Local veteran honored with scholarship

Published 9:52 pm Monday, November 10, 2008

On a whim, Arlington Durden applied for a chance to go to design school.

The Sessions Online Schools of Art and Design partnered with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to create the Louis H. Schilt Memorial Scholarship program. The program helps physically and mentally injured servicemen and women or their spouses build new careers in the graphic and Web design fields.

“After learning about the school’s program I applied for it,” Durden said. “I didn’t think I had a great chance of getting the scholarship. Although I’m disabled, there are other kids out there who are in worse condition than I am.”

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Durden joined the Army after graduating high school in Detroit, Mich., in 1982. His first assignment sent him overseas to Germany, where Durden got to watch firsthand as the Berlin Wall was torn down.

A few years and a couple of international destinations later, Durden found himself in the middle of the Gulf War. During the war, he suffered multiple injuries as a result of a Scud missile attack. Those injuries continued to debilitate him years later when he was stationed in South Carolina.

In 2000, Durden retired from the Army, but he did not go far from his military roots. He began working as an operations officer for the Army Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program.

In his work, Durden is responsible for creating promotional material for the JROTC, as well as doing audio/visual work during important ceremonies and presentations.

Durden said the job became an inspiration for him.

He began thinking of other ways to get involved in the graphic design arena, and he even began a graphics design company called Photos-N-Motion.

But, he knew he was limited with his lack of experience in the field.

“I was never that great into Photoshop, and I didn’t have the background,” he said.

So, when the war veteran heard about Sessions’ program, he thought it was worth a shot.

The scholarship is for full tuition to Sessions’ award-winning Graphic Design or Web Design programs, which provides students with Apple iMac computers and professional-level graphic and Web design software combined with online courses from industry leaders.

Out of a pool of more than 200 applicants, Durden was chosen as one of the 20 scholarship winners.

“I was shocked, I really was,” he said. “I know I should look at myself as the ordinary soldier, who sacrificed for his country, but knowing there are a lot of others out there, I don’t know…I was just shocked.”

Durden says he is already learning a lot in the program, even though he is still just on his fourth project.

“I’m really enjoying the course, and I’m learning new things,” he said. And that includes learning more of the tricks to the Photoshop software.

“I’m learning how to take a photo and add layers to it,” he said. “I’m getting there.”

Durden and his wife, Alice, moved to Suffolk two years ago. They reside in Woodlake Terrace.