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Utah man reflects on journey from homeless veteran to SLCC graduate

Posted at 6:18 PM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-18 14:37:54-04

WEST VALLEY CITY – Once a homeless vet, a Utah man overcomes challenges to earn a degree at Salt Lake Community College.

Aaron Hornok is one of SLCC’s standouts of the Class of 2018. He joined fellow classmates at commencement exercises at the Maverik Center in West Valley City.

“I joined the military after 9/11. I was in avionics. I learned a lot of stuff,” Hornok said.

Hornok took the skills he acquired in the Air Force to the classroom.

“I went over to the University of Utah, I acquired two degrees—one in economics, one in natural resources with wildlife and wilderness management,” he said.

He excelled at the U. The honor roll student was on the Dean’s list and earned prestigious scholarships.

“I turned top dog,” he said. “I was the leader of everything.”

But then, Hornok fell on hard times.

“I ended up losing everything.”

He wound up on the streets.

“That’s a tough subject to talk about,” he said. “I was homeless off and on for three years, and I watched other vets die on the streets. That was really difficult watching that.”

He didn’t want to go down that path and landed at Salt Lake Community College to study non-destructive testing.

“It’s a field that not a lot of people know about,” he said. “We can also work on aircraft. We do submarines, we do bridges. You name it, we do it.”

He’s one of the top students, graduating with a 3.8 GPA at SLCC’s School of Applied Technologies and Technical Specialties.

Hornok joined the Class of 2018 to receive his third degree. The 39-year-old credits SLCC for believing in his potential.

“They have done so much for me,” he said. “They’ve been there for me every step of the way.”

Hornok took in one last lecture from keynote speaker, Malcom Mitchell, award-winning author, literacy activist and New England Patriot Superbowl Champion.

“When times get tough, remember today because today is an example of you getting through all the challenges you’ve been through to this point.”

Hornok reflected on his journey and offered his own advice.

“Stick to your guns. Never give up. One thing I learned from the military is never give up.”