ARLINGTON (CBS11) – Many veterans are either afraid to try or fear they don’t have the resources to attend college after they leave the service.
Tarrant County College campus in Arlington where they’re working to change that.
The southeast campus of TCC dedicated a memorial to veterans on Veteran’s Day and some of the veterans in attendance were doing something they never thought they would: earning a degree.
“You know when I joined the Navy I never thought I’d get an education,” said CTA1 Deborah Thomas, U.S.Navy (ret). “That just wasn’t in my plans.”
Thomas was motivated by her four children to do something she never thought of during her twenty years in the Navy.
“I wanted to show my children that you’re never too old to get educated,” she said.
The school has special counselors who put veterans in touch with VA benefits to pay for education. They’re called disability benefits by the VA and many vets are reluctant to use them.
“It’s a huge step,” Thomas said. “Because there are many veterans who don’t know about the disability program or they think there’s a stigma about it.”
“These counselors connect the veterans to services at the veterans administration so that’s a kind of way to cut through the red tape for our veterans and have someone right here on the campus,” said Joy Gates Black, Vice-Chancellor of Academic Affairs.
Those services also include counseling and mentoring for veterans like Thomas feel uneasy getting into a civilian academic environment.
“I was a nervous wreck,” Thomas recalled. “Summer of 2013 and I was shaking in my boots. I did not know what college is like. And I was like, ‘What am I doing here?’
“If it wasn’t for this school. I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”
Thomas received her associates degree in May and is now attending UTA for her bachelor’s.
“This is what it’s about,” Thomas said. “Getting an education and having the military pay for it?? it’s a sweet sweet spot to get your education and go through the vocational rehab and have them guide me.”
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)