PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- February 26, 2001 -- East Providence firefighter Gary Jenkins is in hot pursuit of a chemical engineering degree from the University of Rhode Island.
"I've always known that I wanted to be an engineer," says the 33-year-old student who takes two or three courses a semester at URI's Alan Shawn Feinstein College of Continuing Education in Providence. "I earned good grades in high school, but I was laid back and never pursued the numerous opportunities afforded to me."
"Now, when it's harder to make it happen, my unyielding persistence, along with the support of family, friends, and an outstanding URI staff [too many wonderful people to name] my confidence to succeed is assured," says the honor student who enrolled in classes at URI's ASF-CCE in 1992, fresh out of the Navy.
In addition to fighting fires and saving East Providence residents as a cardiac EMT, Jenkins earns money where he can find it -- repairing office equipment, moving furniture, or some house painting.
He calls the scholarship help he has received from the college "a blessing." Jenkins is the recipient of the John Shepard II Memorial Scholarship, the Feinstein Scholarship, the Anna and Gregory Demetrakas Scholarship, and the Harold Stanzler Memorial Scholarship.
Jenkins estimates it will take him another six years to earn his degree. "I'd love to get it quicker, but the sacrifice would be too great. Family time is the most important time of all," says the husband of Lisa Scorpio-Jenkins and father of 9-year-old Olivia and 4-year-old Miels.
The URI student volunteers lunch duty every week at Olivia's school and coaches her soccer and basketball teams. He chaperones his son's field trips and makes sure to sit with him to watch his favorite TV show "Batman."
Jenkins hopes to someday make a career contribution to the world. It's too early to know exactly what that will be. Helping to solve the nuclear waste problem is a reoccurring thought. "I would like to join the team of people already hard at work on it," he says.