We reached out to two recent graduates and asked how Berea has impacted their lives. These are their responses. 

“Berea has given me opportunities that I never thought possible for a kid like me. I came from a small town in West Virginia, from a family who had barely left the state. With Berea, I was able to leave my comfort zone, learn amazing things and see a lot of the world.” 

Justin Vankirk in front of donor wall in MAC building
Justin Vankirk ’21
Photo by Desiree Dunn ’21

Justin Vankirk ’21—As an engineering technologies and applied design (ETAD) major, Justin interned in Australia with an organization that designs and builds new products to assist people with disabilities. He is now in graduate school studying mechanical engineering at West Virginia University. 

“A kid working as a cashier in a grocery store asked me how they could become a scientist. The cashier saw my NASA badge hanging around my neck that lets me into the government’s research building. The kid seemed to be where I was at 18, yearning for something better than a $7.25-per-hour job. They wanted to make a bigger impact and learn a skill that could give them a raise in pay. 

ETAD ranks as the 3rd most-awarded major among male students at Berea.

Photo by Gaston Jarju ’23

“I told them about Berea College and how I got a fantastic education due to its no-tuition promise. I said I was much like them when I was their age, working at a local Wendy’s in my small, rural town. I told them when I was at Berea, I was able to develop the scientific skills and relationships that put me on a pathway towards a brighter career in science. 

“I will always tell the people in my home state of Alabama about Berea because it is by far the best opportunity around when it comes to education. Coming from an area with less opportunity, Berea offered me a great promise: I would graduate debt free and receive a real chance to develop a skill set. Berea is valuable to many folks around my area because of the lack of income or savings that could help small-town kids get an education.” 

Corey Walker
Submitted by Corey Walker ’18

Corey Walker ’18—As an undergraduate, Corey did an internship with NASA. Now in graduate school at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, he is working as a graduate assistant with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). His goal is to use satellite data to help farmers predict drought with better volumetric soil moisture readings. • 

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