Last year at this time, Panna K. was enjoying the last days of summer. He had finished high school and was getting ready for his next big step: higher education. But Panna wasn’t going on to a university like some of his classmates. He chose an alternative. Here’s his story in his own words…

One month after graduating from high school, I found JEVS’ Orleans Technical College, and one month after graduating from Orleans Tech, I had a job doing real electrical work, making real money.

Call it cold feet…or second guessing myself…or just plain old being scared. Whatever it was, last June I found myself suddenly unsure of the future of which I had previously been so sure. It was two weeks before graduation at the Philadelphia Military Academy. My sure-fire plan had been to get my diploma, enlist in the Marines—a viable option to the college education I couldn’t afford—and ride that path to a great future. But something caused me to reconsider, and when I did I was overtaken by the attitude that I’ll only ever live once. I considered the reality that if I joined the Marines, I’d start off in infantry—one of the most dangerous places to be—and I thought of my family. The decision I made would not only determine if I live a life that made me truly happy and fulfilled, but if I would maybe live at all.

So, there I was, at a crossroads and not seeing a best option for myself now. At least not one that I could afford and that would take me toward that fulfilling life. But then—again call it fate, luck or whatever you will—a friend introduced me to Orleans Technical College. I took a test, I took a tour, and there I was. Suddenly, not only did I have an option I never knew existed, but that one option could open up a ton of other options and opportunities for me in terms of a real, respectable career that would support me through life and make me happy, too.

My first mission was to focus in on exactly which trade I wanted to pursue. Something clicked with me and the idea of working in the residential and commercial electricity field. Plus, I did my homework and discovered that there are a lot of jobs out there in this line of work—good paying jobs that I could turn into a fantastic living. I also saw how having these skills could make me an asset to my family and friends. Within one month of graduating high school, I was enrolled in Orleans Tech’s Residential and Commercial Electricity program. Moreover, thanks to the dedication of the school’s financial services department, I was supported by scholarships and grants that cut my tuition in half, and the job Orleans helped me to secure has me close to paying off the tuition already.

But it wasn’t just the knowledge and skills that I gained that brought me to where I am today. It was also the partnerships Orleans forms with area employers so that their students have a head start in finding jobs without a long job search or wait. They helped me to connect with one of these partners, who offered me a job, which I eagerly accepted. I helped to do wiring for heating and cooling systems in temporary homes set up for people whose communities have been destroyed by natural disasters. I received a raise within a month, learned a lot, and now I’m working as an electrical contractor on a 3-year apprenticeship program. My family is even making out great, because I’m constantly fixing and upgrading the electric at home.

As for what’s next, well, as I said, Orleans Tech and my employers have given me so many more options than I ever imagined. I plan to continue expanding my skill set along the way and keep bettering myself as an employable electrician. I’m in a great place, I have plenty of room for growth, and my future looks wonderful. None of this would have happened without JEVS’ Orleans Technical College.

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