From well pad to Washington

After losing job in oil and gas industry, veteran finds new opportunities at Fayette campus
Army veteran Daniel Sparks

After losing his job in the oil and gas industry, Army veteran Daniel Sparks has found new life — and a new calling — at Penn State Fayette.

Credit: Penn State

LEMONT FURNACE, Pa. — Army veteran Daniel Sparks was living the good life during the nation’s oil and gas boom but found himself laid off last November, with no prospects for work. The father of three felt that his leadership experience from the military would appeal to some employers, but he knew that his job prospects were diminished without a college degree.

Sparks’ wife, Ashleigh, suggested he check out Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, and after one visit, he knew it was the right school for him. Less than a year later, Sparks has blossomed into a full-fledged college student who is active on campus, in particular with the Student Veterans Association (SVA), of which he is president.

On a recent weekend, the former infantryman traveled to Washington, D.C., for a national SVA leader summit, where he learned about financial and other kinds of resources for veterans, including grants for the building or improvement of campus SVA offices. Representatives assisted Sparks and other attendees with creating business plans to obtain the funding.

Sparks said there was a great deal of discussion about how there seems to be a divide between veterans and civilians. “I think it’s time to bridge that divide,” he said, adding that he has plans to rewrite his SVA’s bylaws to give nonveteran members full membership, as well as to invite other organizations to partner on civic projects.

Sparks, a Uniontown resident who is working on his associate degree in business administration at the Fayette campus, is grateful for the opportunity to attend the SVA leader summit.

“Basically, what this did was give me some of the knowledge and better skills to push forward and make this a great club — not just for veterans but also for the school," said Sparks.

“I am trying to provide vets with something they haven’t had since they got out of the military, and that is someone who can help them with everything.”