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Release Date: 
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Military to culinary: veteran finds a second career through HFC

Photo of Nina Denny (right) in her dress uniform and her father, Michael Navetta
HFC student Nina Denny (right) served in the United States Air Force for 13 years. She's pictured with her father, Michael Navetta, a Vietnam veteran.

After the school she was attending abruptly closed down, Nina Denny landed on her feet at HFC and enrolled in its 4-year bachelor’s degree program in Culinary Arts.

“I wish I came here in the first place. HFC is my home away from home. So far, my experience here has been amazing. The teachers here are phenomenal. The staff here is so polite,” said Denny, a United States Air Force veteran who lives in Lincoln Park with her husband, Jeremy. They have a blended family, consisting of 10 children and one grandchild.

Opening her own catering business

After she graduates from HFC, Denny’s goal to is open her own catering business, which will serve specially prepared meals for people with various dietary needs. She also plans to study dietetics at either Wayne State University or Eastern Michigan University (Denny has completed coursework at Macomb Community College, the Art Institute of Novi, and Solano Community College in Fairfield, CA).

“My husband is a clean eater – he’s always watching what he eats and counting calories,” she said. “I’ve always been experimenting with different recipes.”

USAF vet

After graduating from what is now Royal Oak High School in 2000, Denny enlisted in the USAF.

“I couldn’t find a steady job after high school. I joined the military to see how it would roll. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did,” she recalled.

Denny served in the USAF for 13 years, rising to the rank of staff sergeant. She was an information manager, where she did IT work and security management. Denny was active in Operation: Enduring Freedom and Operation: Iraqi Freedom, deployed to Diego Garcia and the United Arab Emirates. She was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California for active duty and later at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township before transferring to Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for reserve duty.

“I was proud to serve,” she said.

Active member of the SVA

At HFC, Denny is an active member of the Student Veterans Association, a group that provides resources, support, and advocacy for military veterans attending HFC, to help them succeed in higher education. She plans to run for SVA treasurer this year.

Denny has found the Veterans Center, in Room 111 of the Student and Culinary Arts Center (Bldg. M), one of the greatest assets at the College. The Center is also located down the hall from where the majority of her classes are in Culinary Arts.

“I like doing service work and supporting my fellow veterans,” she said. “I’ve met many different vets from all branches of the military. I listen to what they have to say. The Veterans Center helps them relax and breathe after a long day.”

She spoke about the positive impact the USAF had on her life.

“The Air Force gave me a lot of discipline. It gave me a lot of structure. I live by those rules to this day,” said Denny. She added with a laugh: “I run my household like the military.”