PITTSBURGH, Pa.— Cole Kubiak, a 19-year old sophomore attending Texas Tech University and majoring in mechanical engineering, joined the Navy through the Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate (NUPOC) program. NUPOC provides college students with advanced training opportunities for them to one day become Navy nuclear officers.

“Both of my parents were in the Military at one point,” Kubiak said. “My dad is out now and my mom is still in. It’s always been in my mind that it’s an option I can go with.”

Kubiak, who graduated from Kellam High School in Virginia Beach, Va., took the oath from Lubbock, Texas, during a virtual ceremony witnessed by his mother, Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Pittsburgh Command Master Chief Mistie Marcucci.

“There were so many emotions going on,” Marcucci said. “I was excited for him. More than anything, I was just so proud that he would take on the family tradition of serving this country, because everyone in my family from my great-grandfather down have all served. My father was Air Force and my brother went Army, but everybody else was Navy.”

Kubiak had worked a part-time job, logging more than 20 hours a week in addition to taking 16 to 18 credit hours a semester. With the NUPOC program he will now have more time to focus on his academics, while still being financially stable.

NUPOC offers students scholarship money to pay for a degree, while providing a regular monthly income when they are still in school. Students can pursue their education with no service obligations to the Navy until they graduate.

“I’ve been having my school paid for by the Hazzlewood Act that my dad passed down to me and that wouldn’t have paid for my entire college career,” Kubiak said. “Once I found out about this NUPOC program that I qualified for I went ahead and started going through that process.”

While there were no hugs and handshakes to follow the virtual ceremony, Kubiak was grateful for his family being present with him remotely online during this moment.

“It was amazing to be able to say the oath,” said Kubiak.” “It definitely was a good gift to have it happen right before Mother’s day. It lined up pretty well. She’s definitely been a big part of helping me through growing up and helping to direct me in the right ways. She definitely guided me in the right places a lot. I’m glad she was there to help me with that.”

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Updated March 1, 2017 (kbh)