Veteran lives the American dream as electrician apprentice

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I was born in Kenya, but this is the home that gave me the chance to be where I am right now," said John Collins Odada Nyongesa.

Nyongesa first came to the United States in 2011 as a rugby player. As soon as he got his green card, enlisting in the Army was his first priority.

"I love the military. I love the camaraderie," he said. "If you're to the right or left of me, I will fight with you the same way."

Upon receiving his orders, Nyongesa learned he would be stationed in Alaska with a job in logistics.

"Fairbanks, Alaska," he said. "Coldest place for my African self, of all the places you could have sent me!"

Nyongesa learned to live with the negative temperatures and enjoyed a positive experience with the military. While stationed in Alaska, he became one of the first to enroll in a new program known as VEEP, or Veteran's Electrical Entry Program. After several weeks of training, he had the chance to join a Union anywhere in the United States.

"I came here because I didn't know anybody and I wanted to start fresh," he said. "I drove from Anchorage, Alaska to Philadelphia. It was a four-day drive."

Nyongesa joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 98, which offers an Apprentice Training for the Electrical Industry (ATEI) program. With an expected graduation in 2023, he will become a journeyman that can be dispatched for work.

"To me, this is literally living the dream," he said. "It might not be the best dream, but guess what? I'm going to enjoy it every day."

To learn more about VEEP or the ATEI program with IBEW Local 98, visit their respective websites.

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