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Staff Spotlight: DeSheun Hines


“Dig the ditches and let God worry about the rain,” a saying that has carried DeSheun Hines through serving his country and now helping veterans find their purpose through education. 


Originally from Syracuse, New York, DeSheun Hines graduated from Hillsborough Community College and now serves the student veteran population as a project manager for STRIVE, an entrepreneurship training program offered through Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF), in partnership with HCC.


After completing his service with the United States Marines Corps as a combat engineer, DeSheun moved to Tampa in 2013 to start a new home life and prioritize his education. 


In his words, “I was tired of being outside, and I knew I wanted to work in an office.”


“A lot of veterans struggle after leaving the military because they lose their purpose. They go from saving lives to trying to figure out how to make ends meet. I knew I needed an education to change my life and that of others.” 


In the summer of 2013, DeSheun enrolled at the HCC Dale Mabry Campus as a non-traditional student to pursue his associate in arts degree with a concentration in business, while completing a few college credit certificates in entrepreneurship. 


“I knew I was going to need help transitioning to civilian life, and HCC offered a community with people that had similar backgrounds as me.”


Speaking on his transition, he says the part most people don’t speak about is translating your soft skills. Things like communicating with people without using military jargon and simply remembering to smile. 


“In the Marine Corps, you’re trained to have a tough bravado and never show any weakness or fear. But being intimidating doesn't always translate in the real world. I had a professor get physically nervous and begin to cry thinking I was getting angry while they were speaking to me when in reality, I was just hyper focused on what they were saying. They thought I was going to rip their face off,” he laughed. 


“As a service member, I’ve had to do a lot of transitioning in and outside of school. I’ve even had to relearn what my personality is. Now, most people have a hard time believing I was ever a Marine.” 


After graduating from HCC in 2015 as a first-generation college graduate, DeSheun completed his bachelor's degree at the University of Tampa. 


In 2017, he began working at HCC as a veteran affairs academic advisor, and in 2022 he accepted a new position to work alongside HCC faculty, Dr. Andy Gold and Beth Kerly, to help student veterans pursuing entrepreneurship. As the project manager for STRIVE, DeSheun himself enrolled in the program to get an understanding of what students would be going through. 


Because of the partnership with Syracuse University, HCC students who successfully complete the STRIVE program are automatically graduates of both institutions, a full-circle moment for DeSheun. 


During his time as an HCC student, he was also part of the College’s first cohort to graduate with an entrepreneurship certification. Now, the College is celebrating its 10th Annual Veterans Entrepreneurship Training Symposium, an event designed for veterans, active-duty personnel, their spouses and civilian business partners who are interested in starting a business, or already have a small business and need additional knowledge and tools to grow that business.


Some additional resources available to HCC’s student veteran population include the veterans office and on-campus lounge, internal and external counseling services, disability services, as well as housing and job assistance. 


“My biggest challenge as a student was learning to operate with a team who were not military. In a classroom environment, you’ll find yourself working on a project where no matter how much or how little work everyone does, you all get the same grade. I had to learn to motivate my peers, in a similar manner that I did my troops, while teaching them the value of hard work. I also had to learn that it's okay if you don't succeed the first time or get the best grade because, for me and my military mindset, ‘if you fail, people die.’ Even to this day, it's a challenge to accept levels of failure in different aspects of my life.” 


“Many college students don't succeed not because they can't do the coursework; they don't succeed because they fail to adapt to college. The same thing applies to our service members; a community college environment offers the care necessary to help transition and prepare these students for success. The great thing about HCC is that our tuition is affordable, and our institution is SACS-accredited, meaning your credits will easily transfer to any four-year state university. 


Coming to a community college first was the reason I was able to graduate with my bachelor's degree magna cum laude. I believe the only way for me to succeed is if I help others succeed. That’s part of what led me back to HCC,” he says. 


A special thank you to DeSheun’s late father, his godfather, Bishop Jimmie J. Smiley, as well as HCC staff and faculty, Timothy Arrington, Bobby Calhoun, Virginia Callaway, Dr. Andy Gold, Elizabeth Hanson, Suzy Holley, Beth Kerly, Dr. Ken Ray, Star Schmidt, Karla Solis, as well as Dean Joe Bentrovato and the HCC Dale Mabry Campus counselors, Dr. Rafael Fuentes, Frank Kozlowski, Angela Mick and Dr. Elizabeth Key-Raimer, for showing support to HCC’s veteran students and for playing a part in DeSheun’s success. 


DeSheun Hines can be contacted at


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