Daniel Berreth has always wanted to leave a mark, but he wasn’t always sure how.

The importance of helping others was instilled in the South Florida native from an early age, but when it came time to pick a career path, Berreth, 38, said he struggled.

After a long road that included two years in a state college, the dream of an international job crushed by a tough economic reality, and an Army tour of duty in the Middle East, Berreth began a new path at UCF.

On Saturday, May 9, he left his mark at UCF, becoming part of the university’s legacy when he graduated from the College of Business Administration with a bachelor’s degree in marketing and became UCF’s 250,000th graduate.

The Road to the Military

After completing high school in Miami in 1995, Berreth moved around Florida and eventually returned to South Florida to attend Broward College, hoping his time there would give him some guidance on his future.

It did in some ways. It was there that he met his wife, Jenny. After two years of school, the pallet-wrapping company he worked for offered him a job at its headquarters in Denmark. But as he was preparing to make the move, the dream opportunity fell apart due to the economic crash.

What next, he thought?

One day while walking around a shopping center, Berreth saw an Army advertisement. The sign said now hiring up to age 42, and Berreth, 33 at the time, decided to follow in his family’s footsteps and enlist. His brother was in the Air Force, his father and uncle served in the Vietnam War, and his grandfather is a WWII and Korean War veteran.

Berreth was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, after completing basic training. His title was a food-service specialist, and he served in Iraq and Kuwait.

As his enlistment contract neared an end, Berreth was at another crossroad.

He could re-enlist, but he didn’t think the Army was the place for him for the long-term. He could enter the job market, but it was tough to find companies hiring sales positions, something he had thought about since shadowing his supervisors at the pallet-wrapping company.

He knew a college degree was necessary to get the kind of sales job he wanted, so he decided to look into continuing his education.

“I love helping people, and that’s really what sales is about,” said Berreth. “You’re going to help someone get what they want, what they need. I’ve been helping people my whole life.”

Finding a Home Base at UCF

After UCF’s Professional Selling Program appeared in an Internet search about sales education, he cold-called Bill Steiger, an instructor of marketing in the College of Business Administration.

“I was blown away that this man out of nowhere would just talk to me,” Berreth said of the 45-minute conversation. “I wasn’t even a student. He said it was an opportunity that if you were able to get into the program, you’d never regret your time spent there. I knew I had to come to UCF.”

So Berreth completed a few extra classes at Central Texas College so he could enter UCF as a junior and eventually become one of the students selected for admission to the professional selling track, part of the marketing major. He started at UCF in fall 2013.

“It was tough. Sometimes when you come out of the military, you don’t know where you belong,” Berreth said. “I was scared that going to school would be a weird experience and that I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone.”

Instead he said he found just the opposite. People were friendly and open, and he dove into networking with his peers and getting to know his professors.

He also wanted to do something for the Veterans Academic Resource Center, the UCF service that had helped him so much in transitioning from the Army to life as a college student.

He helped the VARC establish a LinkedIn page to connect student-veterans, and he worked as a peer mentor for the center, helping students navigate their new lives at UCF.

“I’d tell them to step out of the box that you’ve been living in,” Berreth said. “I stepped so far out of my box while being a student here that I don’t know what happened, I don’t know where that box is anymore.”

Saluting a Sales Champion

Berreth, also part of the Sales Club, had the opportunity to compete in the International Collegiate Sales Competition through the Professional Selling Program.

The competition challenges students to role play in a sales scenario. After losing in the first round of the competition, Berreth came in at the top of a wildcard round the following day and went on to score first place in the individual competition, beating out 85 other students and helping UCF take home the team prize.

He walked away with more than a trophy. A recruiter from SAS Institute, a business analytics software and services company based in Cary, N.C., saw Berreth’s victory and offered him a job interview for a sales position.

The interview turned into a job offer, and he’ll start as an associate account executive June 1.

He’s looking forward to being in control of his own destiny and seeing the results of his hard work.

He also hopes that his attitude and encouragement have left an impression on the people he’s met at UCF, from the veterans he’s helped navigate through difficult times to his professional selling peers and teammates.

His advice to them and others? Be open-minded and take chances.

“Everyone you see everywhere you walk has some value to add to the world,” he said. “They can enhance your life, so give everyone a chance. Have an open heart. You never know what you’re going to find.”