by Kelly Hahn
Mechanical engineering junior Chris Young stands out.
He stands out because of his height. At 6’3, he’s hard to miss, wherever he is. You don’t want to sit behind him in a lecture hall.
He stands out because of his experience. That might seem like a nice way to put “age,” but experience is more palpable than age. Thirty-nine, Chris exudes experience. It’s no wonder his fellow classmates seek his perspective on current events.
He stands out because of his presence. Although medically retired from the U.S. Army after 18 years and four combat tours, Chris still carries himself like a soldier.
“Combat engineer,” he says proudly. “Blew stuff up for living. Best job in the world.”
You get the sense that if he were it his choice, Chris would still be serving his country via the best job in the world.
He stands out because everyone knows it would be easier for him to stay home. A husband and a father of five with three kids in high school, Chris always has much more occupying his mind than fluid dynamics. On the 75-minute drive from his home in Hopkinsville to Paducah, he thinks through upcoming assignments. On the way home, he replays that day’s lectures through his stereo.
Peers who complain about not having enough time should not look to Chris for a sympathetic ear.
He stands out because he keeps finding ways to grow. While in community college, Chris worked with a team that launched high-altitude balloons during the Great American Solar Eclipse in August 2017. He visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. California. Chris has an internship this summer with GE Aviation in Madisonville, and he wants to pursue an aerospace certificate.
“Growing up I always thought that people who worked for NASA had three Ph.D.s and I would never work somewhere like that,” he says. “But since I’ve been exposed to aerospace in school, I’ve gotten to do a lot with NASA.”
He stands out because 39-year old married fathers of five coming off 18 years of military service and who live 75-minutes away seldom ever think of going back to school.
“As a non-traditional student, I always knew it was going to be extremely difficult for me to come back to school. I never thought I was going to be smart enough to do it,” Chris remembers. “But everybody here has been very welcoming and has gone out of their way to help me. There is always somebody to help or point me in the right direction for an answer. It's absolutely amazing. I can’t see any reason why anyone couldn’t complete a degree here.”
He stands out because he represents what UK Paducah is all about.