DUSTIN TONEY – The Corsair
Brian Hayword was a high school drop-out. He took the GED, went into the military, came home injured and couldn’t find work; he tried for 6 years to do odd jobs.
“It wasn’t working, so I went back to school,” said Hayword, a Pensacola State College student and member of Veterans Upward Bound (VUB).
What did VUB do for Hayword? He said, “I got 44 percent on the algebra portion of the CPT the first time. After I took the eight week preparation class I scored 100 percent and my lowest GPA so far has been 3.33.”
VUB is a U.S. Department of Education funded program for low income veterans whose parents do not have a bachelor’s degree. The program is only available for Santa Rosa and Escambia County citizens and at any given time serves about 200 veterans who are attending Pensacola State and University of West Florida.
Whenever potential students wish to return to college, they are required to be tested to gauge their current learning abilities. When students do not meet the score requirements, they are allowed to take 8-week pre-college or remedial courses to make up for these scores or retake the test until higher scores are made.
Normally, these potential students would have to pay for these preparatory courses, as well as their books, necessary supplies and so forth. With VUB, these same students can take a list of remedial classes at no cost to them and with all supplies paid for. The program also helps with veterans seeking to take their GED. To help veterans adjust to the college life, these classes are composed of only veterans, so that they may find other students with similar life experiences and thus integrate better into the college life.
VUB also holds workshop, offers tutoring for its members and takes trips to regional colleges such as the University of Florida, the University of South Alabama and Florida State University. The group also attends many cultural events, such as plays, music performances, museums and Pelican games.
“There was a study the Department of Veterans Affairs did not too long ago following the veterans who came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, left the military and went to college. They tracked to see how they did,” said Gary Gamo, the program’s director. “One thing they found was that approximately 60 percent had dropped out within the first year.”
“After the first year of the program, the retention rate is expected to rise from 40 percent to 75 percent. This is what we do. Our classroom is for veterans only and the class is usually fewer than fifteen students. We allow students to work at their own pace and their grades will not be put on their transcript.”
Reed English, 49, a member of the program and veteran from the Gulf War, enjoys the program. He said, “I wish I could have found out about it earlier. We do a lot of neat things here but I really enjoy the comradery with the other vets. All of us from the Marine Corp, Navy, Army and other branches get to share our experiences. I can tell a difference with this program. The teachers and faculty here are outstanding. They understand you have been out of school for years; they carry the schedule to your needs.”
If a veteran is interested in VUB, they are encouraged to get in touch with the staff by calling the office at (850)484-1438 or stopping by its location, Room 631 in Building 6.