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New program helps veterans adapt to college life
Program offers help with transition from combat to classroom
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Gainesville State College student and Iraq War veteran Allen White helps Anna Jimenez during her workout Thursday afternoon in the school’s gym. White is working a job in the school’s gym during the summer semester.

Soldiers to Scholars

For more information about Gainesville State College’s Soldiers to Scholars program, contact the Academic Affairs office at 678-717-3835.

Gainesville State College is striving to become a more veteran-friendly campus.

The school has become part of the University System of Georgia's "Soldiers to Scholars" consortium, which helps veterans, including reservists, use education as the bridge back to civilian life.

The program aims to "target degree areas that are highly employable according to state statistics, so we're looking at criminal justice, health fields, education and some engineering technology-oriented degrees," said Chaudron Gille, associate vice president for academic affairs.

"Those are the ones being pushed ... in trying to make courses available online collaboratively and give more credit for military experience and training where it can fit into a degree program."

The University System launched the program in January 2010, adding Gainesville State, Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta and Albany State University in May to the existing consortium of nine other institutions, including North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega.

Soldiers to Scholars "has become a means of using proven methods and best practices that attract and retain military students in the University System," said Tonya Lam, the USG's associate vice chancellor for student affairs.

"We want to create campuses that are inviting and friendly to military personnel and veterans."

The program is funded in part by Georgia's $4.2 million College Access Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Each participating institution must establish "outreach centers" designed to assist service members and their families by serving as a one-stop shop as they enroll, register or apply for GI Bill benefits.

The centers also help service members with housing availability, counseling, work-study opportunities and campus activities as well as serving as a hub for military student and veteran social activities.

Gainesville State, which is off Mundy Mill Road and near Interstate 985 in South Hall, had been noticing for the past couple of years a stream of veterans coming onto campus.

"When I found out about (Soldiers to Scholars), we contacted the Board of Regents," Gille said.

Gainesville State emerged as a strong candidate for the program, largely because it was involved in an adult learning consortium.

The college is hoping to get funding for a veterans outreach office, with a veterans expert who "knows all the ins and outs of helping (students) access financial aid and other services that are available."

Also, the school has "sent our counselors for special training" in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, a common mental affliction for veterans returning from combat.

"Being part of this consortium and grant in the University System, we have a little more flexibility in terms of the transfer and acceptance of courses from other schools and accessing online degree programs and courses," Gille said.

Lam said "service members and veterans who are making the transition from combat to the classroom often have unique needs."

Allen White, 25, a Gainesville State student since fall 2009, agrees with that.

Veterans would "be lying if we said it wasn't difficult," he said of the transition. "... It's kind of like going from one extreme to another."

He is president of Veterans Network, a campus club for veterans who started this spring.

"The good thing about meeting other people who have been through similar circumstances is we're able to come together more and have a safe, constructive and healthy organization," White said.

The club's goal is for members to help each other "not only in academics but socially," he said.

White left the U.S. Army in the summer of 2009 after a four-year stint that included 2005 and 2008 tours in Iraq.

When the Monroe native arrived at Gainesville State, he soon began noticing other veterans on campus.

"There are more out there than you might realize," he said.

The Veterans Network also has given the veterans a chance to help students "who are thinking about going into the military," White said. "We've been able to educate them on some of the challenges they might face."

 

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