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NEWS | March 17, 2021

Tuition assistance program develops employees, benefits mission

By Ms. Danielle Weinschenk

Tobyhanna Army Depot employees are eligible for a lucrative tuition assistance program, allowing them to expand their skill sets and potentially grow their careers.

Frank Gervasi is one of the employees who used the depot's non-duty developmental training program to chase his dream job. He started his depot career as a painting worker, and traveled the world in support of overhaul missions. Advice from a co-worker - "Don't spend your whole life here" - prompted him to turn his interest in electronics into a career. In 2007, he enrolled in a cooperative program between Lackawanna and Johnson Colleges that provided training in electronics and communication disciplines. Because the courses only ran during the day, Gervasi voluntarily transferred to the Production Management Directorate, where he could work as a forklift driver on second shift.

"Going to school all day and then coming to work at night was not my idea of fun, but I knew it was for a purpose" he said.

After three tough years, Gervasi graduated with his Associate's Degree and entered the former SCEP Program (the current Pathways Program) as an electronics worker in the C4ISR Directorate. Reflecting upon his experience, he said that he would gladly do it all again, as he was extremely satisfied with how his education helped grow his career. Gervasi also noted that he could not have gotten through the experience without the assistance of co-workers like Mari Muscatell, Dave Jadick, John Kelly and Rose Gesell (now retired).

Melia Smirne was inspired by stories like Gervasi's when she decided to return to school last year.

"I always wanted to finish my degree, but things kept getting in the way," she said. "The fact that the depot provided tuition assistance pushed me to finally do it."

Returning to school proved to be beneficial for Smirne in more ways than one. She says it has become an important part of her relationship with her son, who has learned that education can be a lifelong pursuit.

"When we get home, my son will ask me if I also have homework," she said, "And if I do, we do it together."

After graduation, Smirne hopes to work in an analytical capacity and gain a graduate degree. She encourages other depot employees to take advantage of this benefit and to follow their dreams.

"Going back to school takes time and effort, but it is so worth it. Instead of playing on your phone at night, you can do your coursework. Honestly, it's totally doable."

All permanent depot employees are eligible for up to $10,000 of tuition assistance per fiscal year (FY). Courses must be related to the depot's overall mission, but do not need to be directly related to the employee's current job. Depot employees received more $550,000 in tuition assistance in FY19; depot officials say that number is expected to increase in coming FYs.

Employees interested in taking non-duty developmental training can review Employee Bulletin #43, Developmental Non-Duty Training (Tuition Assistance) or contact the Employee Development Division, X57104 for more information.