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Lorain community college helping veterans thrive through support, camaraderie

Posted at 6:31 PM, Nov 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-11 18:54:47-05

ELYRIA — He served his country for almost a decade, bouncing from place to place across the world’s vast corners. However, because of the support in his native county, a Navy veteran was able to finish a mission he started four decades ago.

Morris King Sr. recently graduated from Lorain County Community College with an associate’s degree in applied electronics. For the 62-year-old former Navy radioman, his commencement was a mission accomplished after a mission delayed.

“I wanted to finish what I started 40 years ago,” King said. “The idea of me sitting at home and watching Netflix all day, that’s not going to work. I’ve seen too much in the world that there is so much for you to do.”

After his self-described immaturity led to him drop out of technical school, King enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He spent the next nine years aboard three different ships, visiting more than a dozen countries. All the while, King gained a perspective that only those who have served their country can truly understand and appreciate.

“With all the issues that we have this is the best country in the world. I’ve seen it with my own eyes,” King said.

His career in the armed services was a success. Transitioning out of a life with rigid schedules, however, wasn’t as easy. After he left the Navy in 1988, King said he bounced around from job to job as he struggled to make the switch. Eventually, he landed a job at the United States Postal Service, which is where he would remain for more than two decades. King was a supervisor when he retired in 2012.

At age 56, King retired from USPS. He had lived an accomplished and distinguished professional life. However, he said he simply wanted more. And not just for him.

“I have a 17-year-old son. I try to stress to him how important education is,” King said. “For me to tell him how important education is, I didn’t want to find myself in a situation one day when he asks me, ‘Dad, where’s your degree?’ I’m going to do this for myself but I’m also going to this for my son so he can see the nights that I didn’t get any sleep, he can see the hard work but also see the reward on the other side.”

In 2016, King enrolled at LCCC, beginning the difficult process of being a non-traditional student. With the help of his professors and academic advisers at LCCC’s Veteran Services department, King was able graduate in May with his associate’s degree in applied electronics. He had also made the dean’s list.

“You’re never too old to be a rock star. Come into the office and take the first step: that’s what you need to do and you have every single one of us, every veteran in here, to support you,” said Esperanza Correa, a career and academic adviser at LCCC’s Veteran Services department.

The department is staffed entirely by veterans, including Correa, who served eight years in the Navy aboard the USS Nimitz.

“What I loved about it was the camaraderie,” Correa said. “That camaraderie, I felt that here. It was worth coming to school every single day to have that again.”

After eight years, Correa unexpectedly left the Navy in order to tend after her mother who had been diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. Her mother’s diagnosis made the difficult transition to civilian life even more challenging.

“That transition is one of the worst feelings in the world, feeling alone. You get really low,” Correa said. “What you need is another veteran.”

At the urging over her father, Correa enrolled at LCCC to get her associate’s degree. Little did she know, she found her life’s calling in the process. The passion she has for being an academic adviser dealing with veterans is matched only by her passion for the Navy.

“You have a home here. Everybody that works in this office is a veteran, whether it’s Navy, Coast Guard, National Guard, Marines, Air Force. We’re all here,” Correa said. “I don’t care who you are, I just want you to succeed.”