Vet Finds New Career at FSC

Photo of Deo Singh, article image

It’s never too late to start a second career. Or a third. And a fourth. Even if it takes decades to get it started. Just ask Deo Singh.

The 62-year-old U.S. Army veteran has worked as a youth counselor, a corrections officer, and a delivery person. He is now pursuing a long-held interest, a degree in nutrition science at Farmingdale State College (FSC). He is on track to graduate in winter 2023.

Nutrition sparked Singh’s interest because of struggles with his own weight and serving in the military. “I’m interested in helping others understand the link between food and nutrition and the long-term impact of being unhealthy,” Singh said. Among many valuable takeaways from his coursework: knowing how to use food as medicine and learning that some bad eating habits can affect people for the rest of their lives.

FSC has all the ingredients to help him achieve his goal. “I love it here, I love the atmosphere and the aura,” said Singh, who lives in Queens with his wife and daughter. “Everyone here is willing to work to help you succeed.”

His route back to the classroom took decades and wound through New York City, Kuwait, and Iraq, and almost included a detour to his native Trinidad and Tobago. Singh retired after 23 years in the Army and 22 years as a New York City corrections officer. Because he has some disabilities from his time in the Army, he was exploring new options when he learned about the opportunity to attend college as a veteran. He was accepted to FSC after earning his associate degree.

Singh’s journey began in 1979 when he traveled to see his mother in New York City but overstayed his tourist visa. To avoid deportation he applied for and received a green card, which allowed him to remain in the U.S. and work.

His first job was delivering breakfasts across New York City, followed by working in a delicatessen six days a week, 12 hours a day. “I understand the struggles of starting with zero,” Singh said. “I identify with a lot of underserved groups, because I went through all those changes.”

In the early 1980s, a friend serving in the Army urged him to enlist. Singh was accepted and eagerly took an assignment in the infantry.

His deployments included tours in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. “I loved it,” Singh said of his time in the service. While in the reserves he was activated for the Joint Terrorist Task Force in New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

After leaving active duty, he worked as a youth counselor at his brother’s church and took a job as a New York City corrections officer, which brought “the excitement of not knowing what each day was going to be, the challenge of overcoming being locked up with some of the worst criminals in the world, and learning how to de-escalate violent situations,” he said. “Also, learning about the criminal justice system.”

With his next career on the horizon, Singh is investigating ways to apply his degree. He met with the Small Business Development Center on campus about marketing a business idea that could be an asset to the military, he said.

He is also researching opportunities with the National School Lunch program. “I would like to design a better menu for kids that is more appetizing and more nutritious,” he said. “If I can, I’d like to impact future generations and change the concept of what we eat.”

Looking ahead, Singh said he would encourage other veterans to enroll in college and broaden their experience. “We have a skill set some people always wanted,” he said.

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