Ryan Bullard enlisted in the Air Force at age 17 after high school. Now, after a journey that included military service, an injury, and several years working in the private sector, the 31-year-old veteran is poised to graduate from Northwest Florida State College with his Associate of Arts, and move on to the University of West Florida in the spring.


Ryan Bullard enlisted in the Air Force at age 17 after high school. Now, after a journey that included military service, an injury, and several years working in the private sector, the 31-year-old veteran is poised to graduate from Northwest Florida State College with his Associate of Arts, and move on to the University of West Florida in the spring.



A scholarship he earned from Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a national honors organization for two-year college students, will help. The Crestview resident met GPA requirements to join PTK's NWF State College chapter, and his peers elected him vice president.



Bullard took a nontraditional route to his college degree. He served almost four years in the Air Force and was honorably discharged after injuring his arm while loading cargo. He then spent several years working at private security firms but found it difficult to advance in his career. "Every time I tried to move up, they would ask, 'Do you have a degree?' " Bullard said. "I realized I needed to go back to school to do anything with my life."



He moved to Crestview from the Tampa area and enrolled at Northwest Florida State College in Spring 2013. "The environment here is good," he said. "The teachers always know your name."



Bullard's arm injury requires continued treatment, so he worked with college advisers to secure help with note-taking. Having overcome some odds to earn his A.A., Bullard wants to show other prospective students what can be achieved.



"I truly believe that Northwest Florida State College has improved my life," said Bullard, a father of two young children who plans to major in social work at the University of West Florida and earn a master's degree. He wants to eventually work with juveniles.



"I am proud of my choice to attend NWF State and everything about the school."