EL RENO — Jonathan Erbar of Newcastle served as part of the Oklahoma National Guard for 11 years and was deployed in Afghanistan in 2011 as an infantryman.
A Purple Heart recipient, Erbar returned to Oklahoma with a new mission to earn his education.
“I became involved in the Veterans Upward Bound program about three years ago when I decided to go back to school for the first time since high school,” said Erbar. “I would go up to the VA office for tutor services in Math and English to help me refresh everything I had forgotten.”
A student at Oklahoma City Community College, Erbar is one of four Oklahoma veterans to receive a scholarship through a new partnership between S.E.E.4VETS and the Veterans Upward Bound Program, administered through Redlands Community College in El Reno.
This fall, S.E.E.4VETS presented a $4,877 scholarship check to the Redlands Veterans Upward Bound program to provide scholarships to veterans.
Veterans Upward Bound is a national program designed to motivate and assist veterans in the development of academic and other requisite skills necessary for postsecondary education. The program provides assessment and enhancement of basic skills through counseling, mentoring, tutoring and academic instruction in the core subject areas. The primary goal of the program is to increase the rate at which participants enroll in and complete postsecondary education programs.
“When I got the email saying I was going to be receiving a scholarship, I was pretty surprised since I had not heard anything about it before,” Erbar said. “But I’m glad that those working there decided to put my name in for it. I get either an email or phone call about 1-2 times a semester asking how my education is going from Upward Bound.”
Erbar said the scholarship money will help him with costs like school supplies, clothes, and books.
Along with Erbar, three others received scholarships through the donation, which Redlands Community College says changes the lives of veterans returning to earn an education.
Those receiving scholarships along with Erbar are James Mills, Winnard Walker and Reginal Fields.
A STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP
The Veteran Upward Bound (VUB) program at Redlands Community College in El Reno serves about 125 veterans each year.
In this service, the program offers academic and career assessment, career guidance and exploration, study skills and classroom reintegration, short-term refresher courses, preparation for GED testing, and college academic advising.
“Redlands Community College Veterans Upward Bound program covers veterans in 14 different counties. One of our objectives is to get veterans into a college, university, or career technology school,” said Roy Martin, director of Redlands’ Veterans Upward Bound. “We do not limit veterans on where they can attend because we want them comfortable and find their fit.”
The program assesses the cost of the institution, including books, fees, parking, travel to and from the attending campus, any special training or needs the veteran may have and whether the institution can accommodate the veteran with these and many other mitigating circumstances the veteran may need.
“We first heard about S.E.E.4VETS at a national VUB conference in Denver. Our director at the time contacted Ray Torres about our interest in the organization,” Martin said. “Both parties came to an agreement for the donation from S.E.E.4VETS to Redlands Community College.”
S.E.E.4VETS began funding a VUB program at Yavapai Community College in Prescott, Ariz., then it expanded to other states.
Mary Meeks, program manager of East Central University and former president of the National Association of VUB, suggested S.E.E.4VETS contact Redlands Community College.
S.E.E.4VETS is a regional organization that collaborates with community colleges in shaping and implementing programs that tend to inspire student veterans to “persist and advance” in their schoolwork.
The donations the organization grants to colleges help to facilitate and sustain their veteran-centric academic and non-academic support programs. The group also offers the Vets-Helping-Vets pre-employment program.
“Its mission is to accelerate the support of men and women who have served our nation in uniform as productive members of the civilian community, including the pursuit of academic or certification goals, and greater opportunity to succeed and advance in the workplace,” said Ray Torres, chairman of the board for S.E.E.4VETS.
“S.E.E.4VETS provides funding in the form of scholarships to encourage first-generation, low-income veterans to enroll and complete a Veterans Upward Bound project, then enroll in their local community college.”
The organization chose to donate $4,877 to the Redlands Veterans Upward Bound program because the amount granted would serve six veterans who successfully completed the VUB program and would enroll in a college of their choice.
“The impact to the scholarship recipients is significant,” Torres said.
Word of mouth is the best promotional opportunity anyone can use, and the veterans receiving this scholarship told other veterans about the program and how it can assist them in their college endeavors.
“This partnership has a common drive to help veterans better their lives through educational opportunities, and the recipients are excited about this program,” Martin said. “Veterans like to see results, and by joining in this partnership, it shows veterans’ hard work in the classroom brings good results not only in their grades but also in scholarship opportunities. It also drives competition, which is strong amongst veterans.”
Jack Bryant, president of Redlands Community College, said the college saw an unmet need in its service area.
“We wrote the grant for the Veterans Upward Program. Education changes lives, and we wanted to help those who have given so much in service to our country,” he said. “Pursuing post-secondary education is not a small undertaking. These scholarships assist our veterans and their families with the financial challenge that comes with furthering their education as they prepare themselves for entry into the post-military job market. The Redlands Veterans Upward Bound program is here to provide assistance in navigating our veterans through their post-secondary pursuits.”
For veterans like Erbar, the scholarship provides more than just an advanced education; it provides peace of mind.
“Any time I can think less about funds, it allows me to stress less and focus more on my schoolwork and just being able to enjoy life in general,” Erbar said.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM
Redlands Veterans Upward Bound (VUB) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the TRIO program, which serves low-income individuals, first-generation college students and individuals with disabilities.
A free college-prep program, Veterans Upward Bound provides skills and advice to help qualified military veterans achieve their academic goals. For more information about the Redlands Community College Veterans Upward Bound program, visit www.redlandscc.edu/about/partnershipsgrants/trio-veterans-upward-bound.
S.E.E.4VETS is premier nonprofit veteran organization partnering with community colleges to shape and implement programs design to improve student veteran retention and inspire student veterans to “persist and advance” in their school studies. For more information on S.E.E.4VETS, visit see4vets.org.