When Ted Maitlen thought about his future, he did not picture himself on a college campus.
“I never thought school was for me,” he said. “I didn’t do well in high school. I never really saw college as an option.”
Maitlen has turned that image on its head at Pellissippi State Community College.
As a top student in Engineering Technology’s Industrial Maintenance concentration, the 29-year-old just completed the academic year with support from the prestigious Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship.
The scholarship provided $2,000 for tuition and fees. Upon graduation this fall, Maitlen also will receive a customized Westward toolkit worth $2,500 from the company, a leading supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products.
Maitlen began classes at Pellissippi State fall 2011. Prior to college, he served three years in the Army before being discharged and returning to East Tennessee. When he reenlisted six months later, he was deployed to Iraq, where his unit provided security for high-level officials, including U.N. inspectors present for the country’s first election.
Back at home, though, the recession took a toll on Maitlen’s civilian career. His employer cut jobs, and his position as a crane operator was eliminated. He struggled to find work and eventually decided to give college a try.
Maitlen started by visiting Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus and picking up some information about Industrial Maintenance. He also met with Pat Riddle, the concentration’s coordinator and a faculty member. Once Maitlen made the commitment to enroll, he has worked steadily toward a degree.
Part of his motivation rests in securing a better career with a good company. Even more powerful, he says, is his desire to provide a more secure future for his family.
A husband and the father of two, Maitlen attends class in the day, doing homework in between and in the evening. He also helps his 5-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter with their homework.
“There’s not much I’m more proud of than those two,” he said.
Riddle recommended Maitlen for the Grainger Tools for Tomorrow scholarship. He described the student as a hard worker, a self-starter, someone willing to help his classmates.
But when asked about the recommendation, Riddle mentioned first a modification Maitlen made to a Humvee in Baghdad that made his team’s patrols safer. According to Riddle, Maitlen figured out a way to cool the fuel solenoid by rerouting the windshield washer fluid.
“This allowed us to stop and restart our vehicle without having to get out and lift the hood (a two-man job) to pour water over the solenoid in order to cool it,” Maitlen said.
Pretty impressive considering that Maitlen was not technically even the unit’s mechanic.
“That kind of quick thinking and problem solving, that’s almost at an instinctual level with him. It’s one of the things that impress me about Ted,” Riddle said.
Maitlen is the fourth Pellissippi State student to earn a Grainger scholarship and one of 100 nationally to receive it for the past academic year. The scholarships are coordinated by the Pellissippi State Foundation.