On Campus: The soldier-nutritionist

newscut_saravia.jpgJose Saravia of Luverne shipped out to Iraq with the National Guard a few years ago intending to pursue a career in law enforcement when he returned. He came back a different guy.

“My parents could only afford to put one kid through college, so I decided to join the Guard. The benefits were good, but not as good as they are now. I did it for the benefits at first, but then being overseas you see a different perspective on life. You see how you take things for granted,” he told me during the News Cut on Campus tour stop at Minnesota West Community & Technical College. “Like all the resources we have here to be successful. We have opportunity here in America. You see on TV other countries, how they’re not that developed, but when you see it firsthand and you’re living there, it’s a whole new story.”

Saravia says that experience is when the Guard became more than the benefits. “Someone had to do it for the kids back home, so they have a chance, too,” he said.

He’s working on liberal arts courses and then plans to transfer to the University of Minnesota and pursue a degree in the nutrition program. He’d like to work in a hospital. “Before, I wanted to be a police officer but the only reason I wanted to be a police officer is because it was the easiest way to go. I didn’t have good grades in school and there was no way I was going to get anywhere,” he said. But in Iraq he said “everybody got into the nutrition thing, and staying healthy. We all got in good shape and when I came back I knew exactly what I wanted.”

Saravia says there’s a family reason, too, for his choice. “My brothers are really overweight, and my mom has diabetes so I was thinking I could help them out with their eating habits. Hopefully I can go there, take care of them, and try to live a healthy life.”

In all likelihood, however, there’ll be another stop first. He expects to be deployed as part of a troop buildup to Afghanistan.

The poor economy is a fact of life, he says. “This is going to happen. It’s happened in the past. It’s going to keep on happening; it’s going to go down and it’s going to go up. I’m just going to keep on investing. We’re still young and we have an opportunity to make something from it… that’s the beauty of being our age. You have all this time to take risk and not worry about it. ”

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