YTI graduates first class of respiratory therapists

The odds seemed stacked against Brandon Phennicie.

He sought out YTI’s program to begin a career that would support his wife and two children and continued a full-time warehouse job and a part-time position at UPMC Altoona, in addition to his studies.

He finished with a 3.32 GPA. He was the first of his class to pass his CRT boards and was offered a job at UPMC Altoona.

“He juggled work, family and studies quite well. I thought he wasn’t going to make it, but he proved me wrong,” YTI Respiratory Therapy Program Director Bill Altimus said. “You don’t have to hang around him long to see that he will be a good employee.”

Phennicie was among the 100 students who graduated from YTI this month and received their diplomas and degrees Thursday at the Blair County Convention Center.

He is also one of the eight students who comprise the first class to graduate from YTI Career Institute’s respiratory therapy program in Altoona.

Phennicie’s wife, Megan, said it is a relief that her husband has completed his education. Brandon slept three to four hours each night so that he could do all the things he needed to do as a husband, father, employee and student.

“It was a hard thing to watch,” Megan said. “But he made sure he spent time with his family and went to work and school. I’m very proud of what he’s done for us.”

The Phennicies live in Hyndman, so Brandon had an hour drive to YTI in Altoona.

Brandon’s father, Gary, also a respiratory therapist, said his son would call him to stay awake while he drove.

Brandon, 28, said he realized after the birth of his first son that his family would need more money than his warehouse job paid. When Megan became pregnant with their second son, Brandon began looking for a new job. He and Megan have two sons, ages 3 and 2.

He said his boss at his warehouse job helped him achieve his educational goals by granting him a flexible work schedule.

“When I made the decision to go back to school, I knew it was going to be hard,” he said.

He said he asked God daily for the strength to keep working toward obtaining his goal.

“It was worth it to give my wife and children the life they deserve.”

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.