As thankful as we are for Joe Tischina’s service to our country as a U.S. Marine, he’s just as thankful for City Colleges.

“City Colleges and the United Military Assistance Program (UMAP) saved my life,” said the 32-year-old who was born and raised on the city’s south side. “That’s not an exaggeration; Dawson Technical Institute gave me not just a job, but a career.”

Joe’s story took many turns, but each time he persevered and kept moving forward. After graduating from the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, he needed to abandon his plan to attend Northern Illinois University because of a football injury. Instead, he headed to Le Cordon Bleu culinary school, but the program didn’t suit him and had him searching for something more meaningful. That’s what led him to sign an open contract with the United States Marine Corp. He enlisted in 2007, and headed to boot camp and then Okinawa, Japan. Ironically, he was a cook.

When Joe left active duty in 2011, he admittedly lacked purpose. “Some days I felt motivated and driven, but some days I felt lost and I had no direction,” said Joe about that period. “It was hard to find work and even harder to find reason to get up in the morning.”

But like any Marine, he pushed on and kept at it. After a stint as a student at the Art Institute and odd jobs, he learned of the program at Kennedy-King’s Dawson Technical Institute that allows students to go from training to a full-time Peoples Gas worker in under nine months. The Gas Utility Workers Training Program is for military veterans and is a partnership with UMAP, Peoples Gas, Dawson Technical Institute, and Utility Workers Union of America Local 18007. In March 2019, the program graduated its 20th cohort and 500th student. As a graduate of cohort six, Joe was there to inspire and tell his story. He has been with Peoples Gas for five years.

Now the father of two is engaged, still living on the south side, and focused on moving forward. And he’s not satisfied just helping himself. He runs a travel baseball team, is a union rep and is committed to spreading the word about how City Colleges can help veterans. “I feel a responsibility to help my fellow veterans transition and reintegrate,” said Joe. “Whenever one is in need, I’ll be there—no questions asked.”

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