Nearly a decade after graduating high school, Aaron Darnell decided he wanted to be a physician’s assistant, but the path to reaching that goal hasn’t been easy, and he feels like he still has a long way to go.
“After taking two semesters at St. Louis Community College, I still had no idea what I wanted to do,” Aaron said, “so I decided to join the Navy.”
Soon after, he enrolled in the Naval Hospital Corps School to be a corpsman, or as Aaron called it, “a Navy medic.” Following his training, Aaron was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, for four years.
In an unusual twist, Aaron decided to try a different branch of the military after his tour with the Navy was complete. He joined the Air Forces and did his seasonal training and clinicals in Texas and Florida.
“I figured the most knowledge I can gain is through experience,” Aaron said. “Plus the Air Force pays for part of my tuition at SCC.”
The educational assistance program administered by the Department of Veteran Affairs at SCC made the transition to college a smooth one.
“The Veteran Affairs representative has been really easy to work with,” Aaron said. “He always has the answers, and if he doesn’t, he’ll find them for you. He takes care of everything.”
Since the Air Force only covers a portion of Aaron’s tuition, he appreciates SCC’s affordable tuition. “It’s close to home and it’s newer than most of the other universities around here,” he said. “I really like how the whole college is set up.”
Aaron is juggling roles as an Air Force reservist and an SCC student while he works full time at St. Mary’s Health Center as an emergency room tech. “I’m attracted to the medical field,” he said. “I get to help a lot of people, and I’m appreciated for what I do.”
After graduating from SCC, he plans to transfer to the University of Missouri-St. Louis to get his bachelor’s degree and then enroll in the physician assistant program at St. Louis University. The path may be long, as he said, but his passion for helping people has remained constant.
Updated: Feb. 8, 2011.