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Texas A&M joins program to aid veterans' transition to college

The Eagle - 8/21/2017

Texas A&M has joined a growing roster of universities taking part in a nonprofit's mission to ease the transition for U.S. veterans moving from the military to college.

The Warrior-Scholar Project helps enlisted service members develop the necessary skills to complete a four-year university program. The main areas of focus include academic writing and reading, technical skills like note taking, studying and time management, and the facilitation of confidence-building in the transition.

Among the 15 universities participating in 2017 are Harvard, Princeton, Georgetown, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell, Amherst College and the University of Michigan. The program, which is free for the veterans, costs an average of $60,000 and is funded mainly through donations.

Sophomore political science major Jarrod Romine enrolled in the program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill ahead of starting classes at Texas A&M two years ago. By the end of the week-long experience, he said he was sold.

"I was absolutely blown away," said Romine, who now serves as A&M's campus program coordinator for the project, which was held for the first time in Aggieland last week.

Romine -- who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than eight years and was selected last year as one of 60 Tillman Scholars -- said he sees the program's relationship with A&M as "the most natural thing in the world."

It's important for young veterans to know what their options are as they leave military service, he said, adding that they should be encouraged to take advantage of the benefits their service affords them.

"Unfortunately there is all too often an assumption that veterans just go to truck driving school or the police academy, and that's the extent of how they use their GI bill," Romine said. "Student veterans are often by their own nature humble, and that idea of selfless service often stops them from using what they have as a personal resource."

Romine said without the skills he learned through the program, he is not sure he would have been as effective in presenting his personal story when applying for a prestigious Tillman Scholarship.

Sidney Ellington, executive director of the nonprofit, said the class at Texas A&M last week included 20 prospective students, five of whom have already received acceptance into the university, and focused on giving the veterans insight into what it feels like to pursue higher education in a real-world classroom setting.

Ellington said he and his colleagues were particularly excited to see the program come to Texas A&M due to the large military population native to the state and the university's "rich military history."

In the future, he said the nonprofit is hoping to further expand its STEM program offerings in addition to the liberal arts.

The program, he said, is designed to help develop the next generation of American leaders.

"We want to couple the leadership traits, the team-building skills, adaptability and problem-solving learned from the military with a great education from a school like Texas A&M," Ellington said. "What you have then is a civic leader of tomorrow. So when I'm in a wheelchair, Jarrod and all of his fellow veterans will be holding leadership positions in society. I think the country needs that."

Ellington said he believes many citizens in the nation have lost track of the ability to "talk to each other," and the experience of veterans in "coming together to meet the mission objective" despite holding opposing views is a trait which will be beneficial.

While Ellington said he's not certain the funding will allow for the nonprofit to continue its partnership with A&M, he is hopeful it will work out.

"The goal, providing the availability of funding, would be to make Texas A&M one of our STEM partners next year so we could do a two-week program -- one for liberal arts and one for STEM," Ellington said. "But having a goal and being able to see it through to fruition are two different things as a nonprofit. Hopefully the good people of the Texas A&M alumni association would take an interest in this and be willing to help fund it so that we can come back next year."

For more information about the Warrior-Scholar Project, go to warrior-scholar.org.

 
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