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Moraine Park Technical College has been placing special emphasis on students who have served or are currently serving our country, proclaiming its 2016-17 academic year our “Year of the Student Veteran.”

During this special year, with our student awards banquet upcoming, we’ve added a special award to our traditional lineup of offerings: a “Student Veteran of the Year” award.

Taking home this prestigious honor this year is a deserving individual named Carla Stephany, an engineering student at Moraine Park who served in the United States Air Force. She’s an ambitious, hard-working and inspiring woman, and we’re very excited to present her with this award.

In her own words, this is Carla’s background, what brought her to Moraine Park, and what her plans for the future are:

Tell us a little about yourself:

I was born and raised in Calumetville Wisconsin – northeast of Fond du Lac.  I attended New Holstein High School, graduated and attended Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, where I graduated in 1999 with a bachelor’s of Arts in social work. From there, I worked, got married and shortly thereafter got accepted into the UW-Madison MSSW program, where I graduated in 2004.

I went straight onto active duty upon graduation and started my Air Force Career July of 2004 as a Lieutenant in the USAF working as an LCSW managing domestic violence/child abuse/outpatient mental health patients.

I put in 10 years on active duty where I requested discharge for family purposes.

I stayed in Colorado to get my oldest through elementary school and started on a path of shifting careers, where, eventually in Dec 2015, Riveter Enterprises (Construction and Engineering) organized. Around that same time, it was becoming more and more clear I needed to move home to help out with my mom and for my kids to be closer to family.  By August of 2016, I was able to muster a leadership team together, pack up the kids and house to head back to Midwestern roots.

Why you chose to come to Moraine Park?

Well, it seemed a natural fit given the program I was interested in and proximity. Once I made contact, Steve Pepper was instrumental in the application process, VA benefit and answering all the questions that came with going back to school as an NTO (non-traditional occupation) student.

What program/field of study, and why?

I have always been interested in construction and I always admired engineers.  When I was encouraged to do a Tech program, I was excited to build things, design things, start with a blank piece of paper and create something.  This was a huge step when for so many decades I truly believed I wasn’t equipped to be technical.  I came into this program with an attitude of can do vs. can’t do.

What are your career goals?

To launch Riveter Construction and Engineering – not just to build, but to make a difference.  I want to be reputable, integrity based company, with matched quality. I also think I’m going to be an industry agitator taking my problem solving, social work skills to help bridge the trades/skills gap that is quickly approaching.

I’m also passionate about helping women to get more involved in the trades like the Rosie’s did In WWII and am hopeful to partner a nation-wide non-profit in these efforts.  I’m not in this to make money, but my kids haven’t been to Disney World yet … that’s my financial goal.

What are your thoughts on receiving this honor?

One of the Air Force core values is service before self. Sometimes this translates and, honestly, I don’t feel like I’m much different than any other veteran, community-involved student.

I tell folks it was an honor to serve, for those who wanted to, but couldn’t.

To blaze a trail in helping increase the number of women serving honorably.  To be part of something greater than yourself.  So receiving this honor is humbling.  I’m never in this to get recognized for any of it … and I told myself “fly under the radar Carla.” But being nominated and voted for doing good things and being recognized as a patriot who served is just an unbelievable compliment. Fuel for those tough days.

For more information on Moraine Park’s veterans services, visit morainepark.edu/veterans.

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Andrew Pantzlaff
Written by Andrew Pantzlaff
Public Relations Specialist. Lover of pizza.