Supporting the troops: veterans return to school

Aris Showers, IV Leader Staff Writer

Federal and state veterans assistance programs have helped launch some retired servicemen and -women — and newly-minted IVCC students — on a career they can be passionate about. Veterans’ return to school after serving in the military is a big feat. The transition from service to college is something they all seem to look forward to. The first day back at school seemed to invoke mixed emotions of fear, excitement and even nervousness. Although they have different feelings about the first day back in school, the one thing they do share is the fact that they all love learning.
They want to start careers that they are passionate about. The federal government wants to also ensure veterans’ future by  paying for their college expenses. Veterans are a part of a highly honored service and the government found a way to repay them for their selfless act of service. A dedicated IVCC staff works with veterans to assist in their transition into college. IVCC Veterans Benefit Adviser Ida Brown can provide the necessary information so veterans can utilize their benefits. Brown’s office is located within the Financial Aid Office. Veterans “make the ultimate choice” on which benefits they use, Brown says. There are 10 federal and state programs. Ryan Wudtke, who’s studying physics, uses the Chapter 33 post-9/11 GI Bill, while Jesse Wenger, who’s studying electrical engineering, and Yvette Lucas, who’s studying to become a speech pathologist, use Chapter 31 Vocational Rehabilitation. Most veterans at IVCC use Chapter 30 and Chapter 33 GI Bill. According, to Brown, IVCC veteran enrollment “has held steady in the 60- plus range since December 2013.” Veterans Wudtke, Wenger and Lucas all believe that an expense-paid education is enough motivation for them to maintain decent grades to keep their benefits. Brown agrees, stating, “Someone has to be motivated, but money absolutely helps veterans who want to go to school.” Brown is a retired veteran of the Navy, and students she advises speak highly of her. “My whole life prepared me for this,” Brown said. “I felt this was what I was meant to do. I like working with the students and veterans.” IVCC also provides social opportunities to veterans through the Student Veterans Association, which was started in 2008. IVCC provides a lounge where veterans can study and there are several types of social activities offered throughout the school year. One activity veterans seem to enjoy is volunteering by “helping out other soldiers,” according to club advisor Missy Killian. Lucas confirmed this, saying he became involved in the Wounded Warriors Project. Killian says IVCC will remain committed to helping veterans: “Oh wow, I feel like it’s the least I can do, to thank them for the sacrifices for the country.”