Ozarks Technical Community College announced Sergeant Penny Kimball as this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Student Veteran Award during the college’s annual Veterans Day ceremony, held Monday, Nov. 12.
Sgt. Kimball served in the United States Army from 1998-2008. A combat veteran with a parachutist certification, her military awards include four Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, and numerous other personal awards and unit honors.
Sgt. Kimball is a practical nursing student at OTC. She is also an active member of the college’s Student Veterans Organization. OTC Trustee J. Howard Fisk commended her campus and community involvement during the ceremony.
“Throughout her time at OTC, Sgt. Kimball has supported numerous community service initiatives,” he said. “She is viewed as a trusted friend and stalwart presence among many OTC student veterans.”
In addition to her involvement with OTC’s Student Veterans Organization, Sgt. Kimball has also served as a strong advocate for the college’s Veterans Upward Bound program.
Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) is a college-readiness program that provides advising, academic support, financial aid guidance and veterans’ benefits counseling to participants – all for free. Funding for the program is provided by a $1.3 million Federal TRIO Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
The college plans to serve more than 100 veterans each year over the life of the five-year grant.
“It’s an awesome resource – I wish more vets knew about it,” Sgt. Kimball said. “I can’t tell you how much it helps to work with like-minded people who understand who we are and where we’re coming from.”
Sgt. Kimball was already a student at OTC when the VUB program began last fall, but she was eager to help the staff recruit local veterans in need of their services. At her suggestion, the VUB program hired U.S. Army veteran Alex Simpson as a tutor to support students with their assignments, research papers and even scholarship application essays.
“Mr. Simpson has been an amazing tutor, and all of the VUB staff care about our success in school,” Sgt. Kimball said. “It’s so important for us to have a good support system.”
When reflecting on her time at OTC, Sgt. Kimball recalled how intimidated she felt going to college after wrapping up her service in the military. She credits one of her instructors, Dr. Sherry Taylor, dean of Allied Health, for giving her the encouragement needed to pursue her practical nursing certificate.
“I would not be halfway through the LPN program if it wasn’t for instructors like Dr. Taylor,” Sgt. Kimball said. “She’s the one who helped me to take that first step.”
Sgt. Kimball will graduate in December with her practical nursing certificate. She says she considers herself to be a fairly reserved person, but her journey through nursing school has been nothing short of emotional.
“I’ve never been an academically minded person, but I’ve always worked hard,” she explained. “When I was in the military, I served two tours in Iraq. I jumped out of planes. I completed truck driving school and EMT school. But this whole nursing school thing, I’ve never pushed myself this hard, and I’ve never been more proud.”
About Veterans Upward Bound
Veterans Upward Bound is a federally funded grant program designed to help veterans navigate the college environment. The following services are free to eligible participants:
- Tutoring and instruction in reading, writing, math, science and other subjects
- Veteran educational benefits
- How to pay for college with other forms of financial aid and scholarships
- Career exploration and counseling
- Academic advising
- College placement test exam preparation
- Campus visits to other colleges
- Cultural activities
- Other referrals
If you or someone you know would benefit from the free services provided by Veterans Upward Bound, visit otc.edu/vub or call (417) 447-7840.