Alumnus credits MCCC for foundational education

By Eric Devlin
Kenil Patel, an alumnus of the Pottstown Promise Early College Program, credits his time as a student at Montgomery County Community College, for giving him the foundational education to become an engineer at the Limerick Generating Station. Photo by Diane Van Dyke

Kenil Patel, an alumnus of the Pottstown Promise Early College Program, credits his time as a student at Montgomery County Community College, for giving him the foundational education to become an engineer at the Limerick Generating Station. Photo by Diane Van Dyke

When Kenil Patel first walked onto Montgomery County Community College’s Pottstown Campus in 2015, he had no frame of reference as to what a college experience should be like.

Patel is a Pottstown native and first-generation college student. The son of Indian immigrants, Patel was selected for the Pottstown Promise Early College Program, which provides high-achieving, low-income Pottstown High School students the opportunity to finish their first year of college at MCCC during their junior and senior years of high school.

Thanks to his experience at MCCC, he earned enough college credits while still in high school to attend Drexel University and participate in the five-year co-op program. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology, before landing an engineering career at the Limerick Generating Station.

Patel credits MCCC for laying the educational foundation for all of his professional success so far.

“The program at Montco was amazing,” he said. “It really allowed me to collect about 30 college credits.”

As a student, Patel said he was able to take advantage of many of the programs available to students free of charge including the tutoring center and counseling services.

As a high school student, Patel remembers walking onto a community college campus and feeling intimidated at first.

“I was taking a human development psychology course at one point and there was a bunch of nurses also taking the course,” he said. “It was a bit intimidating with the age gap with the other students, but everyone was so friendly and nice. So, it was a wonderful opportunity to really learn how people interact even with those age gaps.”

After graduating from high school, Patel transferred to Drexel University in 2017 to begin a five-year-co-op program. Through the program, students like Patel alternate between classes and university approved employers. Students alternate with six months of work for an employer followed by six months in a classroom setting in their second, third and fourth year.

Beginning in fall 2023, The Drexel Promise will provide students who have earned an associate degree at an accredited community college in either Pennsylvania or New Jersey with a renewable scholarship for 50 percent of the cost of tuition as they work to complete their bachelor's degree as a Drexel Dragon. 

For his first co-op, Patel matched with the Limerick Generating Station. For his second co-op, he matched with the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia as a remote project manager mechanical engineering intern during the pandemic.

“I got to really learn a lot about project management,” he said, “which was really cool.”

For his third and final co-op, he was back at the Limerick Generating Station.

“It was wonderful trying to see all the different groups at the power plant,” he said. “Which led to the interview that led to me working there full-time.”

Patel credits all of his success to the foundational education he received as a student at MCCC.

“It definitely taught me about accountability,” he said. “Getting ready for my classes. Drexel being on 10-week terms was definitely fast paced.”

Patel said because he was able to take all of his general education classes at MCCC and his credits transferred, he was able to jump right into his core major classes at Drexel.

“It allowed me to identify what I wanted to do in college,” he said of his time at MCCC. “I definitely took an interest in engineering and discovered my passion for what I wanted to do.”

In 2022, Patel finished his degree in engineering technology with a mechanical engineering concentration from Drexel. Now he applies the knowledge and skills he’s gained in the classroom on a daily basis. His time at Pottstown High School and MCCC and then at Drexel, he said, “set the foundation.”

“I learned a lot about engineering and the fundamentals of what engineering is,” he said. “It definitely aids in the systems I own at the power plant. I own compressed air, closed cooling water systems and fire protection for the power plant as a strategic systems engineer.”

Patel’s job requires him to make sure each system is constantly working and performing optimally. He often will troubleshoot to make sure his systems are reliable and is always looking to upgrade the equipment, especially once they’ve been in service for more than 30 years.

“So not only is the foundation of my education starting from Montco, but it’s also been about communication as well,” he said. “Learning to communicate in high school while taking Montco classes. It really enabled me to communicate and develop communication skills, which has really been the number one tool in my toolbelt as an engineer.”

Among the general public, Patel said there’s a lack of knowledge about what goes on at a generating station like the one in Limerick. For starters, it’s water vapor pouring out of the cooling towers, not smoke.

“It is carbon-free energy, compared to coal or fossil fuel energy,” he said, “which means it’s cleaner for the environment.”

Constellation, which runs Limerick Generating Station, he said, promotes a safety-first culture that focuses on teamwork and inclusion.

“It’s part of our everyday conversations,” said Patel. “I think that’s really important putting safety first. For not only employees but the general public.”

The Limerick Generating Station hosted a community night in September 2023 featuring representatives from different departments at the facility to explain their roles and tables for other organizations in the area, said Patel.

“It was really awesome to see the company interact with the community,” he said, “and share that knowledge of what the nuclear industry is all about.”

When reflecting on his time as a student at MCCC, Patel said not only did it give him the foundational tools needed to be a great engineer, but he also learned how to break out of his shell socially.

“I think ultimately I became more of a social person,” he said. “I think I was a little bit of an introvert and I think some of my friends now would say I’m a bit of an extravert. It definitely helps me with communicating and engineering. Montco really enabled me to understand how to communicate with different types of people. Everyone communicates a different way and recognizing that is very important.”

Montco on the Move podcastFrom starting with no frame of reference for what college would be like, to now engineering multiple systems at the Limerick Generating Station, Patel’s journey is proof that an MCCC education can be the foundation for your future.

Learn more about Patel’s experience by listening to his "Montco on the Move" podcast.