For many active duty military college isn’t on the radar. If they do have a moment to think about education, they are often unsure of their career options, do not know all of the financial aid that they are eligible for, and don’t know what types of classes they should be taking. Unfortunately, many veterans have never set foot on a college campus and the possibility of reaching upward social mobility through higher education isn’t an apparent option.
Recently, the Saddleback College VETS (Veterans Education & Transition Services) program brought 17 Camp Pendleton marines and sailors to campus as part of early transition assistance. Several veterans who had successfully made the transition from military to school shared their stories about the struggles and triumphs of enrolling in college after being discharged. Attendees then took a campus tour, which ended at the Veterans Memorial, before heading off to UCI for another campus tour.
“Our intent is to have this serve as a template that I can share at the Region Representative meeting at the California Community College Chancellors Office in July with the hopes to have this event replicated across the state,” said Terence Nelson, Assistant Dean, Counseling Services and Special Programs.
One message was made clear throughout the day: start planning for college now.
After many attendees shared their fears of leaving the military and only being qualified for minimum jobs, presenters pushed them to open their eyes about high-paying career options that are available with a certificate or a degree. Several speakers encouraged the soldiers to go back to the base and immediately research several career paths and colleges that they might be interested in.
The event also carried a strong theme of starting over. High school performance doesn’t matter, said Elizabeth Tepe a Saddleback student, athlete and veteran. She went from barely passing her high school classes to getting excellent grades at Saddleback and becoming a successful student athlete. Her story seemed to hit a nerve with many audience members who expressed their own concerns about being held back by their past.
During the tour, the marines and sailors seemed encouraged to look into their higher education options and the conversation was lively and upbeat. One of the active duty members summed up the day by telling the presenters, “I never considered college an option for me, but I’m getting more pumped just by being here.”