Lauren Peck – Inspiring military experiences and collegiate pursuits

Published 06.05.2024

By Lauren Peck


I grew up over the bridge in South Williamsport. I always thought that I would get out of here as soon as I graduated high school. When I started looking into colleges, Penn College was originally not on my radar. I had no idea what to major in or how I would get the money to pay for a degree. I have 3 other siblings; and my parents, although I’m sure they wanted to, couldn’t pay for my college. Not knowing the best direction for me I decided to look into the military. I met with a Marine Corp recruiter, and he told me that I could pick whatever job I wanted. I had absolutely no idea what to pick. So, I told him that I wanted to work with my hands, and he suggested that I become an aircraft mechanic. I thought that sounded cool, so I started my enlistment paperwork. However, I was only 17 at the time and I needed both parents’ signatures. 

My dad said he would sign but first he wanted me to meet with the Air Force before I signed a 6-year active-duty contract. He also encouraged me to talk with the National Guard. I reluctantly agreed and met with the Air National Guard. After comparing the benefits, I realized that my dad was right, and the guard was a unique opportunity. My Air Force recruiter let me tour the Radio Frequency Technician shop. The guys in the shop showed me how they built antennas and programmed radios, they seemed like they genuinely enjoyed their job. I left for basic training after I graduated high school in 2020. Once I finished my RF technical training, I started looking into colleges and I came across Penn College’s aviation maintenance program. Although my job in the Air Force is awesome, I wondered how different my life would be as an aircraft mechanic. 

I toured the hangar, and my decision was made. Penn College has a hangar full of aircraft ranging from Cessnas, to helicopters, and even a Boeing 727.  I knew I had to take this opportunity since I missed it the first time. I had very little mechanical experience other than occasionally helping my dad, so I knew that a maintenance program would be a lot of work. But hard work has never scared me. I grew up watching my dad put his all into everything he did. My dad is a self-employed electrician who graduated from WACC in the 80’s. My dad is one of my biggest supporters and has always encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do despite the social standards. 

Lauren and president are joined at the donor wall by her father, Matthew, a 1988 alumnus in electronics technology: fiber optic/communication emphasis.

It was difficult being a woman in a male dominated career field who was starting out with no prior experience. Going into college was also difficult because I had been out of school for two years due to my military training. I had gotten used to living the military lifestyle and I wondered once again if I had made the wrong choice. I felt out of place.

The first few months of classes were hard and overwhelming, but I eventually found my group of friends and started to feel like I belonged. I have spent many long nights at the library and extra time in the hangar after class, but it has all been worth it. My instructors are amazing people and are always available to help. One of my favorite things about aviation is that there is always more to learn. I have also realized that aviation opens many different opportunities such as airlines, general aviation shops, corporate aviation, avionics, and civilian aircraft contracting jobs just to name a few. 

Penn College also gave me an opportunity to play my favorite sport. I am on the women’s NCAA tennis team here at the college and I am grateful for the opportunity to play on a team again. I played tennis all throughout high school but after not playing for two years, I didn’t think I would play competitively again.

I used to struggle with knowing if I made the right choices about joining the military because I felt like it set me back and I started my college journey later. Now I know that everything happened for a reason, and I am exactly where I should be. Being an RF troop has given me experience with satellite and radio communications, which lead me to pursue avionics. The Air Force has also given me once in the lifetime opportunities. In 2021, I had the opportunity to be a part of Operation Allies Welcome where we provided shelter, food, and supplies to hundreds of Afghans fleeing Afghanistan. I oversaw the issuing of hygiene items to families and giving out toys to the children. It was a humbling experience. The Air Force has also given me the opportunity to travel, later this year I will be getting deployed and although it will alter my graduation plan, I am excited for the challenges to come. 

My first year of college I was also working part-time to help with tuition on top of classes, athletics, and my obligations to the National Guard. The Air Force pays for part of my tuition but there was still a lot left unpaid. My goal was to complete my degree without taking out any loans, so I started applying for scholarships. This year, because of Penn College’s scholarships I no longer need to work an extra job and I can fully focus on school, tennis, the military, and my family. Through my financial aid and scholarships, I have been able to pay for 100% of my tuition without taking out any loans. I am so thankful for the help I have received, and it has been a weight off my shoulders to not have to worry about money. I want to thank all of you for your generous donations to the college. Because of donations, I am getting real life experience that I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. Thank you for investing in me and my future and for helping me and so many other students achieve our dreams. 

Lauren D. Peck addresses the crowd at the annual Donor Recognition Reception. A member of the Air National Guard, the aviation maintenance technology junior is also a Wildcats tennis player.