A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Casey County native achieves success through perseverance in the face of life’s many obstacles

Casey County native April Polston could never have imagined the year she turned 30 would also be the year she would become a widow and find herself the sole provider for her two boys.

Polston, now 31, said although last year was difficult, giving up never crossed her mind. Instead, she pushed ahead in her college coursework and became more determined than ever to succeed.

Polston married her high school sweetheart at age 17. She and her husband, Douglas Wayne Polston Jr., moved to Hawaii where he was stationed as a U.S. Marine. Soon, Polston found herself pregnant and Douglas found himself deployed to Afghanistan.

Knowing that she would need help, Polston moved back home to Casey County until her husband returned from overseas.

Somerset Community College Industrial Maintenance Technology student April Polston (From Somerset Community College)

“He missed the first year of our son’s life,” Polston said, speaking of her son Kace, now 13. “But he loved it. He joined right after 9/11 and felt it was his duty and his calling.”

After returning to Hawaii for a year, the couple was relocated to Camp Pendleton in California. Soon after, they found out they were expecting a second son, Kyle, now age 10. Again, Douglas was deployed and Polston moved back to Kentucky while he was serving his country.

While she was in Kentucky, Polston began school at Somerset Community College, but with the life of the military and two small kids, she couldn’t continue. Determined to finish school, she enrolled at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, California, once her husband returned from his second deployment.

When Douglas returned, though, he was injured. In October 2012, he was medically retired from the U.S. Marine Corp.

“We lost our base housing immediately,” Polston said.

With nowhere to go, her two boys in school, and close to finishing her own degree, Polston said she and her husband decided to live in a hotel for almost three months so she could continue college studies and the kids could finish their year. Through sheer determination, she earned an associate’s degree in Liberal Studies.

“There was no way I was quitting,” she said.

With limited options, Polston and her family moved back to Casey County in December 2012.

“The lifestyle was dramatically different,” she said. “We were really struggling financially.”

Polston was working at Rite-Aid but knew she wanted to go back to school at some point. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but lunch with her favorite high school teacher, Mike True, served as the catalyst for a life-altering decision, she said.

“Mr. True was my electricity teacher in high school,” Polston said. “My dad and I had lunch with him one day and he told me he was going to call Nick Tomlinson at SCC and I should consider the Industrial Maintenance Technology program. I met with Nick on a Friday and was started at SCC the following Monday.”

Walking into a predominately male-dominated classroom was intimidating, Polston said.

Polston works with industrial maintenance assistant professor Butch Tincher in the classroom (From Somerset Community College)

“I was the only girl,” she said. “But, after a few days, I knew it was the right choice for me. Now, I certainly hold my own and am right there with the guys.”

Polston started the program in August 2016. In November of that year, her world flipped upside down when her husband was killed in a car accident. Because he wasn’t on active duty, Polston and her sons were denied military benefits, throwing more obstacles in her path.

“Looking back, I know if I hadn’t been enrolled at SCC when all this happened, I may not have made it. The support I received here at SCC has been wonderful, and I knew I couldn’t quit. I had to make this work for me, for my kids and in honor of my husband.”

Now, Polston is not only managing everything on her plate but is excelling. She credits those around her, especially her parents, Dennis and Ruth Bryant, for helping her get this far. Polston recently made the SCC Dean’s List and brought her kids and boyfriend, Trevor Harrison, to SCC to see what she was working on in class.

“My kids think it’s the coolest thing ever,” she said. “They’ll say, ‘my mom can do anything!’”

Polston is set to graduate in May 2018 with no debt thanks to grants and living extremely tight, she said, and her future is bright, according to SCC Industrial Maintenance Assistant Professor Butch Tincher.

“April is a dedicated and gifted student,” Tincher said. “In a male-dominated field, there are wonderful opportunities for qualified females. She has strengths in critical thinking, dedication and curiosity – all which are required to be good in this field. And, she’s a natural leader.”

Polston said she hopes to work with Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), a job that boasts starting pay between $50,000 to $70,000 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“I hope to someday buy my own house,” Polston said. “I just want a good job so I can have more stability for my family.”

As she nears graduation, Polston said she’s proud of how far she’s come.

“Reality often smacks me in the face,” she said. “It’s surreal at times, but it’s also empowering. The things I’ve dealt with in my life drive me forward. I want to teach my kids that when things are hard, you get tough and keep going.”

To find out more about the Industrial Maintenance Technology program at SCC, contact Nick Tomlinson at 606-451-6868 or nick.tomlinson@kctcs.edu.

Somerset Community College is a comprehensive two-year institution of higher education. SCC has campuses in Somerset and London, and centers in Clinton, McCreary, Casey, and Russell counties. For admission and program information, visit our website at somerset.kctcs.edu.

From Somerset Community College

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