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Local Marine Finds Career Pathway at NCC

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Brandon Lopez-Guzman

“My parents were just 20 years old when they moved here from Mexico,” Brandon Lopez-Guzman said. “I saw the sacrifices they made for my brother and me. Although they shielded us from many realities, it was not easy for them to leave their careers in Mexico to come here for a better life.”

A first-generation American, Lopez-Guzman grew up in Bunn, NC. “We weren’t well off. It was tough trying to navigate the language barrier as our family spoke English and Spanish in the same household. There was not a large Hispanic population where we lived, and even though people were very inclusive, we were outsiders and couldn’t relate to some things. There were a lot of social barriers.”

“Growing up, I found a love for fitness and life outdoors. I was unsure of what I wanted to do when I got older, but I knew I would be happy if it involved those two things. During my junior year in high school, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Infantry after seeing an intense transformation in my brother when he became a Marine.”

“It was an experience of a lifetime. I was surrounded by some of the greatest men and women to walk the earth. I visited Spain, South Korea, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and mainland Japan, and also got to fly over the Horn of Africa. I attended advanced courses that honed my tactical skills and leadership courses to strengthen my critical thinking.”

“In 2018 when my contract was nearing its end, I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make,” Lopez-Guzman said. “It was time to leave the Marine Corps and start my education. I moved back in with my parents and began the grueling process of figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I went from being an infantry squad leader of Marines to just a kid on the couch with a driver’s license. I hit a rough patch due to my loss of purpose in life.”

“Eventually one day it all clicked. Although I knew nothing about Nash Community College, something in me told me this was the college to attend,” he said. “I applied and also started looking for a job.”

Lopez-Guzman utilized his veteran benefits to attend NCC. As a 2022-2023 Military Friendly® School, NCC’s Veteran Affairs office works closely with military veterans, spouses and eligible dependents to ensure they achieve their educational goals.

While studying at Nash, Lopez-Guzman has also secured employment in the health and fitness field. “I immediately fell in love with Nash’s campus and my new job. The professors are outstanding; the resources are never-ending and the campus makes you feel at home.”

Unsure of the exact career path he wanted to pursue, Lopez-Guzman, a full-time student at NCC, took classes in the Physical Therapy Assistant and Associate in Science programs and completed Basic Law Enforcement Training. “As I was doing this, I also advanced in my career,” he said. “I was doing anything and everything I could do to make myself a better and more educated person. I felt a lot of pressure to do well in school. I wanted to take every opportunity to succeed in life so my parents’ hard work would not be in vain.”

Lopez-Guzman decided to pursue a career in physical therapy and is set to graduate with an Associate in Science degree at Nash this fall. After that, his goal is to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Exercise Physiology and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy at East Carolina University.

“I want to become the best version of myself while being in a career that serves others,” he said. “I love dreaming big and completing the process to reach my goals. While it can get difficult at times, nothing good in life comes easy.”

“I feel proud to be completing my degree at Nash Community College – a community of true professionals that hold high standards and take pride in everything they do,” Lopez-Guzman continued. “A community that has shown me acceptance, encouragement and trust. A community that places its students first and provides you with everything you could possibly need to be successful. A community that has blessed my life with a vital education and amazing friendships. A community that took me in 2019 when I was at an all-time low and has helped mold me into who I am now. A community that you want to be a part of. Dream big, and never give up. Iron sharpens iron.”

To learn more about NCC’s Veteran Affairs office, please visit nashcc.edu/va.