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Veterans Upward Bound works to help veterans further their education

By VICTORIA L. CANN

The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va.  — Veterans Upward Bound, a program to help veterans continue their education after service, has received a renewal for the five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education that will allow the program to continue until 2022.

The program is a federal TRIO program dedicated to helping veterans across the nation prepare for education of any sort. West Virginia is one of several states hosting a Veterans Upward Bound program.

Director Mark Rosencrance said they cover the whole state and work to help as many veterans as they can.

“We have had some challenges, but we are awfully happy we got the grant for renewed for another five years,” he said. “I also just recently added a fourth academic adviser, so now I have someone who’s in the Eastern Panhandle.”

Rosencrance said it’s a thrill to continue doing what they have for veterans for the past 27 years, and they look forward to continuing their services. Whether it’s working with veterans one-on-one or in group class settings, they are happy to help.

“If they’re a veteran and live in West Virginia with any aspirations after they graduate high school or get their GED, we want to help,” he said. “All of our services are free, and basically, we can help them finish their GED if they want.”

Working together through paperwork, either while applying for school or getting their GI Bill worked out, Rosencrance said all of their services are free.

“We jump through all of the hoops with them. We can work one-on-one, hire them a tutor, we pay for a tutor and actually pay them a travel stipend to get to tutoring,” he said. “Some need help with math or science before starting school, some are OK academically but don’t know the paperwork.”

Academic Adviser Jim Baxter said they work to assist veterans by simplifying the process or preparing for secondary education including: Applying for school, comparing and applying for GI Bill benefits, obtaining copies of DD214 forms and military transcripts, applying for federal financial aid, and providing links to other veteran agencies.

“We offer academic assistance to help vets get into school,” he said. “Refresher classes are offered for those who want to brush up on their skills or learn a new skill.”

Baxter said they host basic computer classes at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center as often as the veterans want them. Some of the classes are learning just how to use a computer and others are more concentrated on specific programs such as Microsoft Word or Excel.

“They supply us the laptops and we have an instructor who comes in to teach, she’s also a veteran,” he said. “All of our services are free with no obligation.”

At the end of courses, Baxter mentioned they do give those who complete the courses certificates. While they aren’t actually certified, it’s a nice little token to remind the veterans they have completed the course and gained new or refined their skills.

They also work to bring new classes to veterans when asked, Baxter said. They have offered a Spanish class because there was interest in learning a new language, and they will be starting another course on that soon.

“We’ll put on a course if we get about four or five people interested,” he said. “For Spanish, we got our instructor through the Harrison County school system, and we’ll be doing that again in a few months for the new course.”

Veterans Upward Bound not only helps veterans to gain new skills, but also apply for schools. Baxter said they work with veterans to understand the Free Application for Federal Student Aid along with the application and admission processes.

“To make it easier, most all schools have Veteran Certifying Officials who work with veterans to apply, get through the paperwork, and the admission process to get into school,” he said. “Then once they get in, they keep track of the courses they’re taking and all they are doing along with the money they’re getting from the VA.”

For more information about Veterans Upward Bound or how to get involved, visit www.vubwv.org.

Staff writer Victoria L. Cann can be reached at (304) 626-1409 or [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter @vcann_theet

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