Program gives veterans college confidence

Liz Geiman

After working with guns the size of a small car for three years, David Angle wasn’t afraid of much. However, nothing scared him as much as going to college.

For Angle, who repaired and restored the Army’s Vulcan weapon for three years, returning to college at 49 years old was a daunting task — a task made manageable by a program called Veterans Upward Bound.

The program, paid for by the U.S. Department of Education, offers free assistance to veterans seeking postsecondary education.

Rick Wright, coordinator and counselor for Veterans Upward Bound at WKU, calls the program a “one-stop shop” for veterans who want to get a degree.

“We offer many services to veterans, such as career counseling, academic advising, assistance with financial aid applications and admissions,” Wright said.

In the U.S., there are 47 Veterans Upward Bound programs to support more than 22 million veterans, according to the National Association of Veterans Upward Bound.

WKU’s Veterans Upward Bound is located in Jones-Jaggers Hall and serves eight counties with more than 20,000 veterans, Wright said.

Angle, who joined the program as a student in 1999, now teaches refresher English and computer skills courses for veteran students.

“I am giving back to the program that I got to use,” Angle said.

Veterans have the option to take refresher courses to prepare for college classes. The courses meet four days a week, and the students are only required to spend five hours in class per week.

The classroom is a more casual environment where education specialists often sit at tables with the students.

“All our vets are individuals that respond differently to being facilitated,” Angle said. “We tailor our approach to each student’s needs.”

He said the method of teaching has been the same since he was a student in the program. Davy Stone, who still works as an education specialist in Veterans Upward Bound, was Angle’s math instructor.

“I’ve learned that with adult students, one of their biggest obstacles is their own self esteem,” Stone said. “When helping my students with academics, we try to use a lot of positive reinforcement and encouragement to help students feel comfortable in the classroom.”

Lack of confidence was something Angle experienced before entering the program. 

“I felt like an old man on the Hill,” he said.

Veterans Upward Bound, regardless of where it is in the United States, inspires confidence in its students. Angle said the program gave him the courage to enroll and attend classes.

Along with Veterans Upward Bound, Military Student Services provides precise answers for veterans and helps them avoid the “runaround” that students can face at a university.

With these two programs to offer, Military Times Edge Magazine ranked WKU 16 of 20 in the most “vet friendly” universities in 2011.

Angle said he tries to pass on to his students the tools that helped him achieve success during his own studies.

“If you’ve weathered the challenge of the military, you can weather school,” he said. “If someone like me can do it, you can too.”