Brandon Ball, a veteran of the U.S. Army, enrolled in college right out of high school, but put his academic journey on hold to help financially support his family after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After serving in the military for four years, Brandon applied to Pellissippi State after hearing about the good experience that his girlfriend, Kailea Davis, and her mother, Sandra Davis-Bullis, had during their time as students. “We were sitting in a restaurant eating, and Kailea was like, ‘Hey, let’s just apply now!’” Brandon remembers. “She helped me do the application process, and I was here taking classes soon after.” With his history as a medic in the Army, Brandon attended Pellissippi State planning to enter the medical field.
Returning to college caused Brandon hesitation at first, but his Pellissippi State team helped him each step of the way. “Coming back as a nontraditional student can be intimidating, but having my support system has been bar none — they’ve really helped so much,” Brandon says. Brandon was welcomed to Pellissippi State by former financial aid coordinator Sharon Roberts, who helped him get acclimated with fellow veteran students during his first semester, and Kelsy Fritts served as his advisor that put him on the pathway to get where he needed to go as fast as possible.
Brandon also joined Pellissippi State’s Student Employment Project to help him stay financially stable as a student, working at the Magnolia Avenue and Division Street campuses. “Terry Lund and Dean (Esther) Dyer at Division Street are amazing, Ms. Patti (Rogers) and Dean (Stella) Bridgeman at Magnolia Avenue have been so great, and working with those types of people really pushed me towards success,” Brandon says. He also had strong faculty support from instructors such as Reza Basiri, associate professor of Mathematics, “who has always pushed me and checked on my grades since my very first semester, and Reza was also at commencement to watch me graduate,” Brandon notes.
Originally, Brandon’s plan was to become a physician assistant after observing their work in the Army, but he has since set his plans higher. “Kailea was like, ‘You’re doing really awesome, your grades are really good, so why not just go for an MD and be a full-fledged doctor?'” Brandon explains. “That’s what I’ve decided to do. I’m going to stay focused, I’m going to go to UT and apply for med school, and my goal is to become a family medicine doctor. Helping someone’s quality of life is really important to me.”
Before he crossed the stage at Pellissippi State’s fall Commencement Ceremony last week, Brandon offered his advice to his fellow nontraditional students: “Don’t be afraid, don’t give up, and it’s never too late. Set your mind to something, and you can accomplish anything.”
— Story and photo by Jessie Tipton, visual media coordinator for Pellissippi State