational efforts, the TCC Care Team helped him stay in school and not lose ground.
During his military service, which was in the Vietnam Era, Chris learned about electricity and electronics, an area that interested him since childhood. The major Chris pursued at TCC was Electronics Technology – Robotics and Automation. He says this major was a “no-brainer.” For his studies, he chose to focus on the new generation of technology. He graduated with an A.A.S. with honors and three certificates with distinction. His certificates included Information Technology Support Technician, Electronics Technology and Mechatronics Technician.
Chris considers his greatest accomplishments so far to be beginning to learn to appreciate humility and understanding grace. “I am humbled by all the help, guidance, and encouragement I have received from a lot of wonderful people within the TCC family,” he said. Among the people he gives thanks for: Valerie Groll, VA counselor; Sophy George, department chair, Mechanical & Industrial Technology Department; Gwendolyn Morrison, Ph.D.; and Shannon Woods, both members of the TCC Board of Trustees, whom he credits with “being reachable, in touch and responsive.”
In addition, during the COVID pandemic, Chris worked as an assistant in the Robotics Lab with the department chair, who, at that time was John Bullard, a retired Air Force Major. Chris had valuable experience with Programmable Logic Controllers. He says working with young minds and other upper-graduate students was the highlight of his time at TCC.
Bullard went on to write about Chris and why he was nominated and awarded the 2020 Business and Technology Division Award for Excellence. “His presence in the PLC Lab was well known and appreciated by students and staff,” Bullard said. “Chris exhibited advanced knowledge in PLC setup, programming, training, and other skills I considered very beneficial.”
Additionally, Bullard called Chris “instrumental in the success of the first high school college class (PTech) enrolled in the PLC I course.” He went on to say, “Because of (Chris’s) efforts, the students that completed the class gained a solid basic introduction to ladder logic, PLC programming, electrical safety in the lab, using hand tools, and a measure of confidence and appreciation of learning something technical for the first time.”
His plans for post-graduation include completing an IT professional certification program, which he currently is attending at TCC Northwest, and completing three additional cyber certifications.
Chris would like to research opportunities for a veteran IT internship with TCC. “I would like to give back to this institution, while at the same time getting hands-on experience with the educational environment,” he said. “Ultimately, I would like to use this new lease on life to share my experiences and use my credentials to work within my greatest passion, which is helping others, hopefully in a learning environment, such as a school or work service training.”