By Jeff Murphy, October 31, 2019
WARRENSBURG, MO – While the nation honors military men and women on Nov. 11, through Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), the University of Central Missouri helps those who fought for their country obtain educational assistance they need to prepare for and serve in new careers.
Serving a 10-county area, VUB is a federally funded TRIO program made possible by a U.S. Department of Education grant. It is a free program designed to help veterans refresh their academic skills and give them the confidence they need to successfully obtain a college degree or pursue other post-secondary education opportunities that will help them transition into civilian jobs.
“Our mission is veteran success in academia,” said Tonya Kuranda, director of VUB and a United States Air Force veteran. “We accomplish this through an individualistic approach with regard to each veteran.
“When a veteran walks in our office and becomes a participant in the program, we make it a priority to build a relationship of trust and authenticity,” she said. “Each veteran has a unique story and plan for their future, however, all of them require a strong foundation out of the gate as they pursue their education.”
To meet veterans’ needs, VUB offers specific tools that include academic coaching and tutoring, admission preparation, assistance with scholarships, financial literacy, GI Bill asssitance, and career assistance. Program staff are located in Administration Building 196 on the UCM campus, but VUB has outreach that extends to veterans who reside in Benton, Cooper, Johnson, Morgan, Ray, Carroll, Henry, Lafayette, Pettis, and Saline counties. The goal is to help veterans pursue their education, which may include seeking a four-year college degree, or enrolling in vocational school or a certificate program. Whatever the choice, location is no problem.
“We assist our veterans no matter where they want to go to school. We have even helped one of our veterans go to school in Australia,” Kuranda said.
VUB will provide assistance with applications to a college or university of choice, personalized counseling for degree and career selection. It also will connect veterans with outside available resources, and develop an individualized academic plan based on their personal needs and desire.
VUB also offers basic skills development to help veterans successfully complete a high school equivalency program (if needed) and gain admission to college education programs; and short-term remedial or refresher classes in areas such as math, science, reading, literature, composition, and computer basics for high school graduates who have put off pursuing a college education.
Veterans in the VUB service area spoke about VUB’s strengths. Many cite one of the outstanding characteristics is a caring, committed staff.
“Veterans Upward Bound and the outstanding program it provides for countless military veterans can be described as ‘priceless.’ There can exist no amount of monetary gain that would even come close to the individual knowledge, skills, training, camaraderie, and ‘Esprit De Corps’ this program provides to military veterans,” said James Scott, Jr., a U.S. Navy veteran and VUB participant.
Sean Brown, a U.S. Army veteran and UCM VUB participant, noted, “VUB has impacted me by becoming my new comrades. I can count on them to always be there to help me. I’m hoping I can return the favor at some point.”
Also commenting was Katie Burns, a VUB participant who has served in the U.S. Coast Guard. She noted that “the staff worked relentlessly to make sure everything was taken care of when I was applying for school. We literally hit so many obstacles, and it didn’t phase them. You can tell they are so dedicated to their work! I love you guys!”
To be eligible for participation in VUB, an individual must have at least 180 days of active duty service in the military or qualifying reserve time and any discharge other than dishonorable.
To find out about eligibility and to have other questions answered about Veterans Upward Bound, call 660-543-8124, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the VUB website at ucmo.edu/offices/veterans-upward-bound.