Alumni Profile: Alumni prove it's never too late to pursue your passion
Monday, June 10, 2019
Written by: Lauren Leetun for Seminole State
Photo: John and Alicia Eynouf celebrate John's graduation from Army Ranger School.
There aren’t many couples who can say they met during spring break at Daytona Beach and not only eventually married, but also have remained in love for more than 20 years since that fateful high school beach trip. Yet John and Alicia Eynouf have never really been the couple to approach life in a traditional way.
John hails from Austin, Texas, but moved around a lot during his childhood. Alicia, on the other hand, was born and bred in Seminole County. The two met at Lake Mary High School and could never have dreamed the future that would be in store for them.
After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, John knew he wanted to join the military to defend his country. Following an ankle surgery that briefly delayed his enlistment, he deployed to Iraq in 2003 as a member of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division. At the time, Alicia was in her freshman year at the University of Florida, and upon John’s return from Iraq, the two got engaged and subsequently married before John set off for Army Ranger School for over 60 days of harrowing combat leadership training. After becoming a Ranger, he deployed to Afghanistan for a year. While John was away in Afghanistan, Alicia continued to pursue her education at UF, but when he returned, she decided to leave the university early to move to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, with him. After John's enlistment was up, the Eynouf's moved back home to Seminole County and bought a home in downtown Lake Mary. Their lives seemed to settle a bit as Alicia accepted a position managing a medical office in the area and John rejoined the company that had hired him out of high school, selling building permit reports.
Although John and Alicia both experienced success in their careers, they realized they were not pursuing their passions and knew that there was more out there for them.
Alicia started to look into what it might take to enroll at Seminole State College of Florida and to pursue a career she was truly passionate about. Fortunately, after speaking with an advisor, Alicia learned that the credits she had earned at UF could transfer to Seminole State, cutting down the time she’d need to spend at the College to just three semesters before she could transfer via DirectConnect™ to UCF.
John and Alicia decided to enroll at Seminole State together to obtain their associate degrees. It wasn’t long into their first semester that they discovered they were expecting their now 5-year-old daughter Layla, but they didn’t let that deter them from continuing their studies. Upon completing her associate degree, Alicia transferred to UCF in 2015. At that time, she had a much stronger grasp on what she wanted her career path to look like – she was interested in the psychology behind training people in business scenarios, understanding what makes a person tick, and helping to facilitate interactions and business models that run more efficiently based on the traits of each individual on a team. She graduated from UCF with her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2016, then went on to pursue her Master of Arts in Applied Learning and Instruction, which she received this May. Additionally, Alicia earned a certificate for completing UCF’s business training specialty track.
Thankfully, the team effort approach worked well for their little family, with each taking turns caring for their growing toddler, often enduring sleepless nights due to a constantly waking baby or school assignments. Amazingly, even with all that life was demanding of him, John graduated summa cum laude with his associate degree in six consecutive semesters using his GI Bill. After graduating from Seminole State in the summer of 2016, John deployed again in December 2016 as a private security specialist on an assignment in Afghanistan.
He recently returned to the U.S., with a fierce determination to use his unique skills in tactical training and veteran relations. He employed the help of the Veterans Resource Center and his GI Bill to enroll at UCF, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications with a focus in business.
This summer, John plans to spearhead several peer mentor groups through the Veterans Resource Center. Knowing the emotional and physical impacts that members of the U.S. armed forces must contend with, and understanding how to break down the barriers in communications for those who have seen infantry combat, John is uniquely qualified to help veterans understand how to assimilate into a university environment. He says this can make a big difference between veterans staying in school to finish their degrees or dropping out because it’s too much to handle.
It is often said that opposites attract in relationships, but in their case Alicia and John Eynouf are both on track to become highly skilled business trainers in their own respective industries. Alicia has already landed a job as a learning and development specialist with ADEPT Leadership, which provides leadership training and team productivity systems for organizations that desire lasting improvement.
“We both know to stay in our lanes,” Alicia laughs a little as she considers the chances that both she and John eventually landed in leadership and training careers. “I focus on more of the soft skills, and he’s adept at training for highly technical and tactical skills. Our career passions are borne out of a greater desire to help people, so it’s been a rewarding path for both of us.”
When asked whether they would do anything differently if given a second chance, both indicated that they are glad they’ve walked the paths they have.
“We want people to feel encouraged that it’s possible to go back to school at any stage in your life and pursue something you’re passionate about,” Alicia adds. “If we can do it at such busy stages of our lives, anyone can, and it has been so rewarding.”
Seminole State College Alumni Association: The Seminole State College Alumni Association provides benefits and services for alumni as they continue their lifelong connection with Seminole State College of Florida, providing opportunities for them to network with one another, interact with the student body and support the College. To learn more, visit the Alumni Association website.About Veterans Affairs
Seminole State College’s Veterans Affairs offices, located on all four campuses, are dedicated to serving as a one-stop source for veterans to secure, interpret and exercise their VA education benefits. Seminole State serves about 1,000 veterans and their dependents each year and has been named a Military Friendly School since 2012. For more information, visit seminolestate.edu/veterans.