Growing up in small town Kansas, Veronqua Schaben never really thought her future would take her halfway around the world, back again and then enter elite automotive training.

Schaben graduated from Ness City High School in 2010 and like many high school seniors started a traditional college career. From a social work major at the local university, switching to a music major at a community college, Schaben could not put her finger on what she wanted to do.  She was concerned about student loans and decided to give the U.S. Navy a chance. “The opportunity with the G.I. Bill and a way to perhaps find a potential career is what led me to enlist,” Schaben said. “I spent four years in the Navy (2012-16) and another in the reserves (2017). It was a great experience.”

While serving in the U.S. Navy, Schaben learned the craft of machinery repair using lathes, drill presses and other equipment making parts for ships. After boot camp she was stationed in Sicily for 3 ½ years. During this time, she worked in emergency dispatch in the operations center. However, she knew she wanted to work with her hands and not sit in an office all day.

“The opportunity to take automotive classes through Central Texas University while still in the Navy was something I jumped on. I grew up the daughter of a mechanic,” Schabe said. “Dad tried many times to get me involved in his trade, but I was a typical teenager. I did not want to listen. Now I’m ready to make this my career.”

After returning from the U.S. Navy, Schaben started exploring schools that offered automotive. North Central Kansas Technical College in Hays seemed like a good fit.

“It was close to home (Ness City),” Schaben said with a smile.

Now with graduation right around the corner, Schaben is ready for the next step in her career. She has been selected to attend the Mercedes-Benz Drive Program. This elite training program is geared toward individuals looking to pursue a career at a Mercedes-Benz dealership. This manufacturer-paid program is highly competitive and reserved for top students. Potential students’ must meet eligibility requirements including graduating from a NATEF-certified automotive program and go through a comprehensive selection process. After the 16-week training program in Dallas, Schaben hopes to be assigned to the Wichita Mercedes-Benz dealership.

Richard Cox, instructor for the Automotive Technology II program, gives high praise for Schaben.

“Veronqua is ASE certified in all eight entry-level areas,” stated Cox. “She has earned the respect of her classmates and a great team player. Veronqua is always willing to learn something new.”

Graduating from NCK Tech with an AAS degree in Automotive Technology, ASE certifications and an opportunity with Mercedes-Benz may sound like a lot to take in for some people, but for Veronqua Schaben, a young woman from western Kansas, it is just the start of a great future.