Laurel Ridge graduate thankful for the time and savings to explore his career path ‣ Laurel Ridge Community College
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Laurel Ridge graduate thankful for the time and savings to explore his career path

Samuel Nakai working on equipment
Samuel Nakai still comes to campus to work on engineering projects.

If it’s an engineering class at Laurel Ridge, Samuel Nakai has taken it! Even though he graduated late 2021 with his associate of science degree with a specialization in engineering – the standalone engineering degree wasn’t available before last fall – he still comes to the Middletown Campus to work on his own projects.Nakai is off to Virginia Tech this spring to continue studying engineering.When he first started taking classes part-time at Laurel Ridge in 2014 while also working at Valley Milk in Strasburg, Nakai thought he would get an English degree since he wanted to become a writer. Later, the 2012 Millbrook High School graduate thought it might make more practical sense to get a degree in business administration.But, despite the fact that math wasn’t his strongest subject, Nakai settled on specializing in engineering in 2020. This was in part due to the excellent instruction he received from Math Professor Cyril Petras.Physics Professor Ray Rogers is another favorite.“He’s a brilliant man, fantastic teacher,” Nakai said.He noted he has taken every engineering class the college offers and has been able to give feedback to professors Elizabeth “Liz” Palffy and Alex Peebles.“They’ve maintained a very demanding standard for students,” said Nakai, who ultimately hopes to work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but still plans to write in his spare time. “The engineering program is very rewarding, largely because of its difficulty. It’s a life pursuit.”He is grateful his managers at Valley Milk have been so accommodating with his scheduling, allowing him to take the classes he needed.Laurel Ridge was a wise investment for him.“Laurel Ridge is time flexible and financially flexible,” Nakai said. “Especially with education being so phenomenally expensive as it is, having the time where you can go through college without being heavily indebted…allowed me the time to explore what I wanted to study. It allows the flexibility of exploration both of you as an individual and what you plan on eventually being.”

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.