Most high school graduates aren’t yet completely sure what they want to do for a living.

John Albers needed a little bit more time than some of his classmates did to figure it out, but he’s happy with where his journey has taken him.

Albers graduated from Whiteland Community High School in 1999 and then spent a year at Vincennes University, where he had intended to pursue a degree in industrial engineering.

“Once I got into it, I found out I really didn’t want to be sitting at a desk, sitting at a computer my whole life,” he said. “I got good grades, but it wasn’t what I wanted to do.”

Unsure of what he did want to do, Albers moved to Florida. He promptly blew through his savings and wound up enlisting in the Navy, where he served four years of active duty in Puerto Rico and four years in the reserves back in Indiana.

After finishing his military stint, he took a job with ATI Physical Therapy, working as a physical therapy aide. That was when Albers knew what he was meant to be doing.

“I felt like I kind of found my purpose for once, helping people out,” he said. “I actually enjoyed getting up and going to work knowing that I had an impact on somebody’s life, made their life better, made their day better.”

He enrolled at Franklin College, but earning his degree wasn’t as simple as it might have been out of high school. Albers was working and trying to take care of three children — two who live with him and his current wife and one from a previous marriage who lives in Columbus. In addition, he was working to get certified as a firefighter and an EMT.

“By that point, I was basically just living off pots of coffee,” Albers said. “I was lucky to get three, three and a half hours of sleep.

“(But) I knew I wanted to back and improve myself, because I knew in the long run it would benefit my family. But at the same time, you’re always worried about — especially when you have a family and you’re working — trying to put food on the table, trying to provide everything for your family. It makes you a little worried — ‘How are we going to do this?’ “

Financially, Albers got a little bit of a boost from the GI Bill, which provided him a monthly stipend to put toward his education. His wife ran the household, while Albers’ parents, both retired, were able to assist with taking his children to school and other activities.

Making it work wasn’t always easy, but Albers knew that he wasn’t going to be satisfied with his former life. He leaned on the work ethic instilled in him by his father and grandfather, who had run a commercial printing shop in Indianapolis.

After four and a half years, Albers graduated from Franklin College in December. Since January, he’s been back at ATI, which now employs him as an athletics trainer at the Honda plant in Greensburg.

Coming from a family of hard workers, Albers gets a sense of fulfillment from helping to educate the employees at the factory about workplace injury prevention and treating the injuries that do happen.

“I know how hard those people work, and they don’t exactly have the best benefits anymore, so I definitely take extra pride in being there every day,” Albers said. “I feel like I’m serving a purpose.”

Though he took a more circuitous route to his current career, Albers regrets none of it — and he says that he wishes more people would hop on that same non-traditional path that he’s traveled if they aren’t content with where they are in life.

“Time-wise, you just make it happen,” he said. “You grind it out.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.