From the moment Pinaky Patel, ’19, returned to the United States at the age of 17, she had a dream of earning a degree in computer science. Almost 20 years later, that dream is a reality.
“There were times when it was hard juggling both school and home, but I always stayed focused on my goal,” said Pinaky. “I wanted to show my daughter that there is no such thing as ‘you can’t do it.’”
Pinaky was born in New Jersey but raised in India. She moved to North Carolina when she was 17 and enrolled in Guilford Tech Community College, where she earned an Associate of Science degree in computer programming in 2002.
Because of financial constraints, she wasn’t able to continue her education. In order to accomplish her goal of a four-year degree, Pinaky joined the Air Force, where she served for six years.
“I joined the military to pay for school. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to afford a four-year college, so I joined the military because I knew they would pay for it,” said Pinaky.
As a member of the United States Air Force, Pinaky served in Security Forces. Her role was part security and part law enforcement for the base. She also served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and United Arab Emirates.
After 11 years of being away from the classroom, Pinaky returned to school to work toward earning her bachelor’s degree. Meredith offered her the personalized attention she was looking for and a computer science curriculum like no other.
“I compared computer science programs and I liked the one at Meredith best. I wanted the small class sizes, the school was military friendly, and I fell in love with the campus,” said Pinaky. “Another reason I chose Meredith is because they accepted my Post 9/11 GI Bill. It was just a better fit for me.”
As a wife and mother, Pinaky was also attracted to Meredith’s Wings – Adult Education Program. She credits Tom Manning, director of Wings, for her success and for making her transition much easier.
“The Wings program is amazing. They make you feel at home from the very first day, and they are here to help with any problems that you may face,” said Pinaky. “Tom Manning was always available if you had questions or issues. He was always there. You could always count on his support.”
Aside from the Wings program, Pinaky found support from the Office of Career Planning (OCP). Going from military soldier to full-time student, Pinaky felt she needed the right tools to land a job in the “civilian world.” She attended information sessions, internship expos, and mock interviews.
“I used the OCP services to the fullest. Coming in as a returning student, my agenda was to get better at speaking, writing, and communicating in English. I knew those skills would give me confidence going into an interview. And that is what I learned from them. I learned about the interview process, how to network, and how to write a proper resume.”
All the time Pinaky put in with OCP paid off. After graduation she started her new role as an associate software engineer at Allscripts, a healthcare company.
“Attending Meredith College was the best step I ever took because it gave me the confidence I needed to enter the real world and made me a stronger woman,” said Pinaky. “After 17 years, I achieved my goal of getting my bachelor’s degree in computer science. It’s like a dream come true.”
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