Going away to college to "find yourself" is a bit of a cliché that also happens to be true for many students. Not for Nick Nadeau. His sights were always on identifying a career that would allow him to utilize his scientific mind and creativity.
As a boy, Nick loved to assemble LEGO sets, especially airplanes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The joy and excitement from his childhood pastime led him to the STEM program and Engineering pathway at South River High School. It was during his senior year, when the head of Anne Arundel Community College's engineering department spoke to his class, that he began to consider AACC as a good place to start.
Some of his friends challenged his choice with questions like, "If you're not going to a four-year, are you really that smart?" But Nick saw AACC as the best way for him to explore his major and transfer opportunities while also getting used to the college experience. So he did his research and found benefits like smaller classes, which he preferred for the one-on-one attention. Affordability was also important since he would be paying his own way and didn’t want to end up with a lot of debt.
He began his journey at AACC like a "typical student," focused on his academics. "I came to class, did my work and then went home," he said. "I wasn't involved in anything on campus."
By his second semester, Nick began to miss having outlets for his creative side. So he decided to add concert band to his class schedule and officially joined the college's band, thanks to a little encouragement from a good friend and then Campus Activities Board president. Naturally social, his extracurricular activities snowballed from there, including student government, the campus ambassador program and more. The friendships and relationships he has developed both in and out of the classroom have proven especially helpful. Now that he knows how much more enjoyable the community college experience can be, he readily urges other students to get involved at AACC.
Service is also important to Nick and is something that has been ingrained in him his whole life, predominantly through his church. Some experiences, however, have held particular personal meaning for him. At AACC, he has been able to share the benefits of helping others with the college community and create an even wider impact.
Through student groups, he has helped organize volunteer events for The Maryland Food Bank and The Lighthouse Shelter in Annapolis. But mental health awareness is what he feels most strongly about. "It's one of those topics that isn't talked about enough," Nick says. "If people knew a little bit more, maybe we'd be able to prevent more instances and there wouldn't be such a high rate (of suicide) in youth and students."
For the past two years, he helped bring to AACC the Drag-A-Palooza show benefiting teen suicide prevention for the LGBTQ+ community, and worked closely with the show's organizer and lead performer, Travis Mack/Abbi Kadabra. Nick says they are extremely proud of these efforts, raising more money at AACC than any other location in Maryland. But what he is most proud of is "the support from the community shows that everybody has a more open mind and that we're moving in the right direction instead of the wrong direction."
Nick believes redefining yourself has a different meaning for everyone. For him, it's accepting yourself – "If I can't love myself, I can't be myself." By incorporating his love of the arts and diverse interests with his educational pursuits at AACC, he was able to stop being "who I thought I needed to be to who I really was."
At AACC, Nick has found the flexibility and freedom to explore all these avenues while staying on track with the help and encouragement of professors, staff and mentors along the way. With just one more year before he transfers to complete his aeronautical engineering degree, there's no doubt Nick Nadeau will continue to make an impact in everything he does as his whole self.