When there is a problem, it’s easy to complain. But to actually find a solution, it takes determination, creativity and, sometimes, willingness to compromise, even when the outcome doesn’t benefit you the most.
Recently, veteran advocates and educators in the Aiken area noticed that some of the men and women who served this country in the military face a big challenge when they decided to return to school.
These post-9/11 veterans receive 36 months of educational benefits from the G.I. Bill, theoretically enough to allow them to complete a four-year degree. However, when they undergo college placement testing, the results reveal that many are not ready for classes at the college level. They need to enroll in remedial programs, and financing those classes eats up their educational benefits to the point where they may not be able to finish the work on their degrees unless they can find some extra money somewhere.
These veteran students aren’t stupid or lazy. For many, it’s just a matter of having not been in a classroom situation for years, so they’ve forgotten a lot of what they learned. To help these veterans, people involved with Aiken Technical College, USC Aiken and the Augusta/Aiken Warrior Project put their heads together and came up with an alternative course of action for the former soldiers: The A-VET (Acceleration Veteran Education and Transition) Boot Camp.
Funded by a grant from the Wounded Warrior Project, the seven-week program began in June at Aiken Tech and will end in August. Another session is scheduled to start in October. During Boot Camp, veterans who reside in and outside of Aiken County are eligible to receive free help in math, English and various skills they will need to adjust to college life, so no G.I. Bill benefits have to be used. Afterward, if they take the college placement test again and are successful, they are free to go to any school they choose.
In approaching this problem, Aiken Tech and USC Aiken could have been greedy and they could have been selfish. They could have said, “Who cares what happens to veterans as long as we get our tuition money?” But instead, they got together and said, “Let’s do what’s best for the veterans.”
The schools should be commended for their willingness to cooperate, and the Augusta/Aiken Warrior Project should be recognized for its hard work in helping to recruit veterans to attend Boot Camp and offering support to make sure that any difficulties they face in their personal lives don’t prevent them from completing it.
Many other problems could be solved locally if other people, businesses and organizations would learn a lesson from this successful collaboration.