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From Warriors to Wildcats
LC launches initiative to help military veterans and their families
PINEVILLE, LA - For many soldiers seeking to transition from military service to civilian life, the promise of an education through the G.I. Bill has been an invaluable benefit.
And for many of those same soldiers, that benefit typically leads them to a public institution for the simple fact tuition rates are usually lower than private schools.
“You don’t even bother with (private colleges) because you’re trying to go to school for free,” said Mason Courtney of Alexandria, a former Army flight medic who wants to now pursue a degree in nursing. “Especially when I first got out – I didn’t have any money at all. And I want to get out of school without having any debt.”
But that scenario could change, at least at one school, through a program being piloted by Louisiana College.
They call it the “LC Military Outreach Initiative” – an effort by which veterans, their spouses and even their children can receive up to 100-percent of their tuition and fees covered through a special fund the college has established to make the program possible.
“We’re not after your military benefits, we’re only after an opportunity to serve,” LC President Dr. Joe Aguillard told veterans at a recent campus event to launch the initiative. “We see a mission to serve you and your families. We want to know what your needs are. We don’t try to fit you into our paradigm, but we want Louisiana College to fit into your paradigm and your needs.”
According to Ronnie LaLande, LC’s Director of New Project Developments, the Military Outreach Initiative is looking to build upon the services to veterans and their families (approximately 39 currently enrolled) the college currently offers as an attempt to “intensify that effort.”
“We’ve always had a patriotic sense of who we are,” LaLande said. “As Christians, we believe in freedom and liberty and what these men and women have gone through to provide that for us. It was a decision made by our president that what we were doing was not enough. We needed to step up what we were doing and make a difference.”
Further evidence of that effort is the plan to develop - along with tuition assistance - a special on-campus center that would cater to the specific and unique needs of veterans and their families. The center will not only provide a place for the veterans to meet but will partner with local agencies like the Veterans Administration, the City of Pineville, and even job services to ensure all forms of needs are being met.
The partnership with the Alexandria V.A. Health Care System is especially important as local officials note that in many cases veterans who begin the quest for an education through the G.I. Bill may drop out because of factors like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The hope is that a center like the one LC will provide will help veterans get the help they need in order to succeed in pursuing their degrees.
“What we’re really trying to do is intensify our efforts to help the whole person,” LaLande said. “Whether they need a job, whether they need counseling, we want to help them.”
For current members of the Louisiana National Guard like Ed Ramer, a native of Grant Parish who plans to attend LC this fall, that outreach initiative adds a personal touch veterans are not always accustomed to seeing from would-be colleges or universities looking to draw them. Considering challenges many veterans face – especially those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan – a personal touch might make all the difference.
“The challenge for most soldiers, even the younger ones, is how much different their life experiences are compared to any college student,” Ramer said. “They have a much different perspective from their classmates in general.
“That’s what makes LC’s program unique. They recognize it’s our job as a community to shoulder the reintegration of soldiers from active duty and toward getting an education.”
For Courtney, the opportunity to attend LC would help him build up the pre-requisites he would need to attend the Army’s Physician Assistant Program. But more than that, he said it would give him the opportunity to attend a college that would care for his wellbeing as a student.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” Courtney said. “I’ll be the frontrunner. I’ll grab the flag.”
“What has really spoken to me, “Ramer said. “Is how so many people I’ve come across, they’ve said, ‘How can our people serve you?’ This school wants to serve those who have served. From a veteran’s perspective, I’ve seen it as an unmatched desire to serve.”
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