Former Peace Corps Volunteer Wins KVCC Wind Turbine Tech Scholarship

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KALAMAZOO — Former Peace Corps volunteer Nolan Brooke is the recipient of this year’s Stoner/Schmiege Wind Turbine Technician Academy Scholarship at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

To be eligible for the $7,500 scholarship, applicants were required to be enrolled in the WTTA program, demonstrate a need for financial assistance, and show motivation, dedication and commitment to the program.  A short essay about drive, obstacles, and challenges was also required.

Brooke, 24, is a student in the current WTTA class.

After college, the Seattle native worked in the energy management field before joining the Peace Corps. He served as an English teacher in South America for five months before a diving accident left him nearly paralyzed. After his medical separation from the organization, he spent a year in Charlotte, N.C., to be near family while undergoing physical therapy. Then, while on a cross country drive last summer, he was suddenly inspired by the sight of wind turbines spread out across the Great Plains.

“Seeing these beautiful machines stretched out as far as the eye can see instantly piqued my interest,” Brooke said. “I was fascinated and inspired; it took me all of about 10 minutes to realize I wanted to work in the wind industry.”

He began to research training options.

“I started doing random searches on the internet, and every search seemed to lead me back to Kalamazoo Valley,” Brooke said. Soon after finding KVCC, he decided to apply. “I was overjoyed when I was accepted into the program. I immediately called my family to let them know what I’d be doing. They had been supportive of this endeavor from the start, so they were equally thrilled.”

“His conviction of purpose and technical skills will help Nolan make a real impact in the wind industry. I am proud that Nolan chose the Wind Turbine Technician Academy to further his career,” said Cindy Buckley, executive director of training.  “He possesses all the character traits, skill set and experiences that we look for in our application process.  The program is grateful to the Stoner and Schmiege families for the opportunity to support Nolan’s financial needs.”

Brooke will be among the students who will graduate from the program on June 21, 2013. He and his fellow WTTA students are nearly halfway through the 24-week-long Academy.

“It’s incredibly fast paced and intense,” Brooke said. “The instructors put us to the test every day.”

One day of instruction in the course has been compared to a full week of classes in a typical college course.

“I like the challenge,” Brooke said. “It’s stressful, exciting, sleep-depriving, and fulfilling all at the same time.”

Brooke was overwhelmed when he received the Stoner/Schmiege scholarship.

“It took my breath away for a minute or two,” he said. “I felt a heavy burden was instantly lifted. This money will allow me to pay off the rest of my tuition as well as keep myself afloat financially while I work through the academy. I cannot thank the donors enough for their incredible generosity.”

Brooke admits that his life would have been dramatically different if he had stayed in the Peace Corps.

“Not having my accident would have kept my life going in a completely different direction.  And while I don’t know where that direction would’ve led me, I know that I’m grateful to be where I am now,” he said. “I’m excited to be a part of the wind industry, and I feel motivated now more than ever before to succeed in this academy and in this career.”

More at www.kvcc.edu.

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