Baba Croom wears multiple hats every day. Father of five, husband, nurse, and college student are just a few of them. Not only that, but the Brooklyn, N.Y. native is striving to become self-employed in a cause that would greatly help his fellow military veterans.
Croom, 47, is an undergraduate student at Saint Leo University who is currently enrolled in the school's BS in Health Care Management program. He also works as a registered nurse at Whispering Oaks, a skilled nursing care facility in Tampa, Fla.
According to Croom, enlisting in the military was just the right move for him to make in his early adulthood.
"I viewed it as a family business," he says. "In my opinion, most males who've done anything significant with their lives were in the military at some point."
Croom first served as a search and recovery specialist in the Air Force for 3 years and then the same amount of time as a medic in the Army. He served during the Gulf War in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. He was stationed at March Air Reserve Base near Moreno Valley, Calif. and at the Army base in Fort Stewart, Ga.
"I had lots of fun in the Air Force and then got more discipline in the Army, which really helped me focus on my goals," he says.
Already having attained an AS in nursing from Darton College in Albany, Ga., he enrolled with Saint Leo in January 2017. He has taken college courses online, in a traditional classroom setting, and through blended platforms that combine both approaches to learning.
"I don't mind online classes, but I prefer being in a classroom," he explains. "I guess I'm part of the generation that still prefers face-to-face communication. I like to be able to talk to an instructor and shake their hand."
A Career of Helping Others
While his nursing career has led him to become a supervisor, he's ready for a new challenge.
"I enjoy being a nurse, but it's getting a little long in the tooth when some of my coworkers are young enough to be mykids," he confides.
So, which direction is Croom planning to head next?
"My big-picture goal is to start my own business. I want to open an adult daycare primarily for military veterans. I've seen many veterans in the hospital and then leave and basically have no place to go or people to be around. Vets are more comfortable around their peers, so I can fully see where a need is there for camaraderie.
He also believes that technology has actually hindered how connected older vets are to each other.
"Vets are a different breed. Many are not computer guys. They aren't big into Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other newer forms of communication. They like to sit and talk about their military stories from back in the day. So, because of how computer-oriented everything is today, vets get left behind, especially when they are all alone at home."
He adds that many households have three generations living in them – children, parents, and their aging parents.
"When the parents are at work and the kids are at school, the grandparents get left alone," he says. "A daycare could really fill this void for them."
Why Saint Leo University Was an Easy Choice for This Vet
Originally, Saint Leo was not even on Croom's radar at which to earn his bachelor's degree. But it immediately became his top choice after his first impression of the university.
"I knew I wanted to start a business one day, and I knew it behooved me to get a management degree," he recalls. "When I visited another university, a person in the admissions office said it could take up to six months before they could get and review my transcripts, even though I had them in my hands."
He then took some advice to heart and never looked back.
"My VA counselor suggested Saint Leo, and I remember thinking I had never heard of it. When I came to the campus, I was basically enrolled by the time I left that same day. I also found out about their military connections, which made me feel more at home.
Experience Attending Saint Leo
Croom says he has no complaints about his experience as a Saint Leo student and really likes the university's flexible options for students in all walks of life.
"I like that there are options when it comes to classes being offered. I can go to school during the week, at night, and even on the weekend. Because of this, it allows me to still be able to have a full-time job, and I can still be a husband and a dad to my kids."
He points to Galo Alava and Peter Marion as two key professors who've had an impact on him because of their personalities and relatability.
Croom says there is one saying from the military that has always been etched in his mind that can apply to everyone.
"Lead, follow, or get out of the way."
Photo credit: The photograph included in this blog post was provided by Baba Croom and is used with permission.