Graduation ceremonies have taken place, and many seniors are looking toward college. As fall approaches, veterans are encouraged to do the same.
When Michael Millikin left the military, he wasn’t aware of the resources available to him, particularly when it came to continuing his education. As a Veterans Upward Bound adviser, he’s working to make sure other veterans know about programs that could be helpful for them.
“The service is important because when a person gets out of the military, it’s challenging to figure out what the next step is,” he said. “You don’t really know what is available.”
The Upward Bound program is grant funded through the Department of Education. Western Nebraska Community College is one of about 50 programs across the country, and has participated since 1999. The purpose is to help first generation, low income veterans go back to school.
“We offer tutoring, school supplies help with resumes, website and computer assistance and any other kind of support needed,” he said.
If there is a service the program doesn’t offer, staff will work to connect veterans with other resources that can help. Veterans Upward Bound is located in the Veterans Center located above the gym at WNCC’s Scottsbluff campus. Services are also available for military spouses and dependents.
Millikin said he wishes he’d known about the program when he went to school, because he was a first generation, low-income veteran. He said that many veterans are not aware of their options when it comes to education and an internet search can produce an overwhelming amount of information.
“They may vaguely remember some talk of the GI Bill, or other things available to them, but they don’t know where to start,” he said. “With us, you can just ask a specific question and if we don’t know the answer we will find out for you or direct you to where you need to go.”
After serving four years in the Marine Corps, Millikin spent five years working in the financial aid offices at various California colleges. He moved to Nebraska in 2011 and learned about Upward Bound.
There was a position open in the program and since he’d enjoyed working for colleges before, he decided to submit his resume.
“When they saw my resume, they thought I would be a good fit for the position,” he said. “Once we talked and they told me what I would be doing, I got excited.”
He considers the opportunity to help other veterans to be an honor, saying most of them have shared experiences.
“It doesn’t feel like work to me,” he said. “I feel like I’m helping a friend out, and then in return, I feel they are helping me out, because I get to talk about my experiences with a person who knows what I am talking about.”
Other veterans have the same opportunity for a peer-to-peer chat during Upward Bound’s monthly Buddy Check meetings. The meetings take place on the 22nd of each month at 7 p.m. at Godfathers Pizza.
“It usually lasts an hour or two,” Millikin said. “We eat pizza, vent about life, talk about the old days, and share information that may benefit other veterans.”
Millikin encouraged veterans to contact the Veterans Upward Bound staff to talk about what kinds of resources are out there. He can be reached at 308-635-6152.
“I feel that after you serve your country you deserve to talk to someone that can lay out some options, and get you to where you need to be.”