WCU Student Spotlight: Kyle Schneider

Some people like helping others achieve new heights. Kyle Schneider prefers they reach new depths.

Schneider Named 41st Assembly District’s ‘Veteran of the Year’

Dive Warriors’ Kyle M. Schneider was recognized as the 41st Assembly District’s “Veteran of the Year” by Assemblyman Chris Holden. Schneider began serving as a Veteran Advocate after his time of service in the Navy.

“Kyle’s work through Dive Warriors is an incredible story of veterans helping veterans,” Assemblyman Chris Holden said. “Through scuba diving, Kyle helps disabled veterans regain their independence, make new friends and inspire a sense of self-worth, while providing unforgettable underwater experiences.”

Schneider runs a nonprofit organization called Dive Warriors which helps train disabled veterans how to SCUBA and takes them to Catalina every month to dive in the ocean.

Founded in February 2016 by film producer and screenwriter Brad Mirman, Dive Warriors also tries to organize four to six international trips each year to some warm water destinations around the world as well.

“I’ve been helping nonprofits for a long time but when this came along — because I’m a disabled veteran myself — nothing has meant to me more as being a SCUBA instructor and being able to donate my time for my brothers and sisters,” Schneider said.

Schneider said Dive Warriors and its partners train the veterans for free. Equipment suppliers give Dive Warrior members discounts on SCUBA gear and provide them with a heated pool to practice in.

Schneider said Dive Warriors started off with six people and now claims a membership of nearly 200. Schneider said the group provides veterans with a new form of camaraderie and a different way of looking at the world — no matter how cold it gets.

“They get in that warm water in the pool and they think that’s how diving is going to be until they come with us to Catalina for the first time. Then they get in that cold water. Then they realize ‘Woah, this is different,’” Schneider said. “But nobody really complains about the cold. They don’t care. It could be 50 degrees, 40-something degrees and they’ll still get in that water they don’t care just because it’s given them an opportunity to reset themselves.”

Why did you make the switch to healthcare?

I’m a commercial diver. I do underwater welding construction and the VA finally told me ‘You’re not Humpty Dumpty.’ I said ‘What’s that supposed to mean?” and they said, ‘Well, every time you go to work, you come back here and we have to put you back together again.’ I said ‘OK, so what are the options?’

Why did you want to go back to school?

I just wanted to better my life, because once my kids start to get of the age of going to college then I want them — I don’t have kids yet — but once I do, I want them to be able to say ‘Hey, dad went to college maybe I could go too.’

What’s the best thing about becoming a dental hygienist so far?

I’ve had two grandfathers and an uncle pass away from cancer. Learning that as dental hygienists we’re doing the extra-oral, intra-oral exams and checking for lesions for certain types of cancer, I think that’s the best part so far — just learning that we’re going to be saving lives and not just cleaning teeth as everybody thinks, you know.

What are you going to miss about school?

Being part of a cohort class that really comes together and sticks together and helps each other. There’s two of us that are a little bit older in the class. Everybody else is just young kids that run circles around us all the time, but I’m not afraid to ask for help. It doesn’t matter if you’re older than me or younger than me, if you know it and I don’t, then I’m going to ask. And every single one of them, when I ask, they bend over backward to help. This is like my dental hygiene family.

What do you want to do after graduation?

My goal is to open up five clinics every other year over a 10-year period and I have 23 other people that are in school with me right now. I know the training that they’re getting because I’m right there with it, and they’ll be the first people that I reach out to, to offer dental hygiene positions inside that clinic.

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