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Military Veteran and Howard Community College Graduate Credits College for Success

profile shot of kenny diaz

When Kenny Diaz was a child, he would sit on his roof in Honduras and stare at the night sky.

“I’d look at the beautiful stars and I teach myself about astronomy,” he said. “When I was a kid, I said I can do this. I like to study this. I like to show it to people. This is what I love to do.”

A U.S. Navy veteran, Diaz graduated from Howard Community College (HCC) in the spring, with degrees in physics and mathematics. Now an astronomy undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), Diaz is getting closer to his ultimate goal – a PhD in astrophysics.

Proudly dressed in his military uniform, Diaz spoke at HCC’s 2015 Veteran’s Day Celebration, where he credited his experience at the college for his success.

“Howard Community College is by far one of the best military friendly colleges in the state of Maryland,” he said. “Howard Community College helped me to conquer my fears. Without the support and encouragement from the remarkable staff, I could not have done what I have achieved today.”

After he finished middle school, Diaz moved with his family to Maryland, where he attended private school. He signed up for the military after high school and served 12 years in the Navy and three combat deployments as part of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom missions. Diaz said he attempted furthering his education several times while in the military, but deployments stood in his way.  

Once he was out of the military, Diaz took a year to travel. In summer 2013, he was back in Maryland, focused, and ready to work toward a college degree.

“I Googled what the best community college for adult learning was in my area and Howard Community College came up,” he said. “It not only had 4.7 out of 5 stars, but was listed as one of the most friendly military colleges.”

Diaz said he enjoyed all the classes he took at HCC, especially geology, photography, calculus, and American history. He also served as president of the astronomy club. He now works part time at HCC’s Welcome Center while he completes his studies at UMD.

“I love working there because I meet so many people every day,” he said.

Diaz said he enjoys spending time at HCC. One of his favorite memories is the day he walked onto campus as a student for the first time.

“It felt good. I felt like I was going to do well here,” he said.

But his all-time best memory at HCC was speaking at the Veteran’s Day Celebration.

“For a veteran and student combined, that is the greatest memory,” he said. “I did my speech and when I finished it, everyone stood up for a standing ovation. I almost cried. I never felt that way before. My family was there. My friends were there. I feel so welcome at HCC.” 

Topics: Success Stories
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