Tag Archives: veterans

Racing Toward a Bright Future

Parkland graduate Kyle Bemount is going places, FAST! Bemount, who earned his associate’s degree in Industrial Technology in 2011, is making a name for himself, both in racing circles and through the efforts of his business, Bemount Performance. I recently caught up with him and we talked about his experiences at Parkland, including his role as a part-time instructor, in addition to his ventures outside of school.

 

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T: What did you study at Parkland?
K: I originally enrolled in the Industrial Technology program at Parkland in the fall of 2008, right after I got out of the Marine Corps. I wanted to do welding and fabricating and that sort of thing. I had some hands-on experience and liked it, so I wanted to further educate myself.

T:  Thank you for your service! Where did your degree in Industrial Technology lead you?
K: While I was earning that degree, I also worked pretty much full time at my stepdad’s shop, painting and fabricating. When I graduated, I used the tools I learned and kept heading in that direction. I had never really given motorsports a chance to reach out and grab me. Then, Parkland built the new facility, and I was here for a car show and thought maybe it was worth checking out. I scheduled a meeting with Jon (Ross, director of the automotive program) and he gave me all the information I needed. I liked what he had to say, so I decided to try for another degree in Automotive Motorsport technology.

T: Where did your interests outside of Parkland take you?
K: I finished the motorsport classes, and it was a year ago, almost to the day, that I made the decision to open my own business. I do have a passion for working on cars and making them go faster, and working on FRIENDS’ cars especially is what has led me to this! Last October, I moved to a shop in Champaign, at 4102 Colleen Drive off of Staley Road.

T: Did your Industrial Technology training come together with the auto training?
K: It all kind of pieced the puzzle together. You might have previous car experience or have a relationship with someone who taught you about cars, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I had it too; I was already into cars and I had a fast vehicle, but there were a lot of gaps. I would be in class with Jon going over wheels and tires or brakes and suspension or something, and I would think I knew it, but by the end of class, I’d be like, “I didn’t know ANYTHING about that!” Parkland’s instruction bridges a lot of gaps for people who haven’t been taught in a structured manner like a classroom environment. You aren’t going to get that know-how by working on one specific vehicle. Here, you’re taught that this is how they all work and the situation dictates which one you can use it on.

T: You get a good, broad understanding of why this works, and that can help you diagnose whatever rolls into your shop?
K: Exactly. You need to crawl before you can walk. A lot of times, I ran before I even walked! I went right into it and did it. I got lucky and made it work, but if someone asked me a generic question about it, I might know the answer. Now, I try to be more able to find you a basic answer.

T: Was your Marine Corps training related to mechanics at all?
K: In no way, shape or form! I was an infantry marine.

T: You were a ground pounder?
K: I did infantry and security work. I had an option to become a police officer when I got out, but I really didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do something I was really passionate about.

T: You’ve started Bemount Performance, and from that the race car came about?
K: I actually bought that car when I was still stationed in Okinawa. I had my mom go to Missouri and pick it up. I had it for months before I even saw it! I had it all through industrial tech school, all through my motorsport classes.

T: What car are we talking about here?
K: It’s a 2000 Trans Am with a WS6. It has undergone multiple surgeries to become what it is now! Every winter, it gets some new “go fast” parts. It’s a 4-way LS motor with a Garrett 5594 turbo. It’s a pretty quick car. It’s been as fast as 8.35 in the quarter mile, at 168 miles an hour.

T: Is it a pro stock drag car? What classification is it?
K: It drives on the road more than it is on the track, so it’s a street class.

T: What advice would you give someone interested in chasing the dream of opening their own business?
K: To be honest with you, it was totally terrifying. I went from having a 40-hour-a-week job that makes decent money and was very secure and we had a certain living standard, and we realized that it was all about to change. I had a good feeling about it and I had backing from a couple of friends, so I didn’t have that concern.

T: What do you think about a nontraditional student coming back to Parkland? What sort of advice would you give that person?
K: You can always come back to Parkland. I’ve wanted to come back and do the upholstery class. It’s not really a part of what I do, I consider myself a go-fast guy, but nevertheless it’s a part of the world that I know zero about and that bothers me. You’re never too good to come back and learn. Technology evolves. I’m always wanting to learn.

T: Where did you go to high school?
K: I went to Rantoul. I had a fantastic shop teacher named Bill Wiley. Mr. Wiley actually made me interested in automotive. He was hands down the best shop teacher ever. He was very straightforward, but not by the book at all. He helped me out a ton.

T: Do you to build race cars for other people?
K: I do turbo kits, exhaust work, plumbing work, brake kits, and brake lines. I do almost anything, even build motors. My business is almost 100 percent building race cars. When I was starting out, I was as nervous as I could be and I took in jobs that had nothing to do with performance, just because I had to pay bills. Now, I don’t take in a job that doesn’t at least spark my interest or is a specialty of mine in the performance world. I very much try to stay to my field. I don’t want someone bringing their hundred-thousand-dollar race car into my shop and seeing a minivan on one of my racks.

T: What you would like to add?
K: I can’t emphasize taking classes enough. I love helping people out. This past fall, we took nine students to the track for the first time and after they had run down the track, they were grinning from ear to ear. To bring nine new guys into the thing you love is big to me. I want to show students that this is the right way to do it. That’s the big payoff.

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[To get started finishing your degree, contact Tony Hooker with the Parkland College Adult Re-entry Center at ahooker@parkland.edu or 217/351-2462.]

It Only Matters How You Finish!

Parkland College Student Trustee Crystal Bates (above, third from right) details below her determined journey to get to, and succeed at, Parkland College.

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Life threw me a couple of curve balls long before I had ever chosen to take swing at bat:

I was recruited by the US Navy at age 17 and spent two years doing secure communications in a foreign land. I had joined because my options were to go to college, join the military, or enter the workforce with zero training or experience.

I came back home and the years slipped away from me; I was busy trying to have fun with the least amount of responsibility possible. I worked retail for almost 10 years before retail took a big hit because of the tight economics. The job was not fulfilling, and each day I dreamed of how I could escape this tedious work that made me feel so mundane. Soon, I was laid off from my job and so worked various short-term jobs to pay the bills and take care of my daughter.

Next thing I knew, four more years had passed, and I was pregnant with twins! This was a shock; I believe that most of that pregnancy I really thought the doctors were kidding. After 34 weeks in, we found out that one of the twins was in distress and had to be delivered immediately. Realization set in when I was holding two healthy, and happy babies. Now I was a mother of three. This was my title, my work. But all the while, I’m dreaming of a better life for my children and me. How was I ever going to accomplish anything with three small children? With passion and unbridled determination.

I had a fire burning inside me, and the only way to put it out was to invest in myself for the benefit of my children, myself, and others. Dreams that I was in school, receiving an education that no one would ever be able to take away from me, drew me to Parkland College, where I knew they held the keys to my dreams.

Application for admission, assessments, orientation, student ID—before long, I was officially a Cobra! Upon meeting with a counselor, she revealed the degree of my dreams: Associates of Arts in Psychology. I signed up for fall classes immediately. Was I nervous? Super nervous.

As a matter of fact, I would come early just so I could find friends to keep the panic attacks at bay. The circle of friends I have made have been some of the best friends a person could ask for! We help each other with assignments and are there for each other for social and emotional support. These connections with students and our professors has kept me at Parkland for my (now) fifth year, as a nontraditional student.

I have had to take longer than most, but I graduate in the spring of 2017. Has it taken me longer than that of traditional students? Sure it has, but I have a 3.2 overall GPA, all because I took considerable time on assignments and made sure that my grades were a high priority. Also, because I have determination and passion, I have held two offices in Student Government. I started out as a student senator and have currently been voted and sworn in as student trustee.

My time at Parkland is coming to an end, and I am so sad. This is such a great institution with amazing professionals who make it their personal goal to see each and every student succeed. I have been so fortunate to have built such amazing social connections because Parkland feels like an educational “family”. Besides fantastic professors, the Center for Academic Success has assisted me in ensuring that my GPA is as solid as it is. CAS is an amazing tool that each and every student has access to. I cannot speak highly enough about our tutors and our Writing Lab! Use these free tools that help make each one of us better students and extremely qualified professionals in our chosen field of study.

Has it been hard to go to school with little kids? Of course. It is a balancing act, just the same as daily life is. But I decided to tip the scales in my favor and invest in my personal academic path. Do I plan to transfer? Absolutely. I am not done yet. I have developed an addiction to learning as much as I can, as long as I can. The end result will be a mater’s degree in clinical psychology. Being a veteran, I feel I have a duty to help my brothers and sisters in their struggles to maintain normalcy, and this is whom I hope to work with, for the most part.

Veterans: Discover Your ‘Voice’ at New Book Group

I read a New York Times article last year by Iraq War veteran Phil Klay, winner of the National Book Award and one of the authors we will read from during the new Veterans Book Group, coming next week to Parkland College. A paragraph from Klay’s article speaks to the crux of this project:

“If we fetishize trauma as incommunicable, then survivors are trapped—unable to feel truly known by their nonmilitary friends and family. At a recent Veterans Day performance put on by Arts in the Armed Forces, Adam Driver, the organization’s founder, a former Marine turned actor, spoke of his feelings of alienation after leaving the corps. ‘Not being able to express the anger, confusion and loneliness I felt was challenging,’ he said, until theater exposed him ‘to playwrights and characters and plays that had nothing to do with the military, that were articulating experiences I had in the military, that before to me were indescribable.'”

Klay goes on to state, “It’s a powerful moment, when you discover a vocabulary exists for something you’d thought incommunicably unique.” We believe this is what literature can do, and it’s what we hope to provide book group participants: a safe place to read about others’ experiences about war and discuss their own.

John Fundator and I will serve as co-facilitators for the group.  A senior communications specialist with the University of Illinois Foundation, John served in the U.S. Army (1977–1981) and the Illinois Army National Guard (1981–1998).  He was a weekend soldier in the Guard when he was called up for a yearlong deployment during the Bosnia conflict of the early 1990s. John was part of a public affairs unit and wrote about the conflict for that year.

John had a wife (me!) and three small children (6-year-old twins and a one-year old) at home during that time. This gives us some understanding of the difficulty of separation many vets and their families feel. My position as full-time professor of humanities at Parkland will bring a literary background to the book discussions that we hope vets will also find useful.

No matter your age or military experience, as a veteran, you are welcome to take part in this free book group! We’ll read works from various eras, ranging from Stephen Crane’s Civil War-era short story, The Veteran, to Ernest Hemingway’s Soldier’s Home, a narrative of one young World War I veteran’s return to civilian life. We’ll even read recently published selections by Klay, whose writing reflects the wartime and post-war experiences of contemporary combat veterans.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has generously provided funding for this book group in conjunction with its initiative, Standing Together: The Humanities and the Experience of War. The initiative aims to promote understanding of the military experience and to support returning veterans.

We invite you to become part of the Veteran’s Book Group at Parkland by contacting the Illinois Humanities Council’s Matt Meacham at mwm@prairie.org or 312/422-5589.

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“Standing Together: A Veterans Book Group”
January 27, February 10, February 24, and March 10
5:30 to 7 p.m.
Parkland College Student Union, Room U230
Hosted by the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC), Parkland College, and Crosspoint Human Services