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SLCC “Distinguished Graduate” was once homeless

Aaron Hornok has traveled a long road to his Applied Science degree at SLCC, from the military, to other degrees, to homelessness.

SALT LAKE CITY — It was not the kind of  life Aaron Hornok had envisioned.  With a degree in Economics from the University of Utah, and a back-ground in the Air Force, Hornock thought he’d be able to find good work.  Just before the recession hit, Hornok realized he would not be able to afford the condo he owned.  He sold it, and hit the road, living for a time in his car or at campgrounds.  He eventually had to sell his car, “for pennies on the dollar” and ended up spending the better part of three years on the streets.

“I watched fellow veterans die,” said Hornok.  “Some of them were Vietnam and Korean era vets.”

He says he got to the point where he didn’t feel like could trust the police or many of the other people around him.  Adding to his discouragement, Hornok said he felt like he could have been doing much better had he been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.  He said his experience in the military, though, was part of what got him through.  While in the Air Force and the Utah Air National Guard, Hornok learned about aircraft.  While looking for a job, Hornok saw an opportunity to return to school. “I looked into it and I realized I had more VA benefits,” he said.  “So I jumped on the gun on that and the state wanted to help me out.”


Hornok enrolled first in the aircraft mechanic’s program at Salt Lake Community College, but ended up in a field called non-destructive testing, the science of testing aircraft and other materials for defects that the human eye can’t see.

On Friday, Hornok was honored as one of SLCC’s “Graduates of Excellence.”

“I really truly believe this is a great start toward things,”  Hornok said.  “I’m very grateful and very humble.”

Hornok is yet to find a job, but he believes he now has the hands on training he needs in a field that is in high demand.