From Colorado snow to Florida sunshine and from saving people from Somali pirates to studying sports management at the University of Florida, Patrick Burns found Santa Fe College to be an important steppingstone toward his chosen career.
Burns joined the Navy in 2009 and one month after graduating from high school in Lakewood, Colorado, he was in boot camp. “In the Navy, I dealt with logistics and retail services on the ship—the ship’s store, vending machines, barber shop, and laundry,” he explained. “Part of my job was making sure that everyone’s morale was up and that everyone was comfortable being away from home on what was sometimes a nine-month deployment.”
“I chose the Navy because I like the water and I like to travel,” Burns continued. “I’ve been to 14 countries! My favorites were the Seychelles—a group of islands off Africa that are steeped in the French Creole history and culture—and Goa, on the west coast of India.”
His first ship was a tender that carried all repair equipment and supplies for submarines. Stationed at first in Washington State, Burns then moved with that ship to spend one year at the U.S. Navy Support Facility on Diego Garcia, an atoll in the Indian Ocean.
His second ship was the USS Philippine Sea, a guided missile cruiser stationed near Jacksonville in Mayport, Florida. “We didn’t see conflict but when we were patrolling the Red Sea on a counter-piracy mission, we rescued 20 Filipinos whose ship had been hijacked by Somali pirates; they were floating in a life raft because fire had broken out on the ship. This was right around July 4 and CNN carried the story about the rescue.”
In 2013, Burns left the Navy and chose to enter Santa Fe College. “I wanted to stay in Florida since I was already here,” he said. “I had researched schools with sports management programs and knew that if I came to Santa Fe, I could transfer to the University of Florida.”
“Santa Fe was a good transition from military to civilian life,” Burns continued. “It wasn’t as overwhelming as starting at UF and the admissions and placement test people were very helpful.” He names statistics as his favorite class. “I’m a big numbers guy and statistics are important in sports,” he explained. “My time at Santa Fe went by fast and helped me build on the discipline, focus and work ethic I’d learned in the Navy. I also learned how to balance schoolwork with social life.” While at SF, Burns worked part-time in the Veterans Affairs office.
Now a junior studying sports management in the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida, Burns aims to graduate in Summer 2017. A football fan, he goes to all home Gator games and is volunteering with Gator Guest Services.
“Living in Gator Country has been a change of scene and a great experience, but I eventually want to go back to Colorado,” Burns mused. “So I always say, go Gators and go Broncos!” His advice for veterans who make the transition from military service to college is simple: “Get your priorities in balance, know that you have support, and be willing to put yourself out there for what you want.”