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MCVTS grad takes path from HVAC to higher education

MCVTS grad takes path from HVAC to higher education

When Matt Olmsted returns to his old shop on the MCVTS East Brunswick Campus, he has quite a story to tell.

It’s about how an anecdote told by his HVAC teacher, George Gent, changed his life’s trajectory.

After hearing Gent relate how his brother decided to go to college rather than into the workforce after his high school graduation, Olmsted, a 2011 MCVTS graduate, pivoted from a possible career in heating and air conditioning to his current role as a university administrator.

Olmsted, 26, who was from Woodbridge, went to Stockton University near Atlantic City, and volunteered to help out with freshman orientation.

“My supervisor introduced me to higher education careers and I found my passion,” he said.

After entering MCVTS diagnosed with a learning disability, he graduated from Stockton and obtained a master’s degree in student personnel administration from James Madison University in Virginia. He is now assistant director for new student and transition programs at Elon University in North Carolina, a private liberal arts college.

“My parents instilled in me that education is important and nothing is going to be handed to you,” Olmsted said.

“I’m really proud of him, the man he has become and the wisdom he has gained,” Gent said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to have been part of his life.”

Gent emphasizes that he has many students who have gone on to successful careers in HVAC, but attending a vocational school does not rule out college or mean that the world or work must immediately follow graduation.

“Why not both?” Gent asked. “It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Gent was impressed that Olmsted gave his current HVAC students all of his contact information and offered to advise them if they had questions.

“I told them how to be successful, how to be motivated,” Olmsted said.

“I went to college, but that doesn’t mean they need to go to college,” he said, adding that students must choose their own paths. “I see freshmen coming in and staying glued to their phones. You have to put yourself out there and not be afraid to fail.”

“I love that he shares his story and helps out the youngsters who sit in the seats he sat in,” Gent said.

HVAC is one of 34 career majors offered by the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools.