OGDEN, Utah – Veterans will continue to receive free help to prepare and progress in post-secondary education thanks to a $1.6 million Department of Education (DOE) grant that finances Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) at Weber State University for another five years.
Only 51 programs received the coveted DOE funding out of 300 that applied. “This is a very big deal to Wasatch Front veterans with its being the only VUB program in the state,” said Randy Wilson, director of VUB. “It means a brighter future for many veterans, some of whom are fresh out of combat and need extra support and confidence to achieve their educational goals.”
Tyler Baranowsky is a WSU senior majoring in mechanical engineering technology. He served four and a half years in the Marine Corps and had never considered college until he was laid off at a sheet-metal plant following his military service. “I didn’t come from a family that valued education. My experience at VUB has opened my eyes up to a world of opportunity. I believe the more information you can take in, the better off you are.”
When Baranowsky first attended VUB, he needed help remembering basic math skills like arithmetic and fractions. Today he enjoys the challenges of math and recently declared mathematics as a minor.
“Many of the veterans that come to us may not have done well in school, so they joined the military, but once their service ended, they realized they needed an education to get ahead,” Wilson said.
VUB currently serves 144 participants ranging in ages from 20 to 70 and provides mentoring, tutoring, counseling and pre-college academic instruction. To ensure long-term success, the program offers support and services to veterans after enrollment in college courses.
Wilson says if VUB didn’t exist many veterans would get frustrated with the educational process and just quit. “We give them the support they need and keep showing them that they can do it. We are confidence builders and help them work through their obstacles like applying for scholarships and financial aid.”
Approximately 78 percent of the participants in the program improve academically and 58 percent go onto college, if not already enrolled.
Baranowsky is looking forward to a future he would have never imagined without VUB. “I’ve always been mechanically inclined, but I never saw myself as a college graduate. Now I’m open to all possibilities and have the confidence to pursue them.”
To be eligible for the program veterans must have at least 181 days of active duty with no less than a general discharge and must be either a low-income or first-generation college student.