Kay Navarro brings new student leadership to Veterans Resource Centerby Jan Janes on Dec 10, 2019
Kay Navarro wears many hats: College student, mom, Navy veteran, president of Gavilan Student Veterans of America (GSVA), future health care professional.
“When I was five, I was in a car accident that should have left me severely injured, if not dead,” said Navarro. “My mom went into labor the same day as my accident.”
“The thing I remember most was the nurses, who helped me, monitored me and eased my fears,” she said. “When I was six, I wanted to be a nurse.”
Over time, she had different career aspirations: lawyer, wedding consultant, mom.
Growing up on the Central Coast, she attended three different high schools. She now lives in San Benito County in a blended family, with one set of parents in Hollister and one set in San Juan Bautista.
Kay Navarro shares the study table with other vets to prep for finals.
But at 21, working a dead end job, she felt the need to get out, become her own person and find a sense of purpose. “The Navy definitely helped me with that,” she said.
Navarro is a fourth generation veteran of the United States Armed Forces. Her father served in the Marine Corps, her grandfather in the Army, and her great-grandfather in the Navy.
“Joining the Navy, I wanted to see the world,” Navarro said, “I may not have seen it all, but I learned to understand where my family was coming from with their brotherhood and mannerisms.”
“I have more brothers and sisters than if I hadn’t joined, and we talk weekly if not daily.”
Navarro served as a culinary specialist aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. “Or, high school at sea,” Navarro joked, noting that much of the crew was very young and learning to find their way. After discovering she was pregnant, she was transferred to the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego. With a new job title, machinist repairman, Navarro ran the engraving shop.
“There were always one or two ships going through maintenance, plus maintenance inspection and repairs when a ship was in port,” she said. “Engraving was always moving product through.” The shop created standardized placards for the fleet, making sure all ship signage met regulations. During her tour of duty Navarro engraved paddles, sight glasses, helicopter windows, even a pie. Common materials were plastic, brass, metal, marble, glass, fleece jackets, leather, pens and flask bottles.
By the time she completed her tour, she had set the standards for the engraving shop so anyone else could come in and produce the required work. “I loved being able to create something from scratch,” said Navarro. “I could create a ship’s crest in about a day.”
With the opportunity to go back to school, Navarro’s career came full circle. “Nursing was what I wanted, and I chose Gavilan because of its great nursing program.”
Selecting Gavilan also allowed her to be close to family. “My sister can watch my son, and our family was hit with some news that made it the best choice,” Navarro said.
Currently a Health Science major, her goal is to earn an AS degree before continuing in the LVN and RN programs. Her long range goal is to earn a BSN and work in the pediatric or emergency unit of a hospital.
Veterans can use the VRC to drop in, socialize, check their ed plans or study.
Navarro previously served as secretary of the GSVA, flighting up to president after her cousin, Ray Lopez, graduated last year
“At the Veteran’s Resource Center, we have camaraderie,” she said. “Without the center and the club, we wouldn’t be able to transition as well to civilian life.” At the center, vets can get their educational plans updated, make sure their classes qualify for benefits, use the computers and do homework.
With more than 150 veterans on campus, Navarro is working to provide the community with the resources they need, especially connecting with one another. “If you’re a vet,” she said, “You’re a member.”
And she dispelled the idea that it’s all good old boy talk. “We don’t always talk about our military experience,” she said. “We can laugh about a military story, but we also talk about our classes, our families and social activities.”
Navarro has a vision to improve the presence of the center. “This fall we worked on a candy gram sale,” she said. “We definitely want to build fundraisers that support activities for vets.”
She anticipates GSVA will continue to participate in Walk a Mile and hopes to add a golf tournament, sell Valentine’s Day carnation bouquets and raffle or sell baby or lap quilts.
Navarro’s mother sews quilts using fabric left over from other projects.
“I went in the service at 21 to make myself better and help in any way I could,” Navarro said. “As for now, my journey and story are still being written.”
For more information about the club, inquire in the Veterans Resource Center in Library 109.