The United States Marine Corps changed the course of Vincent Camarena’s life. Before enlisting in October of 2010, he was pretty much out of options. Camarena had been kicked out of high school for disciplinary reasons and didn’t have any role models in his life. “I never knew my dad and I didn’t have a solid mentor. I was missing a lot of structure and discipline. The Marines filled that void.”
Camarena spent five years serving his country. He was deployed twice and visited 10 different countries while working up to the rank of Sergeant. He also learned a lot about life. “The Marines made me a better person. They showed be the difference between right and wrong. The gave me a list of rules to live by and the mindset to accomplish my goals.”
When Camarena wasn’t training Marines for artillery combat he was taking advantage of his down time. He bought “Books for Dummies” and became his own teacher. “I had to catch up so I educated myself in the sciences and mathematics.”
After being honorably discharged in 2015 Camarena returned to Central New York and worked various jobs. In the summer of 2016 he decided to enroll at OCC. “When I started here, I experienced the ‘imposter phenomenon.’ It felt like I didn’t belong and wasn’t smart enough to be an engineer. I felt like everyone was ahead of me, knowledge wise. But then, the hardened warrior within me summoned the courage to carry on and push through my first semester. After a few semesters I became a better student. I was more confident and no longer feeling like the imposter. Yes, I recieved bad grades, but I learned a great deal from my mistakes and worked hard on my weaknesses.”
The days of the ‘imposter phenomenon’ are long gone. Camarena now carries an outstanding 3.75 grade point average and has been invited to join OCC’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. He’s achieved excellence while pursuing a very challenging major, Engineering Science. His attraction to the course work started when he was a Marine. “My job specialty was artillery. We used weapons that weighed nearly 5 tons and could shoot accurately within one meter from 24 miles away. These weapons are called Howitzers. I was observing them one day and wondered to myself ‘how are the Howitzer, the mortar, weapons, radios, cars and everything designed and built?’ So I did a great deal of research into many types of engineering and the school work that is required.”
During his time on campus Camarena has taken advantage of services provided in the Student Veterans office which is located on the second floor of Coulter Hall. The office is led by a fellow former Marine, Steve White. You can learn more about the Veterans’ office at this website.
Camarena will receive his degree in May. He plans to transfer and pursue a bachelor’s degree as he works toward one day earning his engineering license. As he looks back on where he was at the start of this decade, he offers advice for anyone in a similar situation. “There are two things that can make anything possible. First, you must believe it is possible and make it possible. Second, NEVER QUIT AND NEVER GIVE UP!”