For 40 years, the Veterans Upward Bound program at MCTC has been assisting veterans in beginning or returning to college, as well as connecting with a variety of outside services.
This year, Veterans Upward Bound was awarded a 2014 Military Friendly Schools designation by Victory Media, a company created by former members of the U.S. Navy to assist in providing veterans with the resources necessary to transition from military to civilian life.
The Military Friendly Schools list honors the top twenty percent of postsecondary education institutions in the United States who offer services like the Upward Bound program to help military service members achieve success. It is widely published in periodicals and media channels, and often cited on national television programs.
Veterans Upward Bound is a part of TRIO, which is a set of college opportunity programs funded by the federal government and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The programs were created to assist and motivate students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their quest for obtaining a higher education.
Charles Brown, a Chicago native who served as an Air Force Staff Sergeant and has been living in Minneapolis since 1997, began the VUB program this August with the intention of improving his Math and English skills before beginning school. He looks forward to reaping the benefits of the program. “I hope that it will be able to enhance my skills and get me through school without too many roadblocks,” he said. Brown aspires to major in computer networking.
Services offered by VUB include free college preparation and refresher courses with MCTC instructors, GED preparation, career counseling, assistance with applying for education benefits, and membership in the MCTC Chapter of the Student Veterans of America (SVA). Veterans are able to use the Veterans Welcome Center (located in H.2400) and computer lab, and are provided with referrals to other community and veterans’ agencies.
In order to meet the requirements for VUB’s free educational services, one must have partaken in a minimum qualifying duration of military service without being dishonorably discharged, be either low income or a first-generation college student, demonstrate academic potential, and display academic need. Veterans may receive assistance with a few particular areas or may choose to participate in all VUB services; the program is designed to meet the needs of the individual.
Joy Wise, the Director of VUB, has been working for the program since 1988. Despite a recent cut to their funding, Wise is committed to providing every veteran with assistance. “This last year, because of sequestration, we lost 5.23 percent of our funding,” Wise said. “That’s half a position. We have not had a raise from the Department of Education for years.”
She went on to say, “We serve anybody who walks in the door. If somebody walks in and says, ‘I’m a veteran, I need…,’ I’ll work with them, and sometimes they can go into our program, sometimes they can’t, but sometimes they just need to be referred elsewhere.”
VUB has ties with the Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC) at 1201 Harmon Place, near MCTC. CRRC provides services to veterans who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness. They supply resources such as counseling, medical care, employment services, housing referrals, and substance abuse treatment. The site also includes a Primary Care Clinic, multipurpose room with a kitchen for classes, laundry, showers, group rooms, community rooms, and a computer lab.
Tim McCaffrey, a first semester student in the welding program at MCTC, graduated the Upward Bound program in April of this year. McCaffrey served as an Aviation Structural Mechanic in a helicopter squadron stationed in San Diego. He grew up in Robbinsdale, Minnesota, and joined the military at the age of eighteen where he spent three years in active service, and another three as a reserve.
“I wanted to travel,” he said. “I’ve been halfway around the world…It was a valuable experience.”
When McCaffrey began planning to attend college, he faced several challenges. Not only was he struggling financially, but he was also in need of help with brushing up his academic skills, especially in Math. After participating in the Upward Bound program for just two months, his Math score had tripled from working with VUB staff and on his own with the Alexs program online. He was also given resources to aid for financing his education.
When speaking of his experience in VUB, McCaffrey expressed a great amount of gratitude. “This program gave me an opportunity to go to school and actually pay my bills,” he said, beaming. “It’s more than just an education.”
Wise expressed high hopes for the future of the program. “What I would like to do is see that the program continues to serve the veterans who are returning, who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan. We’ve been seeing them for several years, but I know we’ll be seeing higher numbers of those veterans. Some of them have special needs, because of injuries, TBI, PTSD…I want to make sure that there are services for those folks. I’d also like a broader awareness on campus of veterans.”
“I don’t want this to be an ignored generation. I think the Vietnam vets of my generation felt that way…These veterans are serving, regardless of whether you agree with the political reason for the war. They’re serving all of us, and they deserve to be treated well and have educational opportunity, and any opportunity that is afforded to anybody in the career world when they get out. They’re so smart. They’re smart, and they deserve every opportunity to be another great generation like the World War II generation was,” Wise said.
To celebrate 40 years of VUB, MCTC is hosting an anniversary celebration on Tuesday, October 15, from 4:30- 6:00pm in the Helland Center. There will be hors d’oeuvres and guest speakers, featuring Representative Keith Ellison. Attendees are asked to RSVP by e-mail (Kirsten.Zerhusen@minneapolis.edu) or phone (612-659-6136).
Image from <http://www.tri-c.edu/apply/specialinterest/veterans/Pages/VeteransUpwardBound.aspx>