“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I just picked a major. Once I got into the workforce, I knew pretty quickly that I made the wrong choice,” Lenda said.
Lenda came to Tidewater Community College to find a new direction.
“Everything I was interested in had engineering in the job title, so I took a leap of faith, quit my full-time lab tech position and started on this new path,” he said. “My parents and my girlfriend were a great support.”
Lenda chose TCC because the college was affordable and he had accrued major student debt. His transfer credits enabled him to complete the two-year Associate of Science in Engineering in just three semesters.
“It’s never too late to figure out what you want to do, and then go get it,” said Lenda, who graduated in May 2016. “I had five years of school and five years of work before I found my passion.”
While at the college, Lenda was accepted to the prestigious Newport News Shipbuilding Apprentice School’s Professional Development Program.
As a marine engineer apprentice, Lenda will receive hands-on engineering experience in the manufacturing, construction, maintenance and overhaul of some of the most complex ships in the world, while earning a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering at Old Dominion University.
Marine engineer apprentices are full-time employees of Newport News Shipbuilding. Time spent in academic classes is part of an apprentice’s paid work week, resulting in a unique, specialized combination of on-the-job-training and related academic instruction.
“It’s an honor to be selected to join this very competitive program and I’m thankful for the people who have helped me along the way,” Lenda said.
Lenda credits engineering professors Bill Simmons and Steve Ezzell, along with calculus instructor Kenneth Jones for his success in the classroom. He said the real-world experiences they brought to the lectures and lab work made all of the difference.
“The class sizes were similar to what I was used to, but I had the opportunity to interact with my TCC professors at a different level,” he said.
At TCC, Lenda was president of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Club and participated in the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) model design competition in the robotics division.
“Being involved in this competition taught me team building, budgeting, project development and social skills and was a highlight to share during the Apprentice School interviews,” he said. “I believe that putting that knowledge to use helped me land this amazing opportunity.”