Fifty-thousand dollars was awarded to the VOC by the New York State Higher Education Services Corportation in the form of a College Access Challenge Grant. It enables the Veterans Outreach Center to help returning servicemembers navigate their GI Bill college benefits as well as other financial aid options.
Nick Wolcott is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He remembers how it felt when he got out of the Navy in 2007. "There's so many options available as far as education and funding, and disability, home loans, it's overwhelming," he said.
Wolcott is finishing a degree in psychology at the College at Brockport, and he also works at Monroe Community College as the school certifying official for the GI Bill, helping veterans transition to college. "A lot of servicemembers that I served with didn't want to go to college to begin with, that's why they went in the service, so now that they have this money they feel a little anxious about it," said Wolcott.
The $50,000 grant secured by the Veterans Outreach Center will help make that transition easier, on and off campus. Bob Mitchell is the VOC's Education Resource Specialist. He wrote the grant. "What it does is it basically pays for the education program we have going on at Veterans Outreach Center right now," he said.
The money will be used to get information to veteran students and their families about what benefits are available and how to properly package them. "There's so much out there that they're just not aware of, or how to use it, how to use it properly, how to maximize their benefits," said Mitchell.
There are about 2,000 veterans attending area colleges according to Mitchell. Anything that improves communication between veteran agencies and the colleges is welcomed by Wolcott. "Sometimes there's some disconnect between the two entities so with some more money and funding you would think that it would make it a lot smoother just getting information back and forth," he said.
Mitchell, who served in the Army, said the College Access Challenge Grant is a chance to give back to our veterans. In addition to those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, he said veterans between the ages of 35 and 60 are also eligible for an extra year's worth of education benefits if they are unemployed and meet other criteria.
For more information about the Veterans Outreach Center, click here.