Local colleges make extra effort to help veterans succeed

| November 15, 2010 | 0 Comments

November 14, 2010
Repost from Citizensvoice.com

Luzerne County colleges and universities welcome returning veterans to their campuses.

Counseling programs, extracurricular activities and support groups on campus help returning members of the military transition back to the civilian world and start the next chapter of their lives.

Wilkes University named a Military Friendly School

When “G.I. Jobs” magazine released its 2011 list of Military Friendly Schools, Wilkes University was honored to be in the ranks of the top 15 percent of colleges, universities and trade schools which are doing the most to embrace America’s veterans as students.

A participant in the Yellow Ribbon Program for veterans established through the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act, Wilkes provides support to veterans completing their education at the university. Veterans counselor, Lt. Col. Mark Kaster (retired), recruits and counsels veterans at Wilkes. Once they are admitted, he provides benefits counseling and helps them process benefit requests. He also guides veterans to opportunities and resources available at the university.

Kaster, who spent 32 years in the military – 26 years commissioned in the Air Force, plus six years enlisted Army and Iowa Army National Guard – understands the challenges veterans and their families face.

“I usually like to start asking three questions: Where are you coming from? Where are you now? Where do you see yourself in three to five years?” Kaster explains. “Wilkes can be very helpful in answering that last question for a returning veteran. We can help them get where they want to go.”

To learn more about veterans benefits and services at Wilkes, go to www.wilkes.edu/veterans.

Veterans succeed at Penn State Wilkes-Barre

The staff and faculty at Penn State Wilkes-Barre pride themselves on making sure the time veterans spend at the campus is a rewarding and successful venture. The campus has set out to furnish veterans with a helping hand and the proper support mechanisms to succeed in a collegiate setting, acting as a bridge between Veterans’ Affairs and the academic world.

“We make every attempt to solve questions from financial aid to course selections,” said Bruce Reid, head librarian at Penn State Wilkes-Barre and veterans adviser for the campus. “In fact, a number of our veterans do extremely well academically and have earned academic scholarships that supplement their VA benefit package.”

The veterans at Penn State Wilkes-Barre are able to mainstream fairly well into campus life by participating in many co-curricular and extracurricular activities as well. Several veterans have served in leadership roles, including Student Government Association president, Haunted Forest chairman, and resident manager for students living in off-campus apartments.

“The Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus will continue to work hard at cultivating this successful tradition of welcoming our returning veterans and providing them with a Penn State education,” Reid added,

King’s College and veterans have historic connection

King’s College’s founding in 1946 coincided with the end of World War II, resulting in a large number of veterans in the college’s first classes. That strong connection still exists today.

King’s participation in the Yellow Ribbon and other federal veteran assistance programs has, in the last year, tripled the number of veterans attending King’s. King’s also was recently included on a national list of Military Friendly Schools compiled by “G.I. Jobs” magazine. Only 15 percent of all colleges, universities and trade schools were selected for inclusion.

In January 2010, brothers Tim and Michael Griffith both enrolled as full-time students following five years of service in the United States Navy. In their first semester, both excelled in the classroom, achieving nearly perfect grade-point averages.

“In addition to the fact that King’s business school has international accreditation, I found the smaller class sizes to be a great benefit,” said Tim, an accounting major who had attended public institutions prior to his military service.

Mike attended King’s prior to his service and knew he would return. “The staff is awesome and incredibly helpful,” said Mike. “They have helped me organize my courses for both a math major and a secondary education certificate.”

Misericordia says thanks with Yellow Ribbon Program

Sgt. Jessica Pugliese of Scranton was motivated by a strong sense of duty to country after 9/11 that prompted her to enlist in the United States Marine Corps in 2003 and serve her country.

Today the Misericordia University junior is grateful that her country is helping her receive her bachelor’s degree in medical imaging.

The Yellow Ribbon Program, established through the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act, allows institutions of higher education to pay an amount of tuition that Veterans Affairs will then match so veterans can attend the school of their choice. Misericordia is one of 100 schools in Pennsylvania participating and has made a commitment to provide $4,500 for up to 25 students in the program, along with a housing allowance and $1,000 per year for books and supplies.

“I am so appreciative for Misericordia choosing to participate in such a program,” said Sgt. Pugliese, who was stationed on Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina as a maintenance management officer during her service. “The university’s decision is allowing me to have a quality education, one I wouldn’t be able to afford any other way.”

For information, go to www.Misericordia.edu/yellowribbon.

Luzerne County Community College welcomes veterans

Luzerne County Community College is approved for the education and training of veterans of the armed services. Among many of the programs offered to veterans are one-to-one academic and personal counseling, career services to assist with career planning, finding a job, writing a resume, free tutoring and free study skills seminars. LCCC also has established a veterans support group on campus.

LCCC is an official College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) testing center and Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES) will fund CLEP exam costs for qualified military personnel. A qualifying score on a CLEP exam can earn students from three to 12 credits, depending on curriculum. College credit also may be earned for some military training received, including basic training.

LCCC works closely with the Northeastern Pennsylvania Veterans Multicare Alliance, Inc. (NEPA VMA), which provides information and referral services for veterans. The alliance has established a Veterans Outreach Initiative at the LCCC Corporate Learning Center in Wilkes-Barre.

Doug Newton, a veteran of the armed services, is currently attending classes at LCCC. He is a member of the Adult Learners Association and works in the Student Support Services Department.

“With help from LCCC, I’ve overcome many obstacles and I am slowly making my dream of earning a college degree into a reality,” Newton said.

Penn State Hazleton continues tradition of assisting veterans

From the early days of its founding, Penn State Hazleton has seen significant growth in enrollments of veterans, starting with those returning from World War II. Support has been offered throughout the years to those who served their country and thus became eligible for education benefits.

Today, this trend is continuing with the Chapter 33 – Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

According to Joan Williams, director of admissions and financial aid, the campus has seen a significant increase in children of veterans using the bill to attend college and cover expenses, in some cases up to 100 percent of costs, depending on length of service. In addition to tuition expenses, qualified veterans may be able to obtain book and living allowances.

Eligible veterans may choose to use the benefits or transfer them to a spouse or child. Veterans Affairs Office also supplies financial aid information through Sarah Walton, financial aid coordinator. Penn State Hazleton participates in the V.A.’s Yellow Ribbon G.I. Education Enhancement Program, a provision of the Post-9/11 Veterans Education Assistance Act of 2008. This program allows the campus to partner with the V.A. to extend a higher benefit to veterans. For information, call 450-3142.

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